We live in a connected world, where consumers and brand custodians alike need to stay in touch. The fast-paced environment of the digital realm means people have come to expect full-time access to the brands they know and love, as well as instant feedback from personal messaging and chat applications.

Take WhatsApp for example. Phrases like “getting blue-ticked” or “grey-ticked” are now commonplace in the colloquial lexicon. As a society, we collectively and generally see it as an insult when someone doesn’t respond to us right away. And, while there are some exceptions to the rule – it almost makes sense in a world where being constantly connected is so easy to do.

Is it a healthy way of looking at things? Probably not. Does it help foster a healthy culture where brands and consumers share reasonable boundaries? Again, no. But it is the norm – and, of course, there is a silver lining in a world where instant messaging and chat are the order of the day.

Instant communication isn’t new to most consumers

You can ask almost anybody in their late twenties and thirties, and they’ll be willing to tell you stories about  their earlier years talking to strangers on forums that interested them. Among the shared universal experiences of love and tragedy lie memories of BlackBerry Messenger – which, in its heyday, was a global phenomenon. Today, those somewhat nostalgic experiences are echoed in apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype, Slack and Hangouts – which form beckthe foundations for communication the world over (barring a few exceptions). So, what does this mean for us as marketers?

We can speak directly to our consumers. A big part of advertising, and marketing as an offshoot, is the immersion of our brands into the lives of our consumers. Being able to speak to them directly, allows us to do this while adding value to their experience at the same time.

We can enable transactions through the Messenger app. Enabling transactions in Messenger allows consumers to feel as thought they are being guided in the buying process, and gives them access to additional information, in a centralised place, while they do it.

There are new opportunities for creativity, storytelling and engagement. Fashionista and former Spice Girl, Victoria Beckham, worked with an agency to make an innovative move towards reaching consumers for her luxury fashion brand – Victoria Beckham Ltd. You can read the full case study here – but here’s an overview in the meantime. About 2 years ago, Beckham’s designer brand was celebrating it’s tenth anniversary with an exclusive new line to commemorate the occasion.The line was to be debuted at London Fashion Week, which presented an enticing opportunity to get creative, using social media and technology.

  • The tactic: Beckham made it her business to give fans and buyers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into London Fashion Week – a kind of all-access pass to an aspirational experience. A physical team of people, who work under Beckham, responded to eager fans who wanted to know more – asking them their thoughts, sharing stories and keeping them in the loop on the whole experience.
  • The result? “86% average read rate for push messages (4X higher than email), over 60,000 conversations in 3 weeks, a 25% click-through rate for collection content, 65% of people who visited the experience subscribed to receive updates and 8 mins 24 secs average time spent chatting with bot. (source)”

We can drive in-store purchases and buying behaviour. If we look at some of the work that’s been done internationally, cosmetics company Sephora stands out. Sephora identified their target market on Facebook and ran ads specifically targeted to people interested in cosmetology and makeup. These ads drove traffic to their messenger mechanic. They set out to drive more new customers into their stores to use their makeover service, which was the perfect topic to generate interest around online as it is lifestyle-orientated. The Messenger app allows for some calendar functionality and users could book their in-store makeovers straight away, in the chat window.

A quick “conversation” helped Sephora gather the information they needed to make the appointment, whilst guiding the consumer and perpetuating a friendly and personable brand image. Sephora subsequently reported an 11% increase in makeover bookings – and considering that they have about 20 million customers – this was a big deal.

We can solve problems. Part of building relationships means being available to our target audience when they need us, and customer service can easily extend to chat applications, as part of a greater experience. It also lacks the stigma of a phone call in a generation that abhors telephonic service.

We can influence buying decisions and build relationships. By merging conversation, storytelling and mechanisms for buying and learning, we create a platform that is more powerful than any  standalone marketing avenue we have at our disposal.

We can save on marketing costs by working smart and not hard. Many of the processes within a chatbot can be automated, which means saving on (wo)man power and creating a passive service. Chatbots are a perfect example of this, especially considering that we can build them cost-effectively.

We have the chance to stand out. By coming up with a creative and instant way  to reach consumers or allowing them to seek out information from your brand, you are gaining a competitive edge. The more you think outside the box on this, with your consumer’s needs in mind, the more likely you are to offer real value and affect your bottom line.

So, with this in mind, how do we practically approach using Facebook Messenger for better business?

Developing a customised Facebook Messenger strategy can seem daunting at first but is well worth the effort.  Start developing a strategy by answering the following questions with data and research.

  1. Are your customers even using Facebook Messenger or is there another chat application that’s more applicable to your market?
  2. How will your consumers find you on Messenger? Are you going to drive them there through education, paid media, advertising, in-store prompts?
  3. What are the key functions of your brand on Messenger? Prioritise them accordingly. Are you there to support your consumers, build relationships with them, allow them to interact with your brand in a novel way or do you want to drive transactions as your primary goal?
  4. Incorporate mechanisms to help drive those goals, i.e. calendar functionality, chatbots, interactive experiences.

It’s time to start getting creative with the ways in which people can instantly access your brand, or miss out while other brands do it better.