I used to have a recurring argument with my dad. If I hadn’t phoned him for a couple of weeks, he would guilt-trip me as to how long it had been — even though he hadn’t contacted me in the intervening period! While our two-way communication has improved significantly since then, for most brands the relationship is the same with their customers. People can phone brands when they have an issue, but if brands are reaching out to consumers with no-reply emails and text messages (for notifications, order updates or marketing information) it’s all one-way.
Emotional connection with a brand matters. ‘Fully connected’ customers, with a strong emotional tie to a brand, are 52% more valuable than ‘highly satisfied’ customers, according to the Harvard Business Review. That’s a massive increase in customer value. There are many ways to connect with a customer; sending them a one-way message is definitely a way not to enable connection. Indeed — with email open rates for retail hovering around the 12% mark (according to Constant Contact) — there must be a better way.
Using Social Messaging To Connect With Your Customers
Social messaging channels can play a major role in increasing emotional connection — in the same Harvard Business Review article, they reported that a condiments brand found that 60% of its social-network-affiliated customers were emotionally connected, versus only 21% of their total customer base.
Why does communication over these platforms increase emotional connection?
Social and messaging channels have come to completely dominate how people interact with each other. On Facebook’s last earnings call, they reported that there are more than 100 billion messages sent every day across their family of applications (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram). For context, global peak SMS usage was at approximately 20 billion!
The reason that messaging has taken over communication is because of how easy it is to pull out your phone and send a message. Conversations are continuous, allowing you to switch seamlessly between real-time responses and asynchronous messages — with gaps of hours or even days between messages. You’re always connected to everyone you care about, able to send small quick messages whenever you feel like it. And because they don’t demand an instant response, they’re much less intrusive than a phone call.
As they have taken over consumer-consumer interactions, social messaging applications have started to become major business-consumer platforms. There are now 10 billion messages sent every month between businesses and consumers on Facebook Messenger — up 5X in the last 18 months. And we’re at a major inflection point right now, with WhatsApp and Apple Business Chat in the process of fully opening up business messaging, and Instagram due to launch business messaging sometime in 2019.
More companies are starting to promote social messaging for customer service, and whenever they do, consumers switch to messaging in droves — for example, Volaris, the Mexican airline, implemented Messenger Customer Chat on their web site to help with pre-and-post sales conversations, and within a year messaging was bigger than phone and email combined for inbound customer service.
Consumers love interaction with businesses over social messaging channels for the same reason they use them to message each other — they’re easy, convenient, non-intrusive, and allow them to have a continuous conversation over time, on their own terms.
Using Messaging For Outbound Communications
While social messaging channels have grown for customer service, they have also begun to be used for outbound messaging and notifications. In fact, this is WhatsApp’s key monetization strategy. These can include service issues like order notifications, as well as re-engagement messages (cart abandonment, price drop, etc.).
While “noreply” emails and SMS are used to send messages of this kind today, the fact that they are one-way means that brands are losing a huge opportunity to engage and connect with customers. When they’re sent over social messaging, however, they form part of the fabric of a longer conversation between the brand and the customer. And customers prefer to receive them — open rates for businesses on Messenger can be as high as 88%! If the customer has a question spurred by the message, they can ask it right there and then, with full context for them and the agent.
For example — if the customer receives a message about a new product, and they want to know if it is available in a different color, they can just reply with a very quick message “Do you have this in blue?” An agent viewing this conversation will be able to see the product they’re asking about, as well as all of the customer’s history and previous messages. They can respond, and even close the transaction and take payment — all within the same conversation.
The continuous conversation with the consumer enables business to gain a full digital profile of the customer’s past history and interests, ensuring that any messages they receive are contextual and relevant. It’s never been easier, for customers or brands, to build deep relationships that lead to higher customer satisfaction and increased customer value.
Proactive Use Cases For Messaging
Any outbound messages you’re sending today could be sent over social messaging channels instead, with a greater potential for conversations, emotional connections and conversion. Some examples:
- Delivery updates: 16% of respondents will abandon shopping with a retailer altogether if they receive an incorrect delivery *just one time*, according to Voxware. If an upcoming delivery notification is sent over messaging, the customer can respond back if they need a different time, saving the hassle and cost of a missed delivery window.
- Cart abandonment: if the customer leaves your site half way through a purchase, you can follow up with them in a messaging app — and either help them finish the transaction on your site, or just close the deal through the messaging conversation itself.
- Product alerts (price drop, in-stock etc): enabling your customers to sign up for alerts around products they’re interested in is a great way to encourage them to be excited about messages you’re sending, and to drive engagement and sales.
- Content subscription: instead of sending long-form emails that just go straight to spam, enable customers to sign up to receive regular snippets of valuable information over messaging.
These use cases demonstrate the real value in taking one-way messages and turning them into genuine conversations. With the massive potential inherent in any two-way conversation with a customer, there’s really no longer an excuse to ever use a medium which only allows for one-way communication. The opportunity cost is too high to do otherwise.
Joshua March is the Co-Founder and CEO of Conversocial, a SaaS company providing a social media management system to allow companies to effectively manage marketing and customer support through social platforms. It grew out of iPlatform, one of the UK’s leading social app development companies (the first official Facebook Preferred Developer Consultants in the UK), which March co-founded in 2008 with business partner Dan Lester.