Business experts call this the era of conversational commerce. Organisations that use messaging platforms to reach customers in new ways are delivering products and services that disrupt long-established incumbents.
Ever wondered why Facebook splashed out USD19 billion for WhatsApp, when the social network had developed its own Messenger application at the cost of a few million USD already?
Well, WhatsApp boasts a better engagement rate than Facebook. “Its users send out an average of 50 billion messages a day,” Icreon Technology says. Why is WhatsApp’s engagement rate important for Facebook, and businesses like yours? “Global messaging ecosystems could offer companies the opportunity to connect more personally with consumers.”
Beyond WhatsApp, though, there’s some amazing technologies brewing to help you connect through messaging platforms.
The experts at Harvard Business Review (HBR) agree that gauging from how quickly messaging applications are evolving and how smartphone use is at record-breaking highs, it’s clear that you have a genuine opportunity to connect with customers through targeted communication…but the challenge remains – how do you do this effectively?
Beyond WhatsApp – Bots with Kik
“I’ve had an engaging conversation with a helpful H&M employee. Except the person helping me wasn’t a person: It was a Bot,” says Gadi BenMark and Dilip Venkatachari at HBR. “The conversation didn’t take place on H&M.com or the business’s mobile app. It happened on Kik, a third-party messaging app.”
Kik is based in Toronto, Canada, but owned by Tencent (the owners of WeChat). The messaging application aims to become the “WeChat of the West”, according to Icreon Technology. “Part of that exploration is determining how to monetise messaging apps. Kik’s answer is Promoted Chats that let brands engage one-on-one with its followers,” the website adds.
Companies can use Kik’s platform to send video or share photos with customers. Text updates, and feedback tools are also incorporated in the application to ensure users experience a holistic ecosystem.
Kik in action for businesses
Brands like Seventeen magazine in the United States, and audio specialists Skullcandy and shoe veterans Vans have achieved organic reach of 80% amongst Kik users, according to Kik’s data sets.
“That data further indicates that some 10 million users have participated in direct conversations with a brand,” Icreon Technology adds. HBR’s business experts say that this should highlight the urgency for your company to become one of the brands that people are connecting with on messaging platforms.
Why embrace messaging for business growth?
Consider how your customers would benefit from direct access to your brand. If they had ‘instant’ access to your products or services on a mobile messaging app, you could capture revenues that are dropping by the wayside.
“Users are already in the habit of interacting on messaging apps. Although the use of brands’ mobile apps has exploded since 2008, ‘brand app fatigue’ is starting to settle in,” says HBR. “Messaging apps, by contrast, have never been hotter. Today six of the top 10 global apps are messaging apps, used by 1.4 billion people worldwide and growing by 12% annually.”
Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Messenger are leading the pack, although Kik is rising in the ranks along with Snapchat, Instagram and Viber.
“China’s WeChat has 10 million business accounts (official accounts). They reach 650 million monthly users that interact in ways similar to how they’re interacting with their friends,” HBR’s BenMark and Venkatachari explain.
Customers can send you a ’sad’ emoji, and you can send a song or meme back to lighten their day. Why not prompt a sale at the same time – offer a voucher for a free cappuccino with any purchased sandwich – if you’re running a coffee shop for example.
You need to start imagining the ways your messages to customers can help grow revenues, and improve their experiences. Cost-effective use of messaging applications can help you offer all of the functions of the mobile Internet without the customer ever having to leave the chat with you.
There should be no arguing that if you are targeting Millennial consumers, for example, your business must reside in one of their instant chat windows.
DID YOU KNOW?
Messaging applications are growing in popularity. Businesses can use these platforms to engage with their clientele on yet another channel. “According to Gartner, by 2019, requests for customer support through consumer mobile messaging apps will exceed requests for customer support through traditional social media,” says Amanda Roosa at ZenDesk. She suggests that you dish out customer support through customer messaging software. “It can deepen your brand’s relationship with customers, serving as an immediate way to connect with your business and get a response.”
3 Ways you’ll deliver better solutions
Using messaging apps like WhatsApp, Kik and Messenger, you can gain deeper insights into customer behaviours and shopping trends. These three benefits are most helpful, according to ZenDesk:
Offer unhindered communication
Take it from public to private
Use Bots to make first contact
1. Offer unhindered communication
“No matter where they are in the world, messaging apps offer your customers unrestricted communication options,” says Roosa. “Unlike SMS, which often incurs charges, your customers can still reach out privately via messaging apps and receive a timely response without worrying about cost.”
For your company, this could mean ‘happier customers’. “Happy customers mean a happy bottom line for your business,” she adds.
2. Take it from public to private
The rise of social networks has given consumers a platform to air their greatest disappointments in companies. If you don’t respond here, you’re quickly labelled a pariah. But, what if you could respond on social and then take the customer ‘offline’ on a one-to-one digital platform.
“Giving your customers an easy option to reach your business privately not only decreases their likelihood of publicly tweeting a complaint, it also offers a space to exchange sensitive information, like delivery details,” Roosa explains. “With a more private outlet for customer interactions, your business can thoroughly help customers while simultaneously saving brand face.”
3. Use Bots to make first contact
Gartner says that artificial intelligence (AI) technology will grow in leaps and bounds in 2017 – and that businesses will be latching onto these technologies to grow market share and increase customer satisfaction. If you don’t use AI too, you might lose ground.
“Artificial intelligence is a top trend for 2017,” Roosa adds. “With the help of chatbots, your business can better manage workflows and automatically respond to customer requests via messaging.”
Think of chatbots as helpers that point customers to the right information. Bots can assist in self-service and allow your human capital to focus on the issues that require a personal touch.
A recent survey by ATG Global showed that 90% of customers see live chat as ‘helpful’. Another survey finds that 63% of shoppers are more likely to return to a website that offers live chat. If you’re still in doubt as to whether messaging apps can help you, you can contact BCX for further insights on the topic and the technologies needed to offer a seamless digital-customer experience.