Voicemail is dead. Long live the messaging application! Okay, that statement might be slightly hyperbolic, since voicemail isn’t completely dead … yet. But as far back as 2014, the venerable New York Times had already called it: Voicemail was being ignored, and texting was in.

Fast forward two short years, and texting is being replaced by messaging applications. And usage statistics around the most popular messaging apps are staggering, with 2.19 billion consumers predicted to be using consumer messaging applications by 2019. And with the recent advancements in artificial intelligence, paired with this explosion of messaging app users, it’s no surprise that chat bots are becoming the next revolution in marketing and customer experience.

The Rise of Chat Bots and Conversational Commerce

The term “conversational commerce” was coined a year or so ago by Chris Messina, a major player in the tech space (he invented the hashtag—enough said!), and currently Uber’s American Developer Experience Lead. He said 2016 has been “the year of conversational commerce,” and we agree.

Messina wrote a detailed and tech heavy article on Medium deconstructing this chat bot and chat app revolution, and you can read it here, but here’s one quote that perfectly sums up why marketers need to stay on top of this important shift in digital customer service: “The net result is that you and I will be talking to brands and companies over Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, and elsewhere before year’s end, and will find it normal.”

Chat Bots and the Customer Experience

Let’s take a look at a few more impressive bits of information around chat applications and their usage:

  • The top four chat apps boast a user base larger than that of the top four social networks.
  • Chat apps have extremely high retention and usage rates, more than most mobile apps.
  • The majority of their users are young—a highly sought after demographic for brands, advertisers and publishers.

Remember those Millennials? That massive cohort of extremely loyal consumers  we wrote about not long ago? Those are the people using messaging and chat applications. And those are the people who want to be able to use them to easily reach businesses, whether with inquiries or to deal with customer service snafus. And who’s chomping at the Millennials’ heels? Generation Z .

Today, customer experience is a key component of a brand’s success, and advances in artificial intelligence have allowed chat bots to have increasingly engaging and VERY human conversations. They’re even programmed with a sense of humor. Also, they provide consumers with a nearly frictionless switch between desktop and mobile versions. Many companies and publishers are already using chat bots on messaging and collaboration channels, including HP, 1-800-Flowers, and CNN.

The end result? Between Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s Siri, plus Millennials and Generation Z taking over our world, most consumers are, or soon will be, comfortable chatting away with a robot. Businesses have a huge opportunity to capitalize on this relatively inexpensive technology to reach—and help—more consumers than ever before.