It’s impossible to deny the continued success of messaging channels. They’re a global phenomenon. But they’re not just being used to facilitate one-to-one or one-to-many social interactions between families, friends, and partners – they’re also increasingly crucial brand-consumer conversation tools.
While a lot of businesses are using them as customer service tools – and many others are going even further by adopting machine learning and chatbot technology to offer around-the-clock information service – messaging channels also play a central role in the sales process itself.
Their evolving commerce functionality means they can also be used to do everything from distributing products and services, to facilitating transactions – as well as proactively reminding customers about things like upcoming sales and special deals: and even prompting them to review abandoned shopping carts.
But just how effective are messaging platforms as sales tools? The evidence is already clear:
Let’s take a closer look at some of the major messaging apps, weighing up their unique strengths and weaknesses, in order to better evaluate their potential as a way of selling products, services, and an omnichannel contact center solution.
Perhaps the most distinguishing thing about Apple’s burgeoning Business Chat platform is the fact that it allows consumers to interact with companies across all of the tech superbrand’s different devices: iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch – as Apple Business Chat is already installed on every iOS device.
But from a business perspective, there’s an even greater advantage here: the fact customers can also find businesses, and start direct conversations with them, from a single URL – which can be embedded in Safari, Maps, Search and Siri.
As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog, Apple Pay integration and Calendar Booking functionality add to the appeal from a business perspective – helping streamline not just payments for products, but making service-focused features like appointment booking possible too. Plus it’s also possible to create a ‘branded’ channel – ensuring companies can visually communicate core brand assets, such as their logos, colors, and brand language.
Brands can also integrate their existing customer service platforms with Business Chat: as long as they run on one of the major technology stacks like Salesforce.
It seems Apple has designs on being at the forefront of conversational commerce – and that its messaging platform has much bigger ambitions.
It’s almost too easy to compare Google’s RBM with Apple Business Chat. The latter serves the iOS suite of services, and (as you’d expect) the former exclusively serves the Android community.
But (and again, as we’ve discussed before) the fact RBM can use the wider telecoms network , means that there’s always a way for messages to get through. Working with a diverse array on messaging partners internationally, can’t do any harm either.
From a business perspective, reach aside, what can Google RBM deliver commercially – in terms of products and services?
The idea of a customized ‘branded experience’ yet again sounds familiar; as do payments, rich card carousels give brands an opportunity to better visually showcase their products, while ‘Suggested Actions’ automatically prompt users on what to do within each interaction.
If Google’s planning end-to-end information, transaction, and follow up service within its business messaging framework, it’s certainly going about things the right way. But it still feels as though the individual parts – such as GPay, carrier compatibility, etc – are still somewhat more attractive than the entire package.
WhatsApp Business has been active on Android for a while but is now making its way to iOS – giving brands even more opportunity to connect with customers through this 1.5 billion+ users messaging platform.
In addition to the core messaging functionality that WhatsApp offers all users, its Business app also enables companies to create a business profile and list important information (address, email, and website). It also gives businesses messaging statistics: allowing them to see how many messages were successfully sent, delivered, and read.
WhatsApp Business’ API is also designed to queue messages, as well as offering one-to-one live chats, meaning businesses large and small can use it in a way that matches their given customer service capacity. Chatbots can also be deployed to provide frontline customer support.
The service is also now offering Short Link functionality – which will allow businesses to share a ‘wa.me’ URL with customers; enabling them to start an instant conversation with a company representative from any device.
But what does this mean for the ability to offer products and services – and to overall customer success? Consider some of the platform’s key features:
While WhatsApp Business is upping its capabilities where conversational commerce is concerned, but there’s still some way to go. Currently WhatsApp Business is available in Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, India, Mexico, the UK, and the US – with other countries to follow soon.
Once considered a messaging offshoot – a ‘nice-to-have’ for Facebook users – in recent years Facebook Messenger has proved that it’s so much more than a casual way to chat to family and friends
It’s a way to converse with groups of people; enable video conversations; play games; share photos and videos; send money, and connect with companies – via mobile and desktop devices.
Such feature-rich functionality is why so many brands have started using Messenger as a core customer service channel – that, and the fact that 64% of Facebook users are also Messenger users.
But as a business-focused service delivery platform, what does Messenger actually offer brands? From a commerce perspective, Messenger’s continued integration into all kinds of websites and eCommerce platforms reiterates its diverse capabilities. For example, on Shopify, the Messenger app is billed as somewhere that:
That’s far beyond the capabilities of a standard conversation-based platform: this is true conversational commerce in action.
However feature-rich and scalable each individual platform becomes, to be successful brands need to be able to map the customer journey consistently across multiple channels. That’s the exact thinking behind our own proprietary software – Mesaic’s Conversational Operating Platform (COP).
As messaging platforms increase in sophistication, they’re able to facilitate multiple interactions between brands and customers – through a central point of contact. However, Mesaic’s point-of-difference is being able to integrate each company’s business logic into every channel – in order to provide personalized experiences that result in long-lasting relationships instead of basic chatbot interactions
In fact, we don’t just offer a conversational platform; our AI-powered COP allows businesses to automate processes, repetitive operational tasks, and personal interaction.
For example, say a customer makes a purchase with a domestic appliance vendor. The Mesaic platform would allow the brand’s service team to easily interact with the customer during the initial purchase process, automate delivery status notifications, and even offer additional sales opportunities – such as installation, old appliance disposal – all from a single conversational channel: one that’s powered by both a chatbot (which guides users through basic processes) and human agents (which step in when more complex queries need specific answers, or if there’s a problem).
It’s this additional layer of intelligence and automation that truly differentiates what we offer; the ability for brands to map out their customer experience and give their customers a highly personalized journey – without needing to begin a new conversation each time. Each conversation would pick up where the business and customer left off – just like in human to human conversations. The result is a more intelligent and personalized experience – designed to develop more meaningful relationships with customers.
As the omnichannel environment gets increasingly complex from a customer standpoint which is the result of a huge variety of different channels which possibly results in frustration, because customer journey touchpoints are not often consistently connected. Brands that meet customers where they are already, and find ways to align their touchpoints, will be the ones offering the best kind of customer experience – a seamless, less fragmented one that drives conversions.
However, being able to accommodate business logic and AI and balance in-person and automated functions within a wider suite of services, will deliver what both brands and customers need to ensure mutual success.