What's the Difference Between Live Chat and Messaging?

4 min read Chandler Mayo on Dec 7, 2020

Customers interact with your organization and apps in a lot of different ways. They might reach out on Facebook Messenger, send you an email, or contact you through a support widget or chatbot on your website or mobile app. Your relationship with your customers comes from these interactions and it’s critical to ensure they feel supported. Every communication channel is customer support and business chat. 

Customers expect you to meet them where they are. And because of this, every application needs to be a chat application so your customers can get in touch with you at their convenience. 

But it’s not just about convenience for your customers: having multiple ways that customers can get in touch with you will allow them to use their preferred channel of interaction, which can result in higher conversion and customer satisfaction. Customers expect you to add chat to your application or to add chat to your website. Sending emails and making phone calls requires that customers leave your app, and leaving makes it harder for them to get the customer experience they need.

Because customer interactions happen in so many different places there is often a confusion between ‘Live Chat’ and ‘Messaging’ when you’re adding or building chat into your app. Knowing the difference between the two allows you to optimize your communication channels and applications to improve customer utilization, conversion, and satisfaction. 

In this article, we’ll explore the difference between live chat and messaging, how to identify which makes sense for your use case, and how to start building these two forms of chat into your app. 

What is live chat and live support chat? 

Live chat covers live real-time interactions in places like your website or app. You’ll often see live chat integrated as part of a live chat agent widget primarily aimed at improving customer experience by providing live chat support for customer care. Live chat can be further divided into two subcategories: live support chat and live event chat. 

Live support chat 

Support chat is useful for users that need real-time interaction and immediate responses, like in customer service or retail interactions. It’s as simple as support agents using live chat software and a chat widget on your website to provide a live chat solution to help your customers. Live support chat is a great way to resolve problems quickly and customers often prefer it to email or a phone call.

Live support chat lets you quickly resolve issues for your customers.

Support chat can also save money by reducing the load on phone support systems since multiple messaging channels can be operated asynchronously by one agent at the same time with just a glance at the conversation history. Customer engagement is usually improved because response time from instant messaging is faster than by phone. 

You could also use live support with a knowledge base and build a chatbot to further improve customer interactions. Partial automation with a chatbot also enables a reduced amount of agents required for chat. 

Live event chat

Live event chat is another example of live chat. This type of chat includes group chatting for classrooms, sports, concerts, streaming, and more. Live event chat may also require additional functionality at scale because the chat service must work reliably in all cases for a good user experience.

Many chat platforms struggle to handle large amounts of customer interactions at the same time, so, when building live event chat, it’s important to use an API provider—like PubNub—who can accommodate unlimited concurrent users and messages while still operating reliably.

Chat brings the energy of in-person interactions to virtual live events.

What is messaging?

Messaging covers interactions that are not expected to be in real-time. Some messaging examples include SMS on mobile devices or messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat. 

One key feature of messaging is there is a history of previous messages. Users are not expected to keep the chat open so previous messages need to load when they do so they can catch up. Users will come and go as they need to send messages and read responses. Mobile push notifications are usually required to keep both sides engaged. 

In cases where you want to offer support but not necessarily in real-time—like for non-urgent customer questions or general inquiries—messaging is what you want. Messaging is a slower way to communicate. However, it offers the same advantages of a live chat solution and can be similarly integrated into your app.  Agents also don’t need to be available 24/7 while still providing customer support in a way that’s good for customer experience.

Messaging often replaces the need for users to contact a support email by instead allowing them to contact you directly from within your application. Another benefit to messaging is that both the customer and agent can take their time to formulate responses. A messaging service can also benefit from being integrated with a knowledge base or chatbot for improved customer interactions.

How do I add live chat and messaging to my app?

PubNub makes it easy to add live chat or messaging to your application. You can build chat in a way that’s customized perfectly for your needs. We have over 10 years of experience delivering trillions of messages for our customers.

PubNub provides a real-time publish/subscribe messaging API built on a global Data Stream Network. A benefit of using PubNub over building it yourself is that messages sent with PubNub are delivered in under 0.25 seconds, and usually much faster (10 – 40ms). PubNub has multiple points of presence on every inhabited continent, supports dozens of SDKs, and has features like mobile push notifications for mobile devices.

PubNub offers a serverless environment to execute functions on messages as they route through the PubNub Network. You can incorporate logic like re-routing, augmenting, filtering, transforming, and aggregating data. You can use Functions to enhance your live chat or messaging solution functionality with things like automatically managing messaging channels, omnichannel content filtering, chatbots that automatically send replies, and more.

Use PubNub Chat to build features into your application like:

Find the PubNub SDK that’s right for your application and then check out these great chat resources:

Want to get started building live chat or messaging into your app today? Get in touch with our sales team to quickly get your in-app chat up and running.