When Facebook released Messenger in 2011, most people weren’t aware of the capabilities and benefits it would eventually have. Fast-forward to 2017: There are more than 1.3 billion users and 60 million businesses using Messenger.
In just the past few months, we’ve seen groundbreaking developments including the introduction of the customer chat plugin, which brings the Messenger experience to retailers’ websites; a new app that makes it easier and safer for kids to video chat and message with friends, Messenger Kids; Pinterest’s bot integration, merging the Pinterest and Messenger experiences; and much more.
If the end of 2017 is any indicator, 2018 will be the year that Messenger becomes the single most important channel for brands, companies, retailers and individuals to interact with their audiences. Here’s how:
The future of outbound marketing lies in Messenger. Mobile phones are becoming the primary source of media, with average phone time now exceeding five hours per day. Most of that time is spent social networking and messaging in mobile apps, with 1.2 billion people using Facebook Messenger for these purposes.
If brands want to communicate with consumers, they must be accessible and proactive—in a smart way—in mobile messaging channels, especially Messenger. Brands that successfully and quickly implement mobile messaging strategies will tap into an explosive opportunity to communicate with consumers in more direct and relevant way than ever before.
What does a successful implementation look like? Brands should view mobile messaging as a primary communication channel to send relevant information and offers to customers. In some ways you can think of this as email’s smarter, stronger, more potent new counterpart.
As customers engage with a company on Messenger, they are added to that company’s list in much the similar way an email list grows. Some of the potency comes from the channel itself: Our data at Headliner Labs shows that people are 3.5 times more likely to open a Messenger message than a marketing email.
The power of this open rate is compounded by the substance of the message and the response capabilities. This is a two-way channel where users can actually respond and move down a funnel (all the way through purchasing), dictated by their preferences and responses, instead of a one-way megaphone for a company. Messages can include relevant images (like what was abandoned in cart), videos (like product tutorials) and other relevant content dictated by customer segmentation.
Mobile messaging is also inherently mobile-optimized, delivering messages most native to regular behavior—through short-form, text messages. We have seen astounding results across our retail customers—up to 63 percent increases in direct digital sales, with four times better open rates and click-through rates than email marketing. And when viewed as part of an ongoing messaging strategy, the conversion rate continues to expand.
The use cases are endless, but across our platform, we have seen astounding success using Messenger as a conduit for product refill alerts (e.g., “Hi, you might be running low on your shampoo. Can we send you a new bottle?”), abandoned cart messages (“We have top left in your size! Grab it now.”) and new product releases (“We know you love our indigo jeans, here they are in a new lighter wash!”).
On-site Messenger chat
It’s not far-fetched to think that 2018 will see the rise of the Messenger icon across websites. This small, round, blue Messenger widget hovering dutifully in the corner of a webpage serves as a direct conduit between anonymous website traffic and the entities behind the site—whether it’s a retailer, brand, service provider, hotel, airline, etc.
Messenger’s customer chat plugin, unveiled in November 2017, allows web visitors to initiate on-site chat that simultaneously activates a conversation inside that user’s own Messenger inbox. The user can then navigate away from the site and, when an agent is able to reply, the user sees it as a message coming into their Messenger inbox, the same way they get messages from friends.
This game-changing feature ensures that the company can communicate with the high-potential user long after the user has closed the on-site conversation and left the website. This frees companies from the long-standing Rule of 30 Seconds—the prevailing industry wisdom is that if an agent doesn’t respond to a chat inquiry within 30 seconds, that lead is lost.
Headliner Labs’ early data implementing customer chat reveals its power: Conversations persist for an average of six hours and 28 minutes, but as long as 3.5 days; they involve an average of 14.3 messages exchanged between the user and company; and they provide an opportunity for future direct communication with that user in Messenger rather being an isolated, non-replicable communication as most on-site chats are. This is a high-value win-win for both customers and companies.
Customer service automation
On-site chat is great for handling complex questions, or for giving customers extra TLC when available, but the majority of customer support queries can be solved by providing users with the right information, with no human needed.
In the last year, Facebook Messenger has streamlined the process of getting users this information by enabling a powerful chat interface, Messenger bots. Essentially, website visitors can chat on site and instead of waiting for human agents, Facebook can pull from a company’s existing knowledge base (frequently asked questions). This is a powerful option for automating support and, similar to customer chat, it enables a human brand agent to follow up with a customer after they’ve left the site.
As mobile commerce explodes, growing by more than 50 percent in 2017, consumers are looking to fast, easy modes of purchasing online. Messenger has a beta Payments feature, a single-click payment option that has been in beta for some time, but new improvements make it seamless, simple and powerful. Integrated with Stripe or PayPal, Payments enables companies to accept payment inside of messages sent between them and customers. This means that a customer can search, discover, and buy products inside of a chat.
More important, customers can convert with a single, seamless action off of effective messages sent to them by their favorite retail brands. Companies can send out messages to customers with shoppable units, and a customer simply has to hit “pay” to complete a purchase—no friction, no load time, no delay.
One note: Right now, companies are limited to sending messages within 24 hours of a user first interacting with them on Messenger, and then they can send one additional message. After that, any outbound messaging is considered a sponsored message, a recent Facebook ad unit enabling a company to access their list beyond the 24+1 regime. Early data from Headliner Labs’ platform suggests that the open rate on these messages will be an astounding 75 percent, with CTR approaching 24 percent—an astronomical number when compared with analogous email campaigns.
If Facebook opens up the ability to send messages, Messenger might very well replace email.
Because of all of the above, Facebook Messenger is perhaps the highest-opportunity channel for retailers to connect with customers. New platforms are offering a seamless, optimized, no-coding-needed interface for brands and companies to set up these tools on their own sites. In a matter of minutes, brands can get up and running with a suite of tools that directly increase sales and engagement by leveraging said platform, from on-site chat to smart retargeting and customer-service automation. There are also bot analytics companies and build-your-own bot platforms, furthering the ability for individuals and companies to leverage the Facebook Messenger platform.
Much like the Facebook ads ecosystem, the Messenger ecosystem has matured to meet the tremendous opportunity it presents.