Messaging Best Practices for a great Experience and towards building Customer Engagement

The one thing that we realized quite vividly is that in messaging, there is no one size that fits alI...

Since the past two years, we, at Applozic, had been powering cross-device, multi-platform messaging on Web & Mobile Applications. So far, having encountered numerous messaging Use Cases across different stakeholders, we had a fair bit of learning about the Chat and Messaging industry. The one thing that we realized quite vividly is that in messaging, there is no one size that fits all. The requirements right from features to the UI varies hugely across industries.

The aim of this guide is to share our learnings with you, to help you custom build a messaging experience that your users would certainly love.

We have divided the Guide into 4 major parts, with each part having its own specific sub-parts:

  1. Introduction – Outlines the importance of Messaging in your overall Product Strategy.
  2. Use Cases – Highlights the various conversation scenarios industry-wise.
  3. Components for a delightful Messaging UI
  4. Ways to optimize your customer’s messaging experience

The Importance of IP-Messaging

The ‘old-school’ sledgehammer approach of shoving unwelcome messages at customers is long gone. The ‘new-school’ is all about enabling conversations, encouraging engagement and building trust. Let me demonstrate this with a story. The ‘old-school’ sledgehammer approach of shoving unwelcome messages at customers is long gone. The ‘new-school’ is all about enabling conversations, encouraging engagement and building trust. Let me demonstrate this with a story.


Few days back I overheard my friend, who is a devoted Clash of Clans fanatic saying that these days most people in his clan play less and chat more. This made me think whether this feature of chat & messaging could have been instrumental in Clash of Clan’s success. I interacted with a few others about this and every time it was evident that Clash of Clans thrives on its community and conversations build communities.

This approach which aims to change the communication paradigm – is well suited for mobile, messaging being its native UX. Customers on your mobile application are accustomed to and demand personal, two-way communication. Executed correctly, this not only boosts loyalty but can also lay the groundwork for effective marketing.

Access to Real-time Data

We often hear from our customers that the idea behind integrating real-time messaging came to them because users of their app were anyways interacting on WhatsApp or other collaboration platforms. When your customers interact on external platform, you are subjected to three major setbacks:

  1. Data Loss: WhatsApp or for that matter any service doesn’t give you access to the interaction data. Therefore you lose out on loads of real-time user generated data, which can be a goldmine for your business.
  2. Data Security: Data security can be a huge concern when your users interact on external platforms. This esp. can pose major problems in BFSI and Healthcare sectors.
  3. Engagement Loss: You paid good amount of resources to make your users fire up your app, now you wouldn’t want them to move out when they feel the need to connect with other users. When users move out of your app, it is a major blow on the engagement metrics, which you definitely wouldn’t want.

See how a real-time chat SDK and API can boost, enhance, and optimize your user experiences.

The Importance of IP-Messaging

According to new figures from Gartner Research, consumers will download some 268.7 billion mobile applications by the end of this year.

That’s a massive increase!

But don’t break out the champagne just yet. Mobilewalla, an app analytic firm, argues outright that the number of downloads is a very poor measure of how popular an app is. It estimates a whopping 80 to 90% of apps are eventually deleted.

Connect the dots, and it’s not enough to chalk up an app download or sale. Your app business — making money via in-app purchases if you have chosen a freemium model— rests and falls on how well you can keep customers coming back to purchase more features, functionality and content.

Little wonder that app developers and companies have jumped on the bandwagon, exploring strategies that combine messaging and push notifications to keep their apps fresh and exciting.

Fun Fact: An average person looks at their mobile 150 times per day; that means 150 distinct opportunities to engage your customer, i.e. every 6.5 minutes of the waking hour.

Use Cases – Messaging Types and Scenarios across Industries

The use of messaging varies across industries, but the messaging type should more or less encompass one of the following:

  1. One-to-One Chat
  2. Group Chat
  3. Open/Closed Forums
  4. Chat Channels during Broadcasts

We have so far supported numerous messaging Use Cases across various industries, but in here we will only discuss the top 7 Use Cases that we have seen and the corresponding industries which can leverage it.

  1. Concierge Shopping
  2. Buyers like that extra bit of personalization, and what can be better than a dedicated stylist making fashion recommendations to you on chat.

    Read the Case Study of Look at Me Fashion, to see how concierge shopping helped them achieve a 320% Increase in overall screen views.

    The Use Case is ideal for e-commerce in particular, and can also be leveraged in Online Marketplaces and Travel & Tourism applications.

  3. Bot-Human Interaction
  4. Lately there had been a lot of hype around Bots and Conversational Commerce. Chatbots have been used for multiple purposes; some of the most common ones being:

    • Product Suggestions
    • Making personalized recommendations on chat, based on user input.

    • Placing/Modifying Orders
    • Fb Messenger bots has been widely used by companies to allow users to place/modify orders. Dominos is one among the early adopters of this feature.

    • Customer Support
    • The goal is to quickly provide answers to frequently asked queries of customers and address their complaints real-time. This reduces the wait-time of resolving support queries on Live Chat, in a way delighting customers and simultaneously allowing support agents to handle more queries in the same time.

    • Scheduling a Meeting
    • Bots can be used to schedule meetings and set up reminders.

    Bots can be used for numerous other purposes like pulling up relevant news snippets, tracking your personal finances etc.


    The Case Study of Design Sense

    see how Ayoga ACTBot, built using Applozic helped them reduce training time by 80%.

  5. Buyer-Seller Chat
  6. A typical Use Case for the online marketplaces domain, it had been noticed that connecting buyers with sellers real-time on chat, enables faster decision making.

  7. User Forums
  8. These can either be Private or Public Channels for users of your application to join in and participate in discussions or put their views about topics of their interest. Most commonly seen in Social apps, forums build engagement better than anything else. Read the Case Study of The8Apps, to see how they saved 8-12 months of Development time and a cumulative of $69,600 on overall Development Capital.

  9. Telemedicine (Audio/Video Calling)
  10. Telemedicine, as means of providing remote healthcare widely depends on the ability of Healthcare applications, supporting Audio/Video Calling

    Social and Marketplaces’ applications also leverage the Audio/Video Calling feature, in order to provide users the convenience of making calls directly from the application. It also negates the need of exchanging phone numbers, thereby adding an extra layer of security.

    Integrate Audio/Video Calling in your application with the Applozic Audio/Video Calling SDK. Also read in detail about the Top 7 Use Cases of Messaging in Healthcare in our blog.

  11. Re-engage Users and facilitate New Feature Discovery
  12. In-app messages with built in CTAs are a great way to engage the user with your application and then direct them to complete a pending action, or initiate a desired action.

    You can now configure Smart Messages with specific Metadata for your application, with Applozic.

  13. Chat Channels during Video Broadcasts
  14. Watching sports without the usual banter or in the absence of that occasional dig at your rival’s fans can be really boring. Chat Channels during broadcasts not only builds engagement, but also enhances the user’s experience.

    To get a preview of more such industry-specific Use Cases, visit our Use Cases page. If we didn’t get you covered there, we encourage you to Schedule a Meeting with our Solutions’ specialist to discuss your Custom Requirements.

Components of a delightful Messaging UI

To start with, let’s take a step back and understand the enablers of a successful communication first.

“Communication is a process of sharing messages, that conveys common meaning to and fro between the parties involved”

The messages or communication, in general can be:

  • Verbal
  • Information exchange by means of a set of words that can be transformed into a common meaning.
    Example: Hello; Have a good day ahead

  • Non-Verbal
  • Gestures, facial expressions, symbols or actions that have a common social meaning.
    Example: 👍 😀 😔

  • GUI Messages to drive user action
  • Typing out every request and response is often much more tedious than clicking a button or selecting from a list. For cases, where there are only two or three reasonable replies, it is always advisable to allow users to directly manipulate the objects in the UI itself.
    Example: Example: Messages with contextual CTA Buttons redirecting to desired action; Filling up Polls & Surveys within Chat Window etc.

  • Voice & Audio
  • Voice Messaging, that allows users to send short audio clips instead of text messages, has lately taken the world by storm. And why not? It is much more convenient to press a button and speak, rather than fumbling with a tiny pixelated keyboard.

  • Media and Location Sharing
  • Users of most applications are used to sharing their location, videos, gifs and images on chat.

Now that you have understood the most common types of messages exchanged, let us deep dive into the UI components. A general Messenger UI typically has two broad interfaces:

  1. The Message Inbox Interface: Interface where all conversations are listed.
  2. The Conversation Interface: Interface where the user send, receive and compose messages.
The Message Inbox Interface

There are two aspects that play a major role in the UI design of the Message Inbox Interface of your application. One is the way in which conversation threads are sorted and second is the way each thread is displayed in the list. There is no one way which is universal and followed by all, rather different companies follow different ways based on their usability.
In the next two sections we will discuss about the best practices for either and build correlation with the usability and industry of companies following those practices.

Conversation Sorting

It is always advisable to list down all conversations in the same view. A good practice is to make the list scrollable, and put a Search Bar for finding the conversation of choice. The most commonly encountered ways for sorting messages are:

  • Based on recent activity
  • In this view conversations are listed with respect to time of last activity, the most recent one being on top and the rest follows subsequently. This is the format most frequently followed in messenger apps, social apps and their likes.

  • Based on Unread Messages
  • Conversation threads with unread messages are listed first and the rest follows subsequently. Conversation threads where all messages are read, can be sorted based on recent activity. This view is most common for Dating Apps, where recent matches are listed on top.

  • Based on User Choice
  • For productivity and Team collaboration apps, a good way is to list conversation based on frequency of activity. A good practice is to allow the user to mark certain contacts as “Favorite”, and then list conversation threads with these contacts on top.

Conversation Thread Display

The list of conversation threads basically has two details that needs to be considered while building the layout. One is the conversation detail that is to be displayed, the other is the image of the contact.

The general practice is to display the last message, time stamp corresponding to the last message and an indicator to show whether it has been read.

Images add the human element and an emotional dimension to the conversations. In the case of Social, Dating and Messenger apps, images play a crucial part in building trust among users. For other apps, where uploading an image is more of a luxury and the average user doesn’t bother much about it; a good practice is to put up Avatars in the place of image thumbnails.

See how a real-time chat SDK and API can boost, enhance, and optimize your user experiences.

The Conversation Interface

The conversation interface is where the real communication takes place. Now one thing that we need to understand here is Messaging has come a long way from being typical text messages.
Messaging these days, is a mix and match of the simplicity of chat and the interactive power of rich-media and GUI in one powerful interface. In this section, I will focus more on the must-haves of a conversation interface and the best practices associated with each:

Rich Media Smart Cards

As I mentioned earlier, often times it is advisable to drive a user response by means of an action rather than a text message. This is specifically the case where the user has to choose between a select few reply alternatives for e.g. when replying to a Poll Response.

Another popular use case of Rich Media Cards is when you want your user to take any specific action, let’s say you want them to make a purchase. All you need to do is create a Media Card of specific inventory items, attach a CTA (BUY NOW) to the card and push it on the user’s conversation interface.

Create Rich Media Smart Cards and broadcast them to your application users, with Applozic Chat SDK.

Bots & Autoresponders

Bots had been with us for quite a long time, think of Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana. 2016 has been touted to be the year of conversational commerce and it had been proclaimed that soon there will be a bot for everything. Well if not for all, Chatbots can certainly automate some repetitive manual functions for you.

Let’s say populating replies to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) when users of your application seek support. In e-commerce especially, Chatbots have seen widespread usage, where a bot can make intelligent recommendations to buyers based on their input and can subsequently carry out the checkout process, all within the chat window.

Integrating Bots with Applozic Chat Framework can be done with Webhooks, or on higher plans it can be done directly from the Admin Dashboard.

Based on your Use Case, it is subject to consideration whether you would want to reveal to your users if they are chatting to a bot or to a human agent. Although, it is always advisable to set the right expectations with your customers.

DesignSense uses a Chat-based Bot Infrastructure to automate most repetitive tasks of Project Management.

Your Users deserve the perfect Messaging Experience

In order to truly set yourself apart from the crowd, you need to prioritize your app user’s messaging experience. An intricately and strategically built UI as discussed in the above section, goes a long way into defining that perfect Messaging Experience.

The right way to look into this is by first determining the various touch points that users have with your app’s messenger and then deciding on how to WOW the user at every such touchpoint. Now, when you decide on the WOW factors, you might want to confine yourself to the real-time and non-intrusive nature of IP-Messaging, because these are the two major factors behind its’ whooping success.

From our experience, we have seen that a typical user interacts with your in-app messenger at four distinct touch points:

  1. Sending Messages
  2. Receiving Messages
  3. Via Notifications
  4. Via Offline Fallback

I will now put light on each one of these scenarios and list out a few To-Dos for you to consider when building your application.

Sending Messages

Users want a lightning fast experience while sending messages. Ideally they would want the message to be delivered to the receiver’s device the moment they send it. But network connectivity is not the same everywhere, so the delivery speed might as well vary. Good practices associated with sending messages are:

  • Show the message in the conversation thread the moment it is sent. This assures the user that the message has been sent and will in any case be delivered to the receiver.
  • Display a Delivery Time Stamp next to the message in the conversation thread. This gives the user further confidence that the message has been delivered to the receiver’s device.
  • Enable Read Receipts to signify the read/unread status of the message. This builds engagement as the sender would now be expecting a response or an acknowledgement from the receiver.
Receiving Messages

Broadly speaking, receiving messages encompasses two scenarios:

  1. When the user is interacting with the application
  2. When the user is away i.e. the app is running on the background.

In this section we will focus on the Foreground case, i.e. when the user is interacting with the application. The background case will be covered in the subsequent section, which is for Push Notifications & Badging.

Messaging is real-time and it can at times be the devil in disguise. Wondering how? Well when your users have to wait to receive a message and then this wait drags for long, it can easily agitate them. So it is important to set the expectations right. A few good must haves for setting this expectation right among receivers are:

  • Setting up Typing Indicators makes the receiver aware that the sender is typing. This builds the right anticipation that a message is about to arrive, which then keeps the receiver engaged in the conversation.
  • Displaying the Status of the User (Present/Away/Offline) sets the expectation, whether to await a response or not. Although a very old-school way, initially popularized by desktop IM clients, this technique can be particularly useful for Marketplaces or Concierge commerce apps.
    A word of caution: Esp. for Concierge Commerce apps if you set the expectation where the user is awaiting a response, it better be prompt.
  • The best bit of information esp. for mobile messengers is the “Last Seen At” time. This gives the user a clear idea about the recipient’s activity. Therefore it sets the right tone in terms of expecting a reply. A user who had been inactive for long is less likely to send a prompt response and vice versa.
Notifications & Badging

Notifications play a vital role in the overall messaging experience. Purpose is basically to inform users about unseen messages when the app is in the background. It plays a vital role in re-engaging the user with your application. Hence done right, this increases retention and consequently the LTV of the average user. The best practices associated with notifications are:

  • Deep linking notifications into a conversation takes the user directly into the target conversation interface. This saves time and instigates quick action.
  • Badging Notifications with the no of unread messages triggers the urgency filter. It is very much likely that a high badge count will initiate the user to take an action, which is certainly desirable. For cross device applications, the badge count needs to be updated simultaneously in all devices.
  • A quick reply widget, accompanying a notification can boost reply rates and remove any friction that might otherwise creep in.

Our Push Notification Troubleshooting Guide

can help you, in case you are facing problems with configuring notifications.

Offline Fallback

Inability to send a message due to poor data connectivity is the most annoying part of your user’s messaging experience. This can lead to major dissatisfaction if the information being conveyed is critical and time sensitive. While there is not much you can do in this case, a good approach is to have a fallback mechanism on other modes which is not reliant on data like SMS. An advisable workaround for such offline scenarios is:

  • Don’t prompt the user to Retry Sending, rather show the message in the conversation interface the moment it is sent and let your app try sending the message behind the scenes.
  • In the meantime trigger offline SMS fallback mechanism and send the message as text message to the receiver’s device, so that the information is conveyed nonetheless.
Summing Up

This brings us to the end of this guide. We have made efforts to cover all the possible scenarios that seemed evident and have listed down the best practices associated with each such scenario. In case we missed out on any and you would like to know our views about it, Get in Touch with our solution specialist.

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