Conversational adverts, rich messaging, and verified comms: The Future Messaging team’s top predictions for 2021

As we begin 2021, we asked the imimobile Future Messaging team to reveal their predictions for the year ahead.

Written by Sam Watson on

In 2020, ‘you’re on mute’ entered the collective vocabulary and remote working, wherever possible, became a reality for the many rather than the few. 

As we look to the year ahead, is there anything we can safely say? 

Yes, we think so; that businesses and their customers will interact more often and in new ways. To gain insight into how, we asked our resident experts on the future of messaging to reveal their predictions for 2021. 

Customers will expect companies to be where they are

David Creasey-Benjamin, SVP Future Messaging, predicts "Businesses and their customers want and need to talk to each other, but the trouble is how customers like to talk constantly changes. 2020 proved that customers expect to be able to use their favorite channels to communicate; WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, SMS, Rich Communication Services (RCS), TikTok, Twitch, Snapchat, WeChat, Telegram, Line, Discord, and Slack, have all have seen huge growth in P2P interactions.

Businesses are embracing these new digital channels quicker than ever before to share content and offer services to their customers. In 2021, the discovery points to begin interacting with a business over these channels will increasingly be visible to customers, helping to drive the trend forward. When I search for a business in 2021, I expect the ‘message us’ button to be the first call to action I see, whether this be on Google Business Messages, WhatsApp, or Apple Business Chat depends on the search method of choice.

A successful business will know the right channels to be on for their audiences, but the expectation will be that the customer decides, and the business needs to be ready to respond."

Connected packaging and QR codes will continue to boom

Ramy Riad, VP Future Messaging, comments "QR codes saw a resurgence in 2020. Often misunderstood or ignored due to requiring an app to read, QR codes have now become part of most people’s lives as they can now be scanned directly from a smartphone’s camera. We’ve been scanning for track and trace on entry, restaurants got us to trigger remote ordering, and some businesses used them to launch innovative augmented reality (AR) experiences directly onto peoples’ handsets.

Use of QR codes will continue in 2021, being utilized to trigger any digital journey, often linking directly to a web portal or launching conversations immediately on channels like Apple Business Chat, WhatsApp, or RCS. Businesses will place these scannable 'windows to conversation' onto their registration documents, packaging, and other physical mails to open up opportunities to engage customers with innovative promotions and additional services."

Verified channels will be key to building customer trust

Sivacharan Bandi, Product Manager, Future Messaging, warns "As smishing increases and fraudsters continue to adapt, customer trust becomes increasingly important. Businesses need to take action to ensure that trust is built into all their customer interactions.

By design, verifications for businesses are built into richer messaging channels; ticks having to be earned through verification processes from mobile networks, Google, Apple, and WhatsApp. In 2021, the blue tick experience will extend to Verified SMS and Verified Calls, enabling verified communications to be delivered to anyone with a mobile phone.

Verified communications will not only become the norm due to customer expectations around trust and Google expanding these services, but also because innovative laws are coming into force to ensure verified calling and messaging are more widely used by businesses."

Tapping rather than typing will drive engagement

John Ferreira, Business Development Manager, Future Messaging, states "We are no longer bound by 160 characters of simple text. RCS delivers a rich and interactive experience that increases consumer engagement, purchases, and retention rate. Because of its conversational approach, allowing communication between consumers and businesses to feel more organic, RCS is becoming a key channel for managing two-way interactions.

The major driver behind the success of RCS is tapping vs texting. Similar to how a person uses their favorite app, simply pressing a button directs them through an interactive journey. As proven by early implementations of RCS by Walgreens, Express, and Pizza Hut, engagement increases significantly when applying this simple concept. Tapping “yes” rather than typing “Y-E-S”, although in appearance is insignificant, can increase the response rate by nearly 25%.

2021 is poised to be an exciting year for RCS as more and more carriers are enabling rich messaging for their customers."

Adverts are going conversational

Steve Godman, Development Director, Future Messaging, shares "With Facebook and Google both providing mechanisms to drive consumers into messaging conversations from mobile ads, is it time that brands began doing the same?

For B2B marketers whose main objective is to drive leads into their sales funnel, one of the preferred mechanics is the white paper. The challenge is, given the overload of white papers being targeted towards professional buyers, this method of lead nurturing has experienced a form of fatigue. With over 50% of all web traffic now being viewed on a mobile, there must be a better experience than sending a prospect off to a form they must fill out whilst they are surfing on the move or on the sofa.

Brands can now provide conversational experiences using rich business messaging, which when linked to a mobile ad, can deliver very compelling, contextually relevant experiences. Why force your prospects to fill out a form, when you can engage them with your brand values, share the latest content, and take them on a journey which will undoubtedly result in a more engaged, better-qualified lead?"

The messaging client is the new browser

John Duffy, Head of Global RCS, Future Messaging, forecasts "Much like the PC industry 20 years ago, consumers will stop making purchasing decisions based on device processor speed, battery life, storage capacity, or other hardware-based specifications. Instead, software and functionality will rule. iMessage and Android Messages will be a key battleground as Apple’s and Google’s investment in their messaging client grows in 2021. New business models, capabilities, and use cases will begin to emerge as messaging channels become the new browser, with chatbots and their discovery creating great new opportunities and services for both consumers and businesses."