Brands embrace messaging apps to transform the customer experience

Consumers love the intimacy and speed of mobile messaging, and forward-thinking brands have discovered these platforms open the door to new and innovative ways of talking to customers

To see how the power of mobile messaging enhances customer experience, look no further than KLM. The airline’s customers can use Facebook platforms Messenger and WhatsApp to check flight information, receive boarding passes and even book a ticket.

“Every single year we’ve been growing double digits in volumes in messaging,” says Martine van der Lee, director of social media at KLM. “We expected some growth, but not growth this strong.”

KLM’s shift to Messenger may have been groundbreaking, but it makes business sense. In the last year alone, the number of messages sent between people and businesses on Messenger globally has doubled, reaching 20 billion a month. “People’s expectations of businesses are evolving,” says Jenny Barthe, strategy director at London-based creative agency We Are Social, which has worked with brands such as adidas on Messenger experiences. “Consumers expect personalised interactions at a time and place that suits their busy lives.”

adidas turned to Messenger and WhatsApp to connect with a Europe-wide community of football micro-influencers for its Tango Squads programme. “The personal feel of Messenger allowed us to create a more connected and tight-knit community,” says Ms Barthe, who led the We Are Social team working with adidas. “It made communication from the world’s biggest footballers feel up-close and personal.”

Brands don’t need to create new platforms, but rather be where their customers already are

Personalised connections

The consumer shift to messaging tells us something about how people now want to communicate: convenience, spontaneity and informality are key. Some 64 per cent of people would prefer to message, rather than call, a business and six in ten are favourable to receiving personal messages from companies, according to the 2018 Nielsen’s Facebook Messaging Survey. Messaging’s conversational nature means customers “can ask what they really care about”, says Marek Wrobel, head of media futures at Havas Group Media.

Conversations over messaging platforms feel intimate, one to one and personalised. And personalisation is something people want: 91 per cent of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that recognise and remember them, as well as provide relevant offers and recommendations, according to Accenture’s 2018 Personalization Pulse Check report.

Victoria Beckham’s eponymous fashion brand used Messenger to create a highly personalised experience around its tenth anniversary collection last year. Advertising on Instagram and Facebook were among the techniques used to entice potential customers into a Messenger conversation. Once people clicked into that conversation, they began chatting with a bot masterfully scripted to feel like Victoria Beckham herself where they could learn about the new collection, make purchases and get updates from Ms Beckham on her latest events and launches. This personalised experience led to people spending an average of 8 minutes 24 seconds a session engaging with the collection content.

Customers often complain about information overload and are reluctant to download brand apps for fear of getting even more notifications. But Mr Wrobel says: “Brands don’t need to create new platforms, but rather be where their customers already are.”

The close connection with customers made possible by messaging not only builds trust, it also creates a tight feedback loop that quickly generates insights such as whether a product is resonating with its target market.

Personality with purpose

Brands that want to create a successful messaging experience should first identify their purpose and the customer need. Where is the friction that messaging could reduce? What problems can automation solve? Does the concept align with the brand’s overall purpose and could it be expressed in a compelling narrative?

Once those crucial questions are answered, businesses should link up with a platform development partner to support their work. This will involve dreaming up an appropriate name for the bot or live agent, and establishing a personality that reflects the brands tone and narrative.

“Brands should talk in a social manner through the apps,” says Ben Marder, senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Edinburgh Business School. “Always use the sender’s name, reply using emojis where appropriate and sign off with a first name only. Replying in a swift manner, by aiming to answer queries within 60 seconds, is also vital as it shows you care and helps move customers through the purchasing process.”

Finally, measuring success is a crucial element to any brand messaging project. Metrics may vary between companies and industries, but the common denominators for measurement are channel effectiveness, quality of conversations and customer satisfaction.

“Brands can also evaluate success through analytics tools linked to the messaging apps, measuring aspects such as click-throughs and bounce rates,” Dr Marder adds.

The future of the customer experience is instant, seamless interaction with employees or highly trained bots that goes beyond functionality, such as answering questions or performing transactions. The whole experience needs to feel personalised and leave the customer feeling warm towards the brand. Messaging apps are central to enabling such interactions to occur.

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Q&A: Driving the change in personalised brand Communications

Messaging is presenting a unique opportunity as consumers seek convenience and instant gratification in their interactions with brands, explains Nick Jenkins, ecosystem development lead, messaging platforms, Europe, Middle East and Africa, at Facebook

How are businesses responding to consumer expectations for communications?

People would rather message a business than send an email or make a phone call. However, there is a wide gap between what customers expect and what they get when they use messaging in this way. While seven in ten businesses feel they are communicating effectively with their customers, only two in ten of those customers surveyed agree with them, according to a 2017 survey by Lawless Research. A recent survey of 250 leading brands by chatbot specialist Spectrm found that 45 per cent didn’t respond within five days when messaged via their Facebook pages.

I’d love to see more brands embracing Messenger to build and sustain meaningful connections with their customers. To help with this, Facebook now offers tools that enable brands to provide automated responses to customer queries on Messenger. We can also connect brands with a network of top live agent and chatbot providers that provide best-in-class customer care and help drive real business outcomes like sign-ups and sales. The technology is there. The next step is for brands to leverage its full potential.

What challenges does creating a messaging experience overcome for businesses?

Consumers expect things instantly, whether that’s streaming a movie on Netflix or ordering a meal on an app. That’s why messaging is so powerful. Messaging channels can offer customers more control over their communication with brands, allowing for interactions to happen on their terms rather than being kept on hold on a phone line, waiting for a costly call centre agent to become available. If a customer wants to know when their order will be delivered, for instance, they should be able to contact a brand on the messaging app of their choice and a chatbot or assigned live agent should follow up quickly. Enabling customers to decide when they talk to a brand and providing an immediate response delivers a powerful experience for consumers in the age of instant gratification.

How is Messenger enhancing the customer experience for businesses?

Messenger can play a valuable role in each touchpoint of the customer journey, from awareness through consideration and purchase, and then to customer care and re-engagement. When using Messenger to drive real business outcomes, such as sales, bookings or new subscriptions, businesses are seeing great results in the mid-funnel phase. On inquiry, customers can receive guidance and recommendations that grow their confidence to make a purchase decision.

Messenger is also now a very strong channel for lead generation and new appointment bookings, all of which can be fully automated. With the use of lead-generating chatbots and one-click integrations with customer relationship management and calendar apps, Messenger can help businesses scale easily. It’s also a great channel for driving loyalty and upselling existing customers.

Airlines have harnessed this potential, for instance using Messenger to tell their customers to leave early for a flight if there is heavy traffic around the airport. Airlines have also worked with platform development partners such as Caravelo to increase the effectiveness of their inventory management by offering last-minute upgrades to passengers via Messenger.

What is the best approach to conducting a successful campaign on Messenger?

Messenger can power a standalone campaign or add real value to a more comprehensive marketing strategy. We’re seeing Messenger outperform many other channels. With email, for example, you can expect open rates to average between 15 to 20 per cent compared with Messenger’s 80 to 85 per cent.

But to execute a successful campaign, it’s essential to take the right approach. First, define your business objective. Let’s say it’s lead generation; you’ll then want to select the right Messenger partner to support you. Facebook’s Solutions Explorer directory is designed to help match businesses to the right partners, with many partners offering free, off-the-shelf chatbot solutions to drive a variety of business objectives.

Last, but by no means least, ensure you determine the right success metrics to measure the overall performance of your campaign. Businesses all over the world are buying click-to-Messenger ads on Facebook that drive users not to websites, apps or offline, but to Messenger threads where they see high conversion rates. However, you can only measure the return on this ad budget if you are tracking the right performance metrics.

What is the future of messaging in businesses?

Messaging is the latest chapter in the shift to mobile and is a crucial medium that businesses cannot afford to overlook. Its personal and in-the-moment nature is unprecedented in the history of marketing, and to some extent the incredible possibilities are uncharted. However, it is rapidly becoming the new norm. Companies the world over know their future success will be built on creating a positive and meaningful dialogue with their customers, and essential to this is effective use of messaging.

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