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The text message is 25 years old: How has messaging evolved?

Thanks to widespread mobile addiction, text messaging and messaging apps have become the preferred way for consumers to interact with brands. With the smartphone being a third appendage for most users, it’s a sure-fire way to reach customers, and for them to reach you. In this look back into the evolution of SMS and messaging apps, you’ll discover the advantages of speaking today’s short, succinct consumer language, thereby making better customer connections and increasing revenue.
Text messaging turns 25 years old in 2017 – but messaging has continued to evolve for customer service.

It seems like just yesterday when the small handful of cell phone users started typing short messages to the few friends who also had texting capabilities on their phones. Now, twenty-five years later, 8.5 billion text messages are sent every day in the U.S. Consumers are looking for more ways to communicate with businesses, including texting and in-app messaging. To celebrate this Silver Anniversary, let’s take a look through the evolution of messaging apps and texting.

NuanceEnt_SMS Timeline


The rise of messaging apps

SMS texting has become widely popular, alongside other modes for fast messaging. Online communications such as social media, chat, email and Skype have extended communication options beyond texting. Currently, the craze is in messaging apps.

Although rudimentary forms of instant messaging existed from the mid-1960s through the mid-1990s, IM took off in 1997, when AOL launched AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). It was initially part of the AOL Desktop, but later was released as a stand-alone download for Microsoft Windows. By 2005, AIM led the instant messaging market with 53 million users.

Then Facebook Chat entered the scene in 2008 as part of their social platform. In 2011, they introduced Facebook Messenger, allowing Facebook users to chat with friends both on mobile and on the Facebook website. Then in 2014, the messaging feature was removed from the main Facebook app and turned into its own separate app.

But Facebook wasn’t the only chat app around. The leading chat app, WhatsApp, caught the attention of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and in 2014, he bought out the competition for $22 billion. In the spring of 2016, the two chat apps combined sent out messages equal to three times the global volume of SMS messages. Today, in 2017, each of these two apps have reached 1 billion users a month. What’s more, six out of the top ten most used mobile apps are messaging apps!


Connecting with customers on their channel of choice

Whether it’s texting or messaging, smartphone users have grown addicted to this convenient form of two-way conversation. The sky-rocketing number of smartphones in the world and the increasing daily functions that can be performed on them contribute to Forrester’s prediction that global smartphone penetration rates will reach 91% by 2020. Consumers want to connect wherever they are, whenever they want.

But it’s not just friends and family that people want to reach via messaging – it’s companies too. For brands, it’s more important than ever to reach customers on the channels of their choice. We’ve become a society that simply can’t put down our mobile phones. And enterprises that don’t leverage and understand that will fall behind! By tapping into messaging apps, customers can engage in a two-way dialog that allows them to easily find information and complete tasks. Similarly, two-way text messaging provides an intelligent and natural experience that consumers prefer. Additionally, these options allow customers to effortlessly self-serve through communicating with a virtual assistant on these platforms, which increases customer satisfaction and lowers operating costs.

Texting has stood the test of time for a reason. Instant messaging has grown from the texting mindset. Isn’t it time for your brand to celebrate your customers’ favorite way to communicate?

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Text messaging - the channel that gets attention

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Josefine Fouarge

About Josefine Fouarge

Josefine Fouarge is Sr. Product Marketing Manager in the Nuance Enterprise Division, focusing on automated and human assisted engagements in digital channels. Josefine brings more than 10 years of experience in sales and marketing for technology related businesses in Germany and the U.S. Her past expertise ranges from selling and configuring Apple computers to defining the market and messaging for a security software for on-premise datacenters and services offered through the cloud.