Consumers have embraced messaging apps. According to Mobile World Congress, as of September 2016, the number of active users topped 4 billion worldwide across popular services such as WhatsApp, Line, Kik, Telegram and WeChat. What’s more, industry power players such as Google and Facebook are also doubling down on their messaging investment. Yet how do companies translate the rise of enterprise chat initiatives into more lucrative and long-term customer relationships?
Chatbots are coming. They now supply everything from pizza ordering services to customer order inquiries, and more than 1.5 billion people interact with chatbots in some capacity each year. The problem? With technology still maturing, bots don’t always work as intended. According to Investopedia, Facebook is pulling back on its chatbot rollout after discovering that bots failed to answer customer requests 70 percent of the time. As a result, there’s a vested interest in developing better AI tools that encourage “conversational commerce,” which is the ability for consumers to naturally interact with chatbots using everyday language and get straightforward answers to product or service questions.
For enterprises, it’s worth knowing that while this kind of casual conversing won’t happen overnight, it’s the next step in bot evolution and comes with big potential. If bots can handle day-to-day customer inquiries while staff focus on escalated concerns and overall performance, the results are both better sales numbers and reduced overhead.
The Marketing Message
Along with the potential for bot automation and conversation, room exists to expand the marketing impact of messaging apps. There’s already movement on this front — as noted by Adweek, apps such as WeChat and Line are now used as hubs to book transportation or pay bills, while others such as Snapchat or Allo maintain their focus on the messaging experience itself. Meanwhile, according to Digital Trends, messaging app Viber will include an instant shopping feature that allows users to search for products from the application itself.
Bottom line? It’s not enough for enterprise chat and messaging apps to simply provide a platform for communication. Mobile-first users now demand multiple options to connect in addition to value-added features that mimic (or replace) the functions of stand-alone apps. Done right, marketing via messaging platforms offers a great way to organically integrate brands and become a part of the social user’s daily experience.
Beyond easy conversation and solid marketing messages, there’s a larger benefit on the horizon for messaging applications: meaningful engagement. Beyond simply selling a product or driving brand loyalty, enterprises are now looking for ways to meaningfully connect with consumers and engage them in relevant discussions about company strategy, mission statements, and social impacts. Messaging apps offer the ideal platform to forge this connection, but it takes work.
First, companies must commit to reading and answering messages ASAP. This demands a combination of AI-driven chatbots and human staff able to recognize when queries can be handled by front-line digital agents and when they need to step in and take control. This boils down to customer value. Consumers expect their messages to be returned in less than a day, with less than an hour as the ideal benchmark. If companies can quickly analyze, parse, and respond to incoming messages, it goes a long way toward demonstrating corporate priorities.
Simplicity is the next step, and this demands data to drive intelligent chatbots and ensure consumer purchasing and service histories are tied to their profiles and accounts. There are few things more anger-inducing for customers than being asked to repeat the history and nature of their issue over and over. By simplifying the data collection process and streamlining initial contact, enterprise chat applications can help encourage meaningful and long-term engagement.
Messaging is the future of enterprise e-commerce and interaction. Want to get ahead? Get ready for conversational e-commerce, understand the value of marketing in the message, and make the effort to drive meaningful conversation.
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