Messenger apps are trending. Applications like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, etc. have become an integral part of mobile users’ communication habits. The phenomenon is being seen in countries around the world. According to eMarketer, 1.82 billion people around the world will be using these tools by the end of 2017. This development provides marketing managers with opportunities as well as risks. After all, just to keep reaching a majority of their target group, they will have to start using messenger marketing in this communication channel without annoying the users. Once contact has been established, messengers offer unique options and benefits. The use of chat bots could be a promising way to achieve this.
What exactly does messenger marketing consist of?
Simply put, messenger marketing is the use of available instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Snapchat for individualized one-on-one communication with users, customers and potential customers in real time. Customers and prospects use messenger communication with a company to find out about the latest offers, current products or news from the company. On the other hand, they want to have their questions about services and products answered directly and in real time. In combination with chatbots, messenger communication can provide new opportunities for dialogue and ways to respond to service requests that go well beyond mere “one-way communication”.
Good reasons for messenger marketing
Thus far, messenger channels have been primarily used for private communication. As part of a company’s marketing mix, however, they can offer several advantages over other marketing channels.
- Wider audience and reach : messengers are now being used across all age groups. They are also serving to increase global reach. According to ZenithMedia, approximately 66 percent of all people will have smartphones – and these devices almost always include messenger apps.
- High opening rates and click-through rates : messenger users are generally very easy to reach. With opening rates of 90 percent and click-through rates of 20 – 30 percent, information communicated using messengers reach users much more effectively than other media.
- Loyal subscribers: an average of below one percent of users unsubscribe to messenger channels. Messenger dialogue can be used to engage in a direct relationship with each subscriber and thus retain long-term customer loyalty.
- Direct channel to the company: customers can use messengers to contact a company directly. The public is excluded from this dialogue. As such, this channel does not pose the risks of shitstorms, hate speeches and the like.
- Shareable content: content can be easily shared using messenger applications and company content can therefore be readily shared in the private conversations of potential customers. As such, messengers provide an ideal way to convey multimedia content. Video clips, images, audio files or PDFs can be attached to messenger newsletters and chats. This helps create whole new worlds of experience for the customers.
- Chatbots provide support: chatbots represent a smart step towards automating messenger communication and a new way of exchange with prospects and customers. As little programs in messengers, chatbots can be used for applications including entertainment, brand promotion, product information or bookings.
Chatbots add value
Chatbots have many advantages for customers: they no longer stuck remain stuck on hold and instead receive rapid responses around the clock. All discussions with bots or humans are documented in the chat, which means customers don’t have to explain their concerns to each new contact from the beginning. Facebook messenger and some enterprise applications are already clearly indicating where we are headed.
Lufthansa has introduced its female avatar “Mildred” to help customers search for the best flight prices. Users can contact Mildred by searching for “Lufthansa Best Price” using Facebook Messenger. Travellers can specify their desired point of departure and destination as well as their travel dates in the chat window. Mildred then determines the best connections by analysing flight data for the next nine months. The booking itself is still carried out at lufthansa.com. Mildred can currently be used in German and English.
The online shop Zalando has also opted for a bot that will enable mobile style consultation. “Emma” advises potential customers and then indicates matching offers on Zalando.
These are just some of the many examples of how companies are using messengers and bots for their own marketing. The following figures clearly indicate the direction this development is taking. Facebook opened its messenger platform for interactive bots in April 2016. Since then, developers from around the world have developed more than 100,000 interactive chatbots for this platform.
Users (still) prefer personal contact
Although digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa have long since moved into many households, are increasing in popularity and offer an increasing number of skills, scepticism prevails among many users when it comes to chatbots. In Germany, for example, only every fourth respondent can imagine using chatbots according to a survey conducted by the association for information technology BITKOM. Personal contact is still preferred. This may be at least partially due to the fact that most bots (still) don’t meet user expectations. Current developments in the field of voice control could remedy this situation and make interaction with chatbots more natural. Being able to talk with chatbots better than before could increase acceptance among users. The ability to understand and interpret verbal communication correctly is therefore one of the major challenges that technology companies have to solve in the near future.
Still in the starting blocks
Companies can user messenger bots to contact potential customers right where they are every day – on their tablets or smartphones using Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. The quick response times and the possibility to provide solutions and answers in real time are opening new sales opportunities for all companies. However, several technical obstacles still have to be overcome to gain increased acceptance. Sooner or later, many companies will have to strategically respond to this trend, adapt their communication to the requirements of messengers and reassess the various channels in the marketing mix.