Business chat: what’s the difference between live chat and messaging?

Chat has been around — in one form or another — since the creation of the internet. From chatrooms to messaging and live chat software, chat has become a core aspect of our digital lives. So much so, in fact, that businesses have had to embrace messaging and live chat communication as a necessity.

But wait, messaging and live chat software aren’t the same thing?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that they are — the two business chat options do overlap in many respects.

Nonetheless, they are entirely different chat mediums, providing very different uses and levels of service.

Here, we explore the difference between live chat software and messaging applications.

Business chat: what are the options?

Before looking deeper into what makes live chat software and messaging so different, it’s important to understand what they are.

• Messaging applications

Messaging applications allow customers to have a conversation with a business representative online. However, unlike live chat, these conversations don’t happen in real-time.

There is no promise of ‘live’; no offer of immediate assistance. Rather, messaging applications create a more disfluent conversation where both parties can hop in and hop out as convenient.

Think WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, for example.

• Live chat software

Live chat software is a business chat tool that powers real-time conversations. So, there is no stop-start element to the conversation.

The customer types their message into the chat window, and the live chat agent is active at the other side to offer an immediate response.

Think our own WhosOn live chat solution, or the online equivalent of a phone call. This type of chat is instant and fast-paced.

However, the difference between the two business chat options is more than a question of real-time or not.

It’s one of urgency, convenience, and functionality.

Convenience and urgency

Both business chat options are convenient in different ways, for different reasons. Where messaging apps are convenient for their flexibility, live chat software is convenient for its urgency and immediacy.

With messaging, there’s no need for conversation partners to be online at the same time. Plus, messaging apps provide a single live chat thread. This allows previous messages to be viewed at any time.

So, there’s no worry of accidentally ending the chat, as chatters can simply re-open the app.

Live chat software, meanwhile, is made convenient in all the ways that messaging isn’t.

The real-time nature of live chat software creates a sense of urgency to every message. When a visitor reaches out to a business via live chat, they know they’ll get a fast reply — something that isn’t always guaranteed with messaging.

This makes your service readily accessible for customers and visitors in a rush. After all, it’s not always a fun experience sending a message, not knowing when (or if) you’ll hear back.

Functionality of a downloaded app

Using a messaging app for your business chat often relies on customers downloading the app or sharing their social media profiles. So, this can create a high barrier to customers looking for quick answers.

Some customers won’t want to make an account or download an app to talk to you. Even if they do, they might not always be happy to share details like social media profiles or phone numbers.

However, this also means that messaging is often separate from your website.

As a result, you can reach and engage people that aren’t currently exploring your site. You can send customers reminders, marketing materials and sales offers, all without them starting a new chat.

Native interactivity

Live chat software, meanwhile, is a much lower barrier business chat option. Customers don’t need to sign in, hand over their phone number, or spend time downloading an app.

Instead, your chat channel remains native on your website. Visitors can click and chat from any page of your website.

This interactivity means your service is accessible for anyone trying to reach you online — not just those with the right apps and accounts.

However, this means that you need to find other ways to interact with your customers outside of your website. For example, on social media or via SMS marketing.

Adopt the omnichannel approach

It’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, and you needn’t put all your business chat options into one tool. Both live chat software and messaging applications have uses distinct from each other.

Though the two business chat options do overlap, they remain different in use and scope.

So, instead of choosing either/or, why not opt for both and unlock all the benefits they deliver?

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