Why marketers should exploit micro-influencers in digital messaging support across their pre-sales customer journeys?

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Synopsis:

The problem that every marketer faces is that their world has been turned upside down through COVID – which current solutions alone cannot fix now that we live in a more disconnected remote world. Digital conversations are fast becoming the new currency of marketing in terms of enabling human connection, with a massive uplift in the use of messaging across the entire customer journey. There’s a lot that can be learned from how micro-influencer expert interactions can increase the effectiveness of pre-sales customer journey from awareness, through consideration, leading onto conversion.

This article is based on the presentations at a webinar called Standing out from the crowd with GigCX

How has the marketers landscape changed?

Marketers recognise that they need to understand trends in order to start predicting the future.

What COVID has taught them is that customer acquisition strategies need to be flexible – adapting as things change. And the pace of change during 2020 has been exponential, at both a brand and a business level. When the first COVID lockdown occurred, most CFOs were concerned about survivability, cutting budgets in customer engagement and advertising as a result. But now that a COVID vaccine is on the horizon, CMOs now recognise that there is a growth phase ahead of us.

They are tasking their marketing teams to adapt customer acquisition strategies accordingly that takes into account:

• The shift to digital – where the scale of consuming online media has significantly increased
• The rise in eCommerce that has followed – up by c. 40% quarter by quarter in some consumer product sectors

What not everyone realises however is that the impact of micro-influencer marketing has also grown in parallel – where consumers trust experts (who use the product or service that they are interested in) more than brand advertising. Research from Expert Voice shows the extent of this gap – where 70% now trust third-party experts which is 20-25 percentage points higher than trust from advertising. Yet only 36% of marketers currently use programmes that support this expert word of mouth.

So how could you tap into the world of customer advocates for your brand and exploit them as micro influencers to enable growth in the future? The answer is through digital messaging – enabling new conversations that are becoming the future currency of marketing.

The rise of messaging

Research from Facebook illustrates the extent of these changes across three areas:

1. Consumer shift to messaging

• Facebook platforms now support over 100B messages sent each day across its Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram channels
• COVID has accelerated this shift – total messaging has increased by more than 50% in countries hit hardest by the pandemic

2. How messaging is now acting as a marketing channel

• Initial business use case for messaging was around customer service – queries like “where’s my package” – but this is now extending across all stages of the customer journey from awareness “I’d like to learn more”, through consideration “I’d like to explore which product is right for me” through to transaction “I’d like to buy it”
• 50% of businesses that Facebook surveyed responded that messaging is now being used for more than just customer service, so the channel purpose for marketing is already starting to happen

3. The creative opportunity

• Many consumers already add a visual aspect to messaging – 50%+ add GIFs and 75%+ add emojis – to transform a text conversation into a more engaging multi-media experience
• And as a result of COVID – to overcome the feeling of isolation – consumers have increasingly recorded voice clips to add to their messaging threads with family and friends that they can no longer visit

Adding a human interaction to messaging

By way of a worked example, Sunbasket – who are a meal kit delivery business in the US – can show us how the power of micro-influencers can be added to the messaging interactions used in pre-sales journeys. The two biggest sales objections that Sunbasket must overcome are:

• Dietary requirements (consumers who have concerns about nut allergies or being vegan or require gluten free products)

• The mechanics of the service works (how often do I receive deliveries, can I cancel after a certain period etc.)

Sunbasket marketers figured out that overcoming these objections requires a conversation that they need to proactively enable between the brand and their prospects. Their answer was to engage customer brand advocates (in effect micro influencers) to respond to these types of prospect enquiries over messaging, as a peer to peer service.

This is how it worked across their Facebook, Instagram and Messenger channels using a digital advertising campaign that spanned the awareness, consideration and subscription purchase journeys.

Targeted ads appeared in the consumers social media feed and by clicking on that link it opened up a messaging experience. This started a chat dialogue to match that consumer with the right micro influencer expert based on the type of enquiry and the consumer type. The crowd of Expert influencers was managed on a platform from Limitless called Crowd Advise – so that the right influencer can be matched by the Limitless platform so the consumer can continue the messaging experience directly with the expert as a ‘one to one’ dialogue until their issue is resolved.

With the objection overcome, the dialogue flow then continues with the offer of a discount to that consumer if they subscribe now and sign-up for the service. Conversion takes place within the messaging app so that the effectiveness of the campaign can be measured.

In terms of results – compared to a control group who were not directed to a micro-influencer managed by the Limitless platform – there was a 19% uplift in sales conversion rate. And from an overall messaging channel perspective, of those consumers entering the dialogue flow within the messaging app, then 75% of them subscribed. A test and learn that proved the concept successful.

What are the challenges?

All organisations have experience of managing phone support – for consumers to get help – so they know what it takes to deliver a good experience. And the same is true for messaging. The two key things that Sunbasket learned that were key to their success with Limitless were:

1. Training quality

Having a rigorous approach to recruiting experts, onboarding them on how to respond to queries, and providing the right knowledge tools to support a consistent consumer experience

2. Response time

Having the right size crowd of micro influencers to handle the forecast promotional demand so that consumers do not abandon the messaging thread because an expert is not available

These are resourcing challenges that contact centres have dealt with operationally in the past and so it is simply a case of carrying this understanding forward into managing the expert crowd that messaging apps can now exploit.

The alternatives

Messaging support for many brands is thought of quite narrowly in terms of automation – through chatbots for example. But this misses out on the power of a personal human interaction, and based on ‘what good looks like’ from Sunbasket, then marketers should explore the power of customer engagement where micro influencers are targeted at specific marketing use cases through the messaging channel. When a consumer has a conversation with an expert who is passionate about the brand, then it is much more likely to change their opinions than a broadcast message alone will ever achieve.

As a result, automation is nowhere near mature enough to compete in terms of the customer acquisition outcome, so the justification for crowd enabled expert support is significant. And it’s a technique that most marketers are unaware of, so the early mover advantages are there to be grabbed.

In short, a call to action for marketers to create a digital messaging support strategy that is ready to be competitive in a post COVID digitally enabled world. With a real prize for those forward thinking marketers looking to truly own their futures.

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