Facebook Opens the Floodgates for Conversational Commerce

One of the less-discussed channels for SMB marketing is messaging. Previously the domain of push-based SMS marketing, the format got a bad name because of the invasion of a channel held sacred by many consumers. But that has changed to some degree in the age of social messaging apps.

One factor driving this trend is millennial and Gen-Z proclivities. These generations lean towards messaging as a preferred channel over phone calls. So “conversational commerce” has emerged for users to converse with brands — everything from customer service inquiries to finding out more about products.

Facebook over the last decade has covered the most ground when considering brand marketing options in Messenger, as well as possibilities for WhatsApp and Instagram. Messaging is a key component — albeit to varying degrees — of these apps. The idea is to let businesses join the discussion in targeted ways.

How Should Messaging Be Used as a Marketing Channel?

Unified Approach

Facebook last week took the next step towards democratizing conversational commerce. After launching the Messenger API for Instagram in October, it’s now open to all businesses. This gives SMBs a one-stop-shop for managing customer interactions across Facebook, Messenger and Instagram.

This unified approach is fitting for SMBs because it reduces friction and time. By comparison, they previously had to send and respond to customer inquiries within Instagram if that’s where the message originated. Given Instagram’s continued rise as a transactional experience, this move should resonate.

The new Messenger API also integrates with a given business’s product and customer databases. This means customer communications on Instagram can not only happen in the same place as Messenger, but they can be armed with customer information and product images. This allows them to be more targeted.

For example, customer messaging interactions can be informed by their history or other data that flows from a business’s CRM system. Insights such as a customer’s loyalty history can contextualize the interaction and help businesses reply in optimal ways. This applies across Facebook messaging apps.

Are Instagram Stories Fit for SMB Marketing?

Evolutionary Path

To double down on the one-stop-shop appeal, businesses can also now manage marketing components that go beyond messaging. For example, they can manage their Instagram presence, including things like profiles, shops and stories. The latter is an underutilized SMB marketing channel as we’ve examined.

Lastly, the new API lets businesses respond to Instagram messages in automated ways. This involves a “first line of defense” through chatbots, while letting users connect to live support when needed. Facebook says that trials demonstrate this feature to improve business response rates on Instagram by up to 55 percent.

The bottom line is that businesses can integrate increasingly-popular Instagram messaging into the apps and workflows that they already use to manage Facebook and Messenger conversations. The one-stop-shop approach should make this more manageable for SMBs that want to lean in to conversational commerce.

Why is this important? Facebook and Instagram are growing channels for SMB marketing. This includes their ongoing evolution towards eCommerce. Because it aligns with that evolutionary path, expect conversational commerce be a priority at Facebook as the company continues to mature and diversify revenue.

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