Your primary product might be socks, paintings, a marketplace for handcrafted diaries, or customised crockery. Or you might only be offering non-tangible services with your super-qualified team. Now whether your business is service-oriented or product-oriented, you’ve realised the usefulness of a real-time chat feature in reaching out to customers.
Maybe you need to use it as AirBnB does – to speed up communication between provider and receiver. Or perhaps you need to use it like Etsy- to make the selling/ buying process transparent and reliable.
The next step is crucial – do you build a chat feature from scratch? That, in most cases, is an inadvisable step. The following 2 reasons should be enough for starters:
- Your primary business might not be building chat applications. Hence, investing precious time, energy, resources on building them might divert you from investing in your core offering.
- There are a ton of technological resources that you need to employ in order to build a chat app. These include deciding on the messaging protocol, the client platform, the type of file storage needed, how traffic will be handled, encryption policies and techniques, etc. The investment can easily go up to $35,000+.
- Finally, a chat app is not complete once you’ve built it. You’ll have to expend more time, money, energy, support staff in maintaining it. There will be specific customer issues to handle, debugging every now and then, adding new features as user needs become apparent, making the UI/ UX as intuitive and engaging as possible, etc
An in-depth look at the build vs. buy dilemma is taken here.
So now what do you do now?
You look around for a chat SDK suited to your needs.
Real-time Chat SDKs
The first real-time chat system was developed in 1973 by David R. Woolley and Doug Brown. It was known as ‘Talkomatic’. As many as 5 people could participate in a chat at any time through one of the various available channels. However, the first real-time chat service for the public came out in 1980 and was known as CompuServe CB Simulator.
With the advancement of technology, real-time chat apps have changed and so have the means of building them. Nowadays, it’s very easy to build a similar app for your business by using an SDK.
Real-time chat SDKs are programming packages which allow for the development of chat applications which involve the live transmission of messages online.
An SDK comes with an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) where you have a code editor, a compiler or interpreter, a debugger. They might also have object and data modeling, source code library, unit testing, and build automation tools. Using all of these, you’ll soon be on your way to programming the (dream) chat app of your business, on the very platform that you wish to build it on.
But before you finally decide to invest in a real-time chat SDK, make sure it comes with the following 5 essential features:
1. Control over server
A chat SDK should provide both options when it comes to server and deployment control: control in your hands and control in the hand of the SDK developer.
With the former, the SDK and all subsequent applications you develop through it, are hosted on your on-premise servers. The SDK is first installed on your systems (oh! Make sure the SDK is very-platform friendly), and you have access to the source code so you can create the application according to your wishes.
In the case of the latter, the company’s servers host the SDK. This doesn’t take a minute, and you can begin right away! Updates are easily made, and the entire responsibility of the kit rests with the company. You only have to care about the creation of the application.
Taking into account your resources- financial and human- you can decide the kind of control you prefer.
2. Variety in message types
Today, it’s not enough for text messages to quickly go back-and-forth. That is an expected trait. You need to add other forms of communication, too. Trends are leaning towards the popularity of voice messages. On Whatsapp alone, 200 million voice messages are sent every day out of the 55 billion messages. The number is only expected to keep on increasing since people find it easier to record than to write, and also trust the message due to the tonality that can be detected.
Hence, your SDK should be able to include voice messages and voice calling. If someone wishes to text in a group, they should be able to do so. Broadcasting a message (audio, video, or textual) should also be doable, and a video call with a group of friends or colleagues is an absolute must. All these traits in a chat application are considered a regular part of the package. They should be a part of your SDK, too.
The variety doesn’t stop here. Users should be able to send a pdf file, a doc file, an mp3 file, or a video file. In short, file sharing of any and every sort should be feasible.
Apart from the variety, these messages should be store-able. Meaning, one can archive and star them if they so wish.
And most importantly of all, all these messages need to be secured and preferably, go through an end-to-end encryption process.
3. Customizable UI
You’ll be getting a variety of traffic. If you are operating an online marketplace or store of sorts, then there will be sellers, too.
In light of this diversity, you need to build a chat application that appeals to the visual and aesthetic sensibilities of your users. Choose an SDK that allows for plenty of customisation for both you and your user base.
Since you will be using the chat feature in your platform, it needs to be customisable enough that its looks, features, icons, graphics etc. reflect your brand and identity. You should be able to add desired features, ditch others, and introduce new ones as and when you need them even after the real-time chat has been enabled on your platform. In short, the SDK should be like the fertile barren land where you can sow, till, farm, reap as you wish.
Moreover, you want to take that customisation several steps ahead and give your users the freedom to further make changes that suit them. At the most basic level, your real-time chat feature should already have documentation for online status, typing indicator, send/receive read ticks. The SDK must further allow these to be customised by the users.
4. Integration with other features
An ideal app for both you and the user would be the one where the user doesn’t feel the need to leave.
Most chat applications, while good for recreational purposes, fail to expand into other vital areas of the user’s cellphone life. How to do that?
Look for a chat SDK that allows you to access calendars and reminders from the chat window itself without leaving it. This way they won’t be opening additional applications. Plus, these other features are like pleasant little surprises for the users. ‘I never knew a chat application could have this!’ #scored.
5. Push notifications
Push notifications help your app to be more visible to the smartphone user and score a convert. They look like simple text messages but can only be shown for those apps which are installed on your smartphone.
They are used for informing the user about the weather, sports score, current offers, and sales etc. In short, a more direct pathway to the user. This is an attention economy where there are millions of competitors vying for the attention of the same customer as yours. Hence, you need to be able to reach the customer easily whenever you need to so you don’t miss out on opportunities to keep them interested. ‘Out of sight, out of mine’ does hold true when it comes to the screen. As such, the importance of push notifications for your business cannot be underestimated.
In light of this, the chat SDK you use should make it possible for you to send push notifications. Whether the user is using your app right now or not, with push notifications, you’ll always be able to grab their attention and get them to engage with you consistently.
Armed with these five tips, you are well on your way to selecting a chat SDK that makes for satisfactory user experience on your app/ website. Filter all SDKs through these parameters and end up with the right one for your business!
In case you’re looking for a Chat SDK with all the above features, we got the best one right here for you. Know more about CometChat Pro by following the button.