Brands embrace messaging apps to transform the customer experience

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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