Live Blog – The Future of Facebook Messenger for Businesses
In September 2018, Stan Chudnovsky, the former Head of Product for Facebook Messenger, explained the business potential of Facebook Messenger with one sentence: “Would you rather wait 10 minutes on hold or wait 10 minutes for an answer on Facebook Messenger?”
Today, Facebook Blueprint is devoting a live Q&A session to the same topic: The Future of Facebook Messenger for Business. In the past months, we’ve seen that Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team are focusing more and more on messaging apps as the future of the social media platform. In an earnings call early this year, talking about the Q4 numbers from 2018, Zuckerberg mentioned that messaging apps are growing extremely quickly. Zuckerberg has talked about merging Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and the direct messages in Instagram, and has also directly explained the role he sees messaging apps playing in the future: “I expect future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp to become the main ways people communicate on the Facebook network.”
Already covered a lot of ground in this Q&A! Topics include the “insane growth rate” that Facebook Messenger has seen in the past few years, and how entrenched it’s become in people’s personal, day-to-day lives — but naturally also concretely on how businesses can use this. Interestingly, the focus is definitely on conversational commerce and driving sales. We’re talking about using Messenger to make sure that people are finishing buying processes. The question being asked is “how to turn Messenger into a revenue channel to take customers who are on the site and getting them to finish the purchase?” This is definitely a more revenue-focused approach than WhatsApp is taking, with a bigger focus on customer engagement and influencing purchasing behavior rather than exclusively on customer service. One specific point is that on WhatsApp, the user has to write first — we’re not currently hearing about any type of restrictions on Facebook Messenger usage by businesses. Instead, Facebook Messenger is being presented as a channel where businesses can reach out to their customers and give them personalized, relevant information, but still with a marketing function.
“Messenger today is very different from Messenger 2 years ago. Today – how many personal e-mails did you send? How many personal calls did you make? And then think about how many personal messages you’re sending.”
Messenger is great to “meet people where they actually are. The biggest growth is coming from 1:1 and small group messaging. This really gives you the possibility to be more personalized and be more engaging.”
Fascinating to see how Facebook Messenger remains committed to a more marketing centric view of messenger possibilities, really in opposition to the sister app, WhatsApp. WhatsApp is fully focused on customer service. The Facebook Messenger team is really clearly explaining that for businesses who are using Messenger, customer service and marketing exist side by side.
“Customer care and marketing merge and you bridge that gap. You’re leading to that opportunity of upselling and crosselling.”
The focus is consistently on optimizing “abandoned cart flow,” reaching out to re-engage customers who are in the middle of their purchasing journey, and driving ROAS through sales.
More important topics in the second half of the Q&A session have been about the combination of ads and Messenger usage. The team cites Click to Messenger ads as the best way to generate leads via messenger communication, to really generate engagement and gather information.
“They don’t need to enter their name – Facebook already knows their name. The questions that you have to fill out when you go to a website, Messenger takes care of that. It’s totally seamless.”
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The last part of the Q&A session was jam-packed with valuable information, including even more concrete statistics on the costs associated with using messaging apps as opposed to other channels, use cases, and a global perspective. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – the Facebook Messenger team gave a clear statement on a WhatsApp-like restriction for business communication via Messenger: their 24+1 policy. Let’s tackle these topics one by one:
Conversion statistics: When the team gave some statistics about how users prefer business communication on Facebook Messenger and the associated conversion, they really emphasized the effective combination of customer service and marketing.
“47% of travelers would rather talk to businesses over messaging than on the phone. So you can start off the conversation with customer service, but you can then catch them on the marketing side.”
“17% of people convert to sale when they receive a relevant message on Facebook Messenger.” This quote is specifically about how well-timed, personalized messages can be the last step in a customer’s buying journey.
Reducing costs: Messenger is a low-cost channel. Key statement:
“It takes less than a tenth of the cost to get consumers on Messenger as opposed to getting app downloads.”
Use case – personalization drives sales: Audience questions about use cases: does Facebook Messenger have a successful global business use case? The team explains an AI engagement case for an apparel brand in Southeast Asia. The idea was to engage with female customers to encourage them to wear sneakers to work. The customers could take a selfie of their outfit and send it to a Bot via Messenger — the Bot would use artificial intelligence to analyze the colors in the outfit and suggest a matching pair of sneakers. With this personalization, the company saw 4x higher sneaker purchases!
Global markets: While the Facebook team was clear that messaging apps are a global phenomenon, they cited Brazil and Mexico as markets where Messenger sees extraordinary success.
24+1 policy: Although for the majority of the Q&A session it seemed like there were no restrictions on the communication between businesses and customers, in fact Facebook Messenger does have a policy similar to WhatsApp: when a customer messages a business, the business has 24 hours in which they can message the customer with no costs, an unlimited number of times. After the 24 hours is up, they can send just one more free message. All of these messages can include promotional content. After the time period is up, the company can only message the customer using sponsored messages, which are a form of advertising and are naturally fee-based.
Although this sounds analogous to the WhatsApp Business API‘s system of a 24-hour window for free customer care dialogue and Notifications (or Template messages) which can be used outside of that window, it’s not so clear. WhatsApp Notifications have to be verified by WhatsApp and can be made only according to standardized templates. With sponsored messages there’s a lot more freedom, and as we’ve discussed above, Facebook Messenger is definitely still a platform for unified customer service and marketing.
This was a fascinating hour with some great statistics about Facebook Messenger business usage, some clear insights into how Facebook sees the platform, and some concrete examples of how Facebook suggests that businesses use this channel. The most lasting impression is really the difference between the Facebook Messenger strategy and the WhatsApp strategy. As we follow the Facebook Messenger journey, we’ll be particularly interested in seeing how customer care, customer engagement, and cross-selling, up-selling, and other marketing actions all combine on this channel.
Thanks for following along! If you’re interested in learning more about how messaging apps can be used for professional customer service, take a look through our online magazine for articles about Chatbots, messaging app customer service, and more. And of course, if you have any questions about messaging apps for businesses, feel free to get in touch with us via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Telegram.