Messaging is no longer just about shooting a text to a friend, or an email to a prospective customer. It has developed rapidly in the last few years to become one of the most prolific, convenient and effective ways of communicating, which is why it’s now an unmissable tactic in a Marketing Automation strategy.
We’ve evolved from very basic SMS and MMS exchanges to advanced messaging services that can provide entertainment, offer customer service, and even accept payments. Today, consumers of all ages have come to expect messages to play a role in their experience with a brand.
A new report by Nielsen, commissioned by Facebook IQ, found that the trend of messaging is “both global and growing.” The report, which looked at 14 markets, 5 continents and all age groups, found that 59% of people say they’re messaging more today than they did two years ago, and 56% expect it to continue increasing over the next two years.
The trend is steady across all age groups, with Baby Boomers preferring to message (rather than call or email) just 2% less (63%) than Generation X or Millennials (65%).
The money in messaging
Of course, the rise of messaging is helping people make social plans and keep in touch with friends, but its impact on business cannot be underestimated. People exchange over 1 billion messages with businesses on Facebook Messenger alone, every month, according to Facebook data. That’s not considering interactions with webpage-based chatbots or on other platforms like WeChat, which dominates in China.
Consumers message for everything from asking businesses a question about a product or opening hours to making an appointment or placing an order. They leave feedback, make complaints and share photos.
As a whole, these messages make up a pretty comprehensive purchase cycle:
The growing capability of messaging apps is supporting this drive toward chat.
WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, started as just a messaging service. Today, with a monthly user base of more than 1 billion people, the app allows users to pay for groceries at the supermarket, transfer money to a friend, hail a taxi, play games, book a flight and more.
For its part, Facebook is trying to compete. The New York Times recently announced that the social media giant is planning to unify the three messaging platforms it owns – Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram. This will reportedly allow users to connect with each other, and presumably also with businesses on other apps, no matter which app they themselves are using.
Of course, these sorts of changes are great for businesses like Facebook and Tencent, owner of WeChat, because they keep users within their owned ecosystems. But they can also be beneficial for businesses using these platforms to reach larger, more diverse audiences in a more targeted and streamlined way. Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram have a whopping 3.8 billion monthly active users together, according to Social Media Today, and Facebook, which will be at the core of them all, is still the world’s largest database.
Not to mention, messaging services and campaigns can be tied to existing Facebook advertising accounts and campaigns, enabling businesses to target, cater and optimise to provide just the right message at just the right time.
The unbeatable user experience
Of course, user numbers are just one reason to turn to messaging apps for your business’s communication needs. The other is the unbeatable user experience.
When your audience is already using Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp or WeChat, why make them leave that comfortable environment? Instead, deliver a seamless, in-app experience that makes it effortless to engage with your brand.
Most commonly, this takes the form of a chatbot. For example, we have created an interactive “quiz” chatbot that helped our client’s prospects determine which of their products would be right for them.
The Marketing Automation magic
Including SMS is nothing new in a Marketing Automation strategy, but with users turning in droves to other messaging apps and formats, it makes sense to diversify your touchpoints. Messaging apps, especially Facebook Messenger, also create opportunities for a more personal experience.
“Taking an omnichannel approach will always outperform a single channel,” says Glen McMillan, krunch.co’s Head of Marketing Automation. “Understanding and using the channels your customers are active in is becoming increasingly critical.”
We’ve worked with Hyundai New Zealand to install a Facebook plugin on their website that enables users to start a conversation using what appears to be an online chatbot on the webpage. However, because it’s Facebook Messenger functionality, the user can then continue the message within the native Facebook desktop site, or even on the mobile Messenger app.
We’ve worked with Hyundai New Zealand and Isuzu New Zealand to install a Facebook Messenger plugin on their websites. This feature allows you to have a single, seamless line of communication with your consumer, across websites, apps and devices. The feature automatically loads recent chat history between the person and your business, whether either party is chatting on messenger.com, in the Messenger app, through Facebook or in the customer chat plugin on your website. This helps create a single experience for your customers, and enables you to continue the conversation even after they have left your webpage. No need to capture their information to follow up, just use the same conversation in Messenger.
Ultimately, as with any brand experience, convenience is key. And with new ways of communicating, providing support or entertaining through messaging coming up seemingly every day, you may just be able to surprise and delight your customers in new and unique ways, too.