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2018 is the Year Business Messaging Takes Hold. Here’s Why.

Originally published on thinkgrowth.org on Feb 22, 2018 By Dylan Sellberg

December 15th, 2017 — the day AOL Instant Messenger was discontinued — was the end of an era. AIM was the first app to change the lives of millions through an online messaging app.

It brought millions of people closer to their friends and family, and connected people from far-flung corners of the world around shared interests through chat rooms.

Poetically, AIM’s official end coincided with a year that has brought about a meteoric rise of mobile messaging apps.

Messenger has 1.3 billion monthly active users.

WhatsApp boasts 1.3 billion MAUs.

Slack has three million people sending messages every day.

iMessage, LINE, and WeChat are also contributing to a groundswell of messaging users.

These platforms were originally created as peer-to-peer communication channels, but businesses are in the early innings of using messaging to engage customers and prospects.

In 2016, Facebook opened up a developer platform for businesses to build on.

Then, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 2017, Apple introduced Business Chat.

Finally, in September 2017, WhatsApp followed suit and announced a free business app.

And while all this was happening, WeChat has taken China by storm and is now a basic human need for any business or individual.

Now that tech behemoths have enabled businesses to use their messaging channels, we’re starting to see valuable use cases emerge. Already, Facebook Messenger is playing host to 65 million businesses.

Here are a few companies successfully using Facebook Messenger to drive business results.

  • Sephora uses Facebook Messenger to streamline their booking process and secure more bookings.
  • Soul Space Media generated 11,000 Facebook Messenger subscribers for 13 cents each
  • 1–800-Flowers found that 70% of their company’s chatbot orders were from first-time customers
  • Electro house DJ Hardwell teases new songs, livestreams events, and engage with fans through Facebook Messenger, which is his brand’s top traffic driver
  • Love Your Melon announced its new line of caps via sponsored posts on Messenger, and saw a 14X return on investment
  • Hur Nusrat, a Bangladeshi fashion retailer running its business exclusively through Facebook, used Messenger to triple monthly sales in the course of a year

2018 is the year for businesses to engage with customers through messaging. Because it’s not about what your business wants — it’s about what your customer wants.

Customers are becoming immune to traditional messaging and want to interact with your business when they want, where they want, and how they want. And messaging is proving to be the preferred way to interact, for four primary reasons.

1.Speed ||| This is perhaps the simplest and most powerful reason businesses will start using Facebook Messenger to generate business in 2018. Time is money, and Messenger takes less time than other types of communication.

As a society, we have always gravitated towards speed. When horse-and-buggy was too slow, we sent telegrams, then faxes, then invented the phone. When traveling was too slow, we used web conferencing. Now that emails are too slow, we’ll message more.

Speed is a leading indicator of success. The quicker you and your business can move — so long as the movement is productive — the more successful you will be.

Speed allows you to explore innovation.

Speed allows you to spend more time in thought.

Speed allows you a better work-life balance.

Speed allows for increased productivity.

If a company has marketers, salespeople, and customer support representatives who work slowly, your cost to acquire a new customer goes up.

Messaging provides speed. It’s quicker to craft communication, quicker to test, and most importantly, to get things done.

2. Familiarity ||| Businesses have always adopted communication methods from peer-to-peer relationships, and Facebook Messenger will be no different.

Businesses only sent emails to prospects and customers after we were sending emails to our friends and family.

Businesses only adopted GIFs and emojis in their social posts, emails, and on their websites after we all started using GIFs and emojis as a way to communicate with one another.

Nowadays, we send messages to one another to discuss everything. Most businesses just haven’t arrived yet, but when they do we’ll see incredible momentum in adoption because of consumers’ pre-existing familiarity with the channel.

There is hardly any learning curve for business leaders just starting to use Facebook Messenger — sending messages is something they’ve been doing for nearly two decades.

Not only do people already send messages today, they’ve also long been familiar with conversational tactics such as sending short messages, remaining playful, not bombarding somebody with messages without a response, etc. Because we’ve already defined the social customs of messaging between individuals, it will be much easier for businesses to gain momentum.

3. Convenience||| Messaging has emerged as the most convenient channel to communicate on. Today’s buyer is busier and more distracted than ever, and they’re tuning out traditional business communication.

Emails don’t resonate well and often end up unread.

Phone calls are disruptive.

And Social Media organic reach continues to dwindle due to algorithm shifts towards paid content.

Why?

People are spending more time messaging and less time reading emails, or even worse, listening to voicemails.

“Calling a business ranks pretty high up on the list of things we don’t want to do on any given day,” David Marcus, Facebook’s head of Messenger noted in his post Six Trends for 2018: What to Watch from Messenger.

And he’s right. Calling a business requires isolation so as not to disturb your peers, your entire focus, and won’t work if one party isn’t available.

Messaging, on the other hand, can be seamlessly blended into your everyday workflow. You can drop a message from any device, close the app, and return to whatever you were doing. Then, whenever the other party is available to respond, they will — and then you can take your turn.

One distinct advantage of messaging is that when set up correctly, it’s persistent across channels. Imagine a world where a customer finds your business on their desktop Facebook feed and starts a conversation with you on Messenger. In just a few minutes they’ve navigated away from your page and their desktop. But, when you have a chance to respond, your message is displayed on their phone’s lock-screen. And they can continue the conversation with your business via their Messenger app.

The asynchronous nature of the channel is extremely convenient for both businesses and consumers, as it allows both party to have complete context into the conversation and continue the thread as they see fit.

4. Industry Forces ||| There are two changes happening in the market that will increase business’ adoption of Messenger in 2018. The first is a push away from traditional marketing channels, and the second is a pull for businesses to adopt Facebook Messenger.

The push away from traditional marketing channels is being spearheaded by increased regulations, a changing product landscape, and the desire for monetization.

In the regulatory space, regulations like CAN-SPAM and GDPR have tightened the belt on email and data practices.We’re only going to see more of the same as marketers, salespeople and even bots continue to abuse these channels.

The products that we use to consume business messaging are changing as well. The Gmail promotions tab has been relegated to a slew of unread coupons, effectively turning what used to be successful marketing messaging into spam. Facebook is reconfiguring its News Feed by heavily preferencing posts friends and family over content published by businesses. Twitter’s shift to an algorithmic timeline has reshaped the way tweets appear in the feed, favoring engagement and highly relevant content.

There’s another force pulling people toward messaging — Facebook’s increasing investments in Messenger. After Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for a smooth $19 billion, the company doubled down on Facebook Messenger as well by opening up the channel for advertisements, launching the controversial Messenger Kids, and even starting a Messenger blog with case studies and recommendations for best practices.

According to the “Facebook Messaging Survey” conducted by Nielsen, 67% of people say they will message with businesses more over the next two years, and 53% say they are more likely to shop with a business they can contact via chat.

As long as Facebook continues investing in Messenger, businesses and consumers alike can expect a steady migration to the channel. Facebook has even begun investing in third-party messaging platforms like Chatfuel that add value to an already-robust Messenger platform. This growing ecosystem will continue to make it easier for companies to adopt Messenger (and more difficult to move businesses off messaging through Messenger), and will undoubtedly help millions of companies grow — a rising tide lifts all boats.

Getting Started

Messaging has arrived, and it’s time to determine how to leverage it to your business’ advantage. To assess your readiness for messaging and where to get started, follow this four-step process:

Step 1: Identify

Discover where the gaps in your customer communication occur. Survey your team, customers, and take an outside approach by living a day in your customer’s shoes.

A common signal of customer pain is long wait times to reach a member of your sales or support team. Also keep an eye out for experiences that require your customer to switch channels — such as asking them to send an email when they’re on your website, or visit your website from your Facebook page. Once you’ve identified these areas of pain, use messaging to help bridge the gap.

Step 2: Open

Train your team on the new channel you’ve opened and make it a company initiative. Messaging is not something that can be done halfway. Your customers will expect a seamless experience, even if it’s Day 1, so make sure the whole team (even your bot) is bought in to helping service your audience via messaging.

Step 3: Promote

If you’re looking to enhance the customer experience, you need to promote the fact you’re doing so and get your customers there. Use your existing channels like your website, social media, and email newsletter to inform your audience about your new messaging experience.

Step 4: Refine

This is a new channel. You’re not going to get it right the first time. There will be changes downwind. A good way to analyze your messaging strategy is pulling chat transcripts to see if your customer’s inquiry was solved directly on the channel. If you are adding steps to the process, it’s time to re-evaluate if what you’re doing is working. Keep an ear to your customers pain points to discover how you can restart the cycle and find a new problem to solve.

And don’t forget to have fun…

Messaging started as pure entertainment almost 20 years ago with tools like AOL Instant Messenger and bots like SmarterChild. But both messaging channels and bots have evolved to provide something different these days: A premium channel for business communication. This new channel has the potential for disrupting the way we all do business.

Messaging could create entirely new divisions of a company, emerge as an entirely new line of service, or even hold a new spot on an executive board (Chief Messaging Officer, anyone?).

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Here’s some additional reading as you think about implementing messaging:

Once you’ve determined a use-case >>>