Social media platforms have significantly changed the dynamics of how brands and customers interact. Whereas in the past people were limited to phone calls and emails, today, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and Instagram photos have become major hubs for companies to connect with consumers, and to offer better services.
Even though social media outreach remains a vital component, companies are always in search of better ways to connect with consumers, and while public profiles are a great place for companies and their customers to interact, service through these channels is public and can be messy when customers have complaints or feel wronged.
As Arri Bagah argued in his piece about conversational marketing, many businesses are finding success delivering customer support and services through instant messaging apps, moving away from public arenas to private comms. The rapid rise in popularity of instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook’s Messenger app has allowed companies to give customers a more agile service platform that fits in with their preferences and daily habits.
With this new channel — far from reaching its full utility — businesses can offer customers faster, better and more convenient service, while discovering new ways to improve customer satisfaction and stay ahead of competition.
The Old Ways are Falling
Companies are more often looking toward mobile messaging to engage with consumers. While pages and Twitter feeds still offer value for broadcasting and one-directional communication, these platforms provide companies with almost instantaneous communication through a direct channel to their customers.
Messaging also focuses on one-on-one communication, taking customer interactions out of the public sphere. Traditional channels for customer engagement such as company pages, Twitter, and Instagram feeds can lead to an unintended side effect—a sometimes unpleasant outpouring of complaints. While this is a valuable source of information for companies, the visibility aspect and resulting public perception can do more harm than good.
Thus, applications such as Facebook’s Messenger and others, such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Google Hangouts are quickly being adapted to serve customer engagement funnels.
Why Messaging Matters
By April of this year, Facebook Messenger reached 1.2 billion monthly users, just 20 months after it reached 500,000,000. In broader terms, Messenger and other instant messaging platforms have displayed explosive growth in recent years. An estimated 76.3% of all smartphone users will use a messaging app in 2017, a number that is likely to keep expanding a smartphone penetration continues to grow. Some industry analysts have forecast that instant messaging penetration will hit an approximate 80% of all smartphone users, with 2 billion people using one or more applications by 2018.
Companies need better outreach methods—new and more effective ways to interact with their consumers. Messenger can solve a major pain point thanks to its dynamic conversational style. Messaging offers concise, media-rich conversations based upon people’s needs. More importantly, this channel delivers a straightforward way to create a dialogue with consumers.
Messaging is quickly becoming a preferred channel for communications, especially among younger demographics. Juniper Research forecasts that ‘OTT’, or over-the-top messaging apps such as Messenger and WhatsApp will reach 4.2 billion users by 2021. Companies can exploit this trend, and already have, by creating a more approachable persona that meets individuals’ preferences. Messenger gives consumers an effortless way to reach companies, gives businesses a way to better comprehend their audience.
Apart from the growing audience and rapidly expanding participation, messaging is also more agile than email or even phone calls. It combines their best features into a streamlined package that is always available. First, it integrates real-time and asynchronous conversations, letting users talk to someone when they need without having to worry about staying on the line or wasting their time waiting.
For instance, Sephora, a major cosmetics retailer, connected their ads to their Messenger, directly linking clicks to a chat to book appointments. This novel approach netted Sephora an 11% boost in booking rates. Messenger also gives companies a running history of a customer’s interactions with them, allowing each conversation to have context and offer continuous value.
Increasingly, new companies will start deploying Messenger in creative ways. Income Insurance, for example, has created a chat bot for Messenger dubbed ‘Jiffy Jane’, which acts as a concierge and allows users to instantly purchase travel insurance. Although still in testing, it has already shown vast potential.
Putting the ‘Social’ Back in Social Media
Facebook is heavily betting on messenger, already spearheading several initiatives that should increase their appeal to brands. For one, companies can now include messenger chats directly on their websites, and continue conversations on mobile Messenger seamlessly. This cross-platform functionality creates impressive synergies, allowing companies to unify their branding efforts while constructing a more seamless customer service flow.
The company is also looking to create a more comprehensive customer experience on messenger. Brands will be able to offer more value, and in diverse new ways, to consumers. Facebook already allows for payments directly on Messenger, and returns sponsored recommendations thanks to its ‘M’ AI interface. Now, the company is testing broadcast messages which are delivered directly to consumers’ inboxes and can lead directly into a chat, or even a sale.
Facebook pages and Twitter feeds are not going away soon, but a major shift is coming. Companies are quickly discovering the value of Messenger. Instead of plodding support, users prefer agile communication that comes directly to their phones. Businesses can leverage this to become a fixture with customers by investing in outreach initiatives and integrating Messenger alongside other messaging tools into their service arsenal.
Facebook has seen the future and messaging appears like it will lead the way for customer service. By creating a more intimate and interactive space for consumers to learn about companies, start a conversation, speak with representatives, and even receive recommendations, Messenger and its contemporaries are poised to shape the next evolution of how customers and brands interact.