As we examined recently, the act of texting businesses is growing as a function of millennial proclivities for messaging as a communication channel. Comfort levels are high in personal and social contexts, so messaging is naturally opening up as a channel for company marketing and customer support.
This is supported by a report from Quiq which indicates that 65 percent of consumers have engaged with brands over SMS or messaging apps. 70 percent have done so at least twice in the previous month. And 44 percent of survey respondents say that they initiated messaging dialogues with companies.
But this affinity for messaging represents a bit of a double-edged sword for its utilization as a marketing channel. The good news is that consumers are highly engaged. The bad news is that they’re highly engaged. This makes it sacred territory where there’s less tolerance for commercial messaging.
The way around this is to treat messaging as more of a customer service channel than a push-marketing one. The way businesses should think about that is cultivating relationships in ways that boost lifetime value and retention. Think: bank alerts, tech support or product returns.
With that backdrop, we got the chance to catch up with Quiq CEO Mike Myer. Being the end of the year and thus predictions season, Myer builds on the above with his outlook for conversational commerce in 2020. To draw that out, we had three burning questions for Myer as we close out 2019.
LSA Insider: What are the macro factors that create a fertile environment for messaging as a marketing channel, and how is that trending?
Mike Myer: Marketing will become even more conversational but how we define “conversations” will evolve. Conversations today looks less and less like phone calls. It’s no surprise that virtual assistants are taking on more interactions with consumers who are chatting with an AI bot, but conversations are also happening in other places like messaging. These trends are reflective of how consumers generally want to interact with a brand on mobile and desktop. Brands and consumers are increasingly seeking each other out on messaging applications, using their mobile phones to chat with brands: to make purchases or find information and through voice-enabled assistants.
LSAI: How will that consumer behavior evolution translate to the ways that they interact and transact with businesses?
MM: The ways consumers are shopping online will continue to evolve. The increase of conversations between brands and consumers, and the change in flow (the user experience), is in part being driven by social media. Consumers are used to commenting on social media posts and pages of brands and social media applications have been slow to make eCommerce fully shoppable for consumers. This is one of the drivers of the trend toward conversational commerce and it’s something we’ll see take on new speed in 2020.
LSA: Looking further ahead, what will be the advancement in some of the underlying technology such as AI, and how does that impact messaging as a marketing channel?
MM: AI and human interactions will further merge online and will work together to enable customer innovations like conversational commerce. Retailers will use personal shoppers to create a customized shopping experience for consumers online and guide them to a purchase. But, these personal shoppers won’t always be humans. Instead, humans will work together with bots online to guide the consumer towards the checkout.