Three innovative strategies which could transform your marketing communications using instant messaging
Instant messaging (IM) is the fastest growing peer to peer means of communication with over 2.5 billion active users globally, and has emerged as the de facto channel for delivering personalised, instant one to one messages of all kinds – images, video and instant chat.
Chatbots have the distribution power of facebook behind it
WhatsApp, bought by Facebook in February 2014, now occupies 200 minutes a week of its billion users , and is forecast to surpass 3.6 billion users by 2020 – that’s about half of humanity. Messaging is now what is mostly used by us on our smartphones, surpassing even social media usage in 2016, and is now a deep-rooted habit in our semi-conscious minds.
So this explosive growth in IM, what are the commercial opportunities for savvy marketers?
1) Customer service and instant messaging
Instant messaging is becoming the new ecosystem for a world of improved speedy customer services. A generation of business customers have grown up hating call centres, tedious menu options and holding on the phone for extended periods of time. Instant messaging offers a real-time alternative for businesses that want to help customers get quick answers.
Studies have shown that e-commerce websites in particular often lose sales because customers can’t get their answers quickly enough. With IM, customers don’t have to go slog through voicemail menus to send an email.
Another advantage of instant messaging is that it automatically creates a written transcript of customer dialogue, thus making it easier to understand the historic relationship between business and customs. Businesses can archive and reuse these transcripts to monitor customer interactions for quality control.
Of course, engaging with instant messaging now requires instant results, so businesses switching to this service will need to be appropriately resourced to respond during peak times.
2) Integrating with instant messaging with social media
Messaging is by nature is one and one and private which has made brands cautious when testing it. One brand which understands this well and has started to experiment is Adidas which is using WhatsApp to build hyper-local communities in cities across the world by inviting a a group of advocates to a private conversation with one of its sponsored players. “WhatsApp was specifically chosen as our research shows that consumers already use the app to create their own micro-communities,” stated director of global brand communications for Adidas Football, Florian Alt.
Another example is airline KLM which is now giving passengers the option to receive flight updates through Facebook Messenger. For example, if customers opt-in while booking a ticket online, KLM sends booking confirmation, flight status and a boarding pass which passengers can use to get through security and onto their flight.
As customers transition to private messaging, it’s essential for marketers to remember messaging interactions on social media are private opt-in experiences, much like email lists. Content delivered through messaging apps and bots will need to be relevant and more personalised than a Facebook post to your whole audience, and users will need a reason to open up a conversation or opt in.
3) Instant messaging and chat bots
One of the most exciting new emerging opportunities for communication through messaging is automated conversational agents – chatbots – emerging from instant messaging platforms, the most notable entrant being the launch of chatbots API on the Facebook Messenger platform.
While this is still early days, there are several reasons why I believe the application of chat bots will explode in their use in communications and marketing. They remove friction. Bots reduce friction by making customer service interactions easier for customers, and for brands. There is ease of integration into existing brand channelsl; chat bots can live on the channels that people are already using including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Skype etc. And they can seamlessly fit within the flow of people’s lives.
Chat bots have the distribution power of Facebook behind them. Messenger now has 900 million users worldwide. Bots don’t require huge investment in development time to create, test and prototype. New enabling tools like API.ai and wit.ai allow marketers to develop simple prototypes and test through distribution channels like Messenger and Slack. I believe there is a tremendous amount of exciting marketing innovation in messaging, both for consumers and businesses, but what do you think? Share your comments about how you're using them.
David Reilly is a skills trainer, consultant and writer and can be reached through his Let's learn digital chat bot on Facebook Messenger.