One of the less-discussed marketing channels for SMBs (and all businesses for that matter) 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 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.
The best example of this framework is Facebook Messenger, where brands are allowed to push promotional messages to users that have actively followed them. Best practices can be seen from brands like Nike that use this channel to announce exclusive offers like a new “shoe drop,” sometimes using AR product visualization.
We’ve recently observed Facebook add more unifying features to this constellation of apps, which will make it easier for businesses to manage and optimize their conversational-commerce campaigns. We also view this as a way to bring the opportunity down market to more SMBs — a broader and ongoing Facebook goal.
The most recent example of this progression is Facebook’s Messenger API updates last month. Businesses can now manage communications and reply to customer messages all in one place. Previously, they could only send and respond to customer inquiries within Instagram if that’s where the message originated.
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.
Making it even more of a one-stop-shop, 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 all of this important? Facebook and Instagram are growings channel for SMB marketing. This includes their ongoing evolution towards eCommerce functionality — an important component these days. Facebook Shops for example offers low-barrier ways for any business to get up and running with eCommerce.
And that ties in nicely with messaging, which is likewise growing as a consumer engagement channel. Daily conversations with businesses on Messenger and Instagram collectively grew more than 40 percent over the past year, says Facebook. Again, this over indexes among attractive demographics like Gen-Z.
Further evidence comes from Quiq data that we recently examined. The messaging startup reports that 65 percent of consumers have engaged with brands via messaging. 70 percent have done so at least twice in the previous month, and 44 percent say that they initiated messaging dialogues with companies.
We’ll keep watching as messaging and conversational commerce continue to evolve.
This is the latest in Localogy’s Skate To Where the Puck is Going series. Running semi-weekly, it examines the moves and motivations of tech giants as leading indicators for where markets are moving. Check out the entire series here, and its origin here.