Google quietly announced that it will be winding down its Google Business Messages (GBM) product on July 31, 2024. For those familiar with the tech giant’s track record, this news may come as no surprise. Google is no stranger to killing its darlings, showing that no project is too beloved to escape the chopping block if it doesn’t meet the company’s evolving priorities.

Even though GBM was never the most popular business messaging platform, its entry points are extremely valuable for location-based businesses like retailers and hotels. These businesses could offer chat as a more convenient alternative to phone calls for customers who discovered them through Google Maps, Google Search, or Google Ads. But the end-user experience was never Google’s strong point — chat history is nearly impossible to find and GBM is not a channel used socially by consumers, which severely hampered user adoption.

Still, many enterprises have built this channel into their messaging strategies and must now (quickly!) find a backup plan. A direct quote from Google: “If you have alternative chat channels, consider inviting your customers to continue conversations there.”

Yikes. Well, let’s see if we can do a bit better than that.

What Does This Mean For GBM Customers?

Brands should look to their vendor partners to develop strategies for reasonable channel alternatives. For iOS users, Apple Messages for Business is the obvious choice. For Android users, Mike Myer (CEO of Quiq) shared with me that the company is guiding its customers toward transitioning these conversations to SMS. But this switch does have its downsides: Companies will miss out on the branded appearance and interactive features GBM offered, plus SMS can’t carry over the channel context.

For the brands that used GBM to steer customers away from voice calls and toward messaging, deploying a call-to-messaging solution (toward SMS, Apple Messages for Business, or in-app messaging via native SDK) is likely the next best move. Similarly, vendors like ASAPP enable a “chat instead” nudge on brand websites to encourage messaging adoption from owned channels. Those who haven’t already deployed these channel transition techniques are likely to see overall messaging adoption improve, despite losing access to GBM.

What Does This Mean For Business Messaging?

Many vendors that support enterprise business messaging are adamant that Google’s decision to sunset GBM does not indicate fizzling momentum for business messaging. For LivePerson, GBM accounts for an “astronomically small percentage” of its third-party messaging volume, with Apple Messages for Business, SMS, and WhatsApp — perhaps unsurprisingly, given high consumer adoption — in the lead.

Of course, the elephant in the room is RCS.

Will RCS be the business messaging savior we’ve all wished for it to be? Maybe. Someday.

Many believe (this author among them) that GBM was a “We’re sick of waiting for RCS to happen” kind of solution and that Google never meant for it to last. Google has still maintained its RCS Business Messaging solution, but consumers cannot initiate conversations with brands first — it’s essentially an outbound solution. While RCS hopefuls have been given a boost by Apple’s upcoming support, carrier cooperation remains the key to unlocking its full potential in North America.

The good news? Many vendors already support RCS and will be ready to rock as soon as the (not insignificant) roadblocks are cleared in North America. Twilio, for example, has seen healthy demand in Latin America for two-way communication via RCS as an alternative to WhatsApp and expects similar behavior in the US as support expands.

Forrester clients seeking advice on this change, or their digital interaction strategies in general, can book a guidance session with me.