For consumers, messaging apps are boiling hot.

Businesses are cooler to this kind of communication, but today’s announcement by Intercom of a revamped messaging platform for business-to-customer communications could help change that.

The San Francisco-based company provides customer communication services that brands can embed in their sites or applications. Previously, its services included the ability to send personalized announcements of various lengths to customers.

The newly launched capability is offering what the company describes as “modern messaging” for logged-in users, inspired by consumers apps like WhatsApp, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger.

“Messaging on the consumer side is massive, arguably the killer app of mobile,” Intercom product manager Brian Donohue told me. “On the business side, it’s an open question.”

Such modern messaging allows participants to immediately communicate with each other in a live chat, but the communication also exists as a persistent thread for asynchronous talk. The older live chat, which Intercom compares to a phone call, was designed around both parties communicating in real time. When you left the chat, the conversation was over for you.

A screen showing the business' side of a messaging conversation in Intercom

Above: A screen showing the business’ side of a messaging conversation in Intercom

Image Credit: Intercom

With messaging, on the other hand, you can send a message, photo, or video, come back the next day, and pick up the conversation thread where you left off — notwithstanding comments from other participants in the meantime. It’s like a private, ongoing chat room.

For businesses, messaging can tap into the huge popularity of the consumer apps — which, as many parents have learned, is the only communication tool their children want to use. Intercom’s customers include Hubspot, Home Depot, and New Relic.

Businesses can also tap into Intercom’s analytics, integration with customer profiles, and event-based messaging triggers, not to mention the fact that customers can continue the conversation with the business at any time.

Intercom’s implementation also allows a business to message the customer and, if there’s no response, to send the same message via email. The conversation can then continue in email, for those of us who still employ that ancient technique.

While consumer messaging is packed with competitors, business messaging is still emerging.

Manager of communications Aaron Forman pointed to live chat vendors Zopim, Olark, and LiveChat as competing in the same business communication space. He noted that Zendesk offers Zopim as a real-time messaging client, but “it’s not integrated.”

In contrast, Forman said, Intercom is “the only company enabling both web and mobile businesses to talk to their customers inside their applications” via real-time messaging.