Social networks have been changing for some time to be more than just a way to communicate in our private lives – promptly satisfying the needs of both businesses and consumers. Significant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and Apple Messages are presently being adapted as shopping channels in their own right.
Conversations are now taking place directly within apps, be it with a chatbot or an agent, making it feasible for users to obtain personalized advice, information on products and services, as well as placing orders and completing transactions.
An increasing amount of companies are offering this type of conversational commerce experience, but make no mistake that the consumer, not the retailer, is in the driving seat. Forcing expectations on every business they deal with, expecting to communicate with the same ease, practicality, and conversational style that they do daily on the channels they use.
Similar to how M-commerce through applications or sites have been optimized for mobile browsing, businesses must continue to adapt to customer expectations, and the next step is to set up conversational experiences on the channels they most frequently use. Through these channels, retailers can set up a complete purchasing journey, from researching information to payment.
Earlier this year, Facebook said that 64% of people now say they would prefer to message rather than call a business.
Adapting to this trend in conversational commerce, three main messaging channels stand out globally: Facebook Messenger for Business, WhatsApp Business Solution, and Apple Business Chat. But, which channel should be adopted for a company to be as close as possible to its customers?
Facebook Messenger was the first messaging channel to open to businesses in 2016. Before that, customers used to send requests by commenting publicly on a page or post, which was limiting when it came to sharing confidential information. The introduction of Messenger for Business has made it possible to switch these conversations to private, for faster resolutions.
This channel has greatly contributed to the adoption of messaging in customer service. Today, over 20 billion messages are sent to the platform between people and businesses each month and more than 300,000 bots are active on the platform.
Thanks to their link with Facebook pages, retailers can encourage conversations and automate basic responses such as store opening hours, order status, and the process for booking a service. With the launch of its new Shops feature, Facebook is going one step further toward conversational commerce and will also be available through WhatsApp and Messenger in the future.
WhatsApp Business Solution
WhatsApp Business Solution is aimed at large companies managing a large volume of customer interactions, this is different from the WhatsApp Business App, which is dedicated to SMEs. With 2 billion users worldwide, WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging channels.
Even though it is also developed by Facebook, WhatsApp Business Solution differs from Messenger. Thanks to verified accounts and the end-to-end encryption of messages, WhatsApp increases the security and confidentiality of exchanges.
Another feature of WhatsApp Business Solution is that it encourages companies to respond in less than 24 hours, during this time period messages sent by the company are free. If the company responds more than 24 hours after the client’s message, it must send a message template (such as “We have an update regarding your request, please reply to this message to receive it.”) to obtain an opt-in to start the conversation. This rule prevents brands from re-contacting users with marketing several weeks or months after their request. This also has the effect of cutting response times, which is great for customers and shows the business cares.
Apple Business Chat
Apple Business Chat allows iOS users to interact with a company via Apple Messages. Conversations can be initiated from many entry points in the Apple ecosystem such as Safari, Siri, Maps, Spotlight, etc.
Using Apple Business Chat options lists, users can choose the desired style of a product, change color or size easily within the messaging, as well as setting an appointment, a reservation or delivery, without leaving the application. It is also possible to complete the purchase with Apple Pay.
An inevitable conversation
Each of these messaging platforms are feature-rich, which helps to drive sales and engagement, give consumers the right personal experiences they desire. Retailers can communicate using their brand’s tone of voice, authentically communicating themselves with customers. Conversational commerce can be used as a marketing tool and a point of sale, making instant messaging platforms invaluable to retailers. It is a vital tool in today’s retailing landscape, and one every retailer needs to get on the front foot with.