What is customer messaging and how can it help you grow your business in 2021?

Globally, 2.5 billion people use messaging apps on a daily basis. That’s one-third of the world population, and this number is projected to continue to rise. To connect with these audiences, businesses are rapidly embracing customer messaging in 2021, which allows them to easily reach new clients and nurture existing ones to grow revenues.

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of people-to-business messaging and its functionalities, look at the main platforms available, as well as seven leading companies whose products can help your business maximize its messaging experience.

Customer Communications: Ripe for Change

For over twenty years now, email has been a staple form of communication for marketers and customer care teams alike. In its heyday, email was a revolutionary new tool for businesses looking to broaden their appeal and reach customers more effectively. But, even the sharpest tool becomes dull after too much use.

For example, if you send out an email marketing blast, the chances of your email being opened and read depend on a lot of factors that are beyond your control. If your target audience happens to be checking their email out of boredom on the commute home, then you might be in luck. However, if they’re sitting at their desk, rushing to meet a deadline, and receive five similar emails concurrentlythen the chances of yours being opened are slim to none. There’s simply too much traffic.

In fact, according to recent data from mailchimp, the average email open rate across all industries is approximately 20%. That means 80% of the time your email marketing efforts are made in vain. It’s not hard to see that email as a channel is overcrowded and ineffective.

As for customer service, it’s increasingly becoming obvious (if it hasn’t already been for quite some time) that the traditional methods of communication are outdated and tired. Fewer and fewer peopleespecially millennialsmake actual phone calls, the response turnaround time for email is too sluggish, and live chat, while advantageous compared to the first two options, requires you to be tethered to a desktop computer.

Fortunately, the way that businesses and consumers communicate is being disrupted by a technology that many of us have already come to know and lovemessaging. Also referred to as instant messaging or texting, messaging is an asynchronous form of digital communication that allows two or more parties to casually converse in a manner that is open and ongoing. Some popular messaging apps that you’re probably familiar with are Facebook Messenger, Google’s Business Messages and Whatsapp.

For approximately 5 years now, many companies have been conversing with their clients through Facebook Messenger for Business. Recently, Facebook-owned WhatsApp entered the people-to-business messaging space with the launch of WhatsApp Business API.

There’s definitely a lot of momentum in the industry. Why is that? Let’s take a closer look.

Messaging Is The Way Forward

One of the more obvious reasons that tech giants like Facebook and Google are focusing their efforts on people-to-business messaging is actually pretty simple: there’s a huge audience. There are over 1.3 billion active users of Messenger, 1.5 billion of WhatsApp, and there are 1.3 billion iOS devices in circulation. Internet users, by and large, can be found dwelling in mobile messaging apps. Why not reach out to them where they’re active and make yourself accessible there, too?

Additionally, according to a study from Facebook, the majority of Americans who were surveyed say they feel more confident about a brand if they’re able to message with them. This likely has to do with the fact that messaging is far more frictionless and user friendly than other communication channels.

For instance, if someone is chatting with their friends on Messenger and they think of a question they’d like to ask a company, all they have to do is enter said company’s name in the search field, send their question, and then go back to chatting with their friends while waiting for a response. How easy is that?

At this point, we’ve established the fact that people-to-business messaging is valuable in terms of potential reach and customer preference, but there are other measurable benefits that need to be highlighted, as well.

Marketing and Customer Service Made Easy

One of the major perks of messaging is that it’s widely-used and much less formal than other means of communication. That’s certainly not the only advantage, however. From a marketing perspective*, here are some other great tasks you can accomplish with messaging:

  • Drive customer acquisition
  • Foster lead generation
  • Streamline e-commerce
  • Incentivize sales with coupons and loyalty programs
  • Provide access to online inventory
  • Create content subscriptions to boost customer engagement
  • Upsell products and offer suggestions
  • Remind customers to finalize purchases in their shopping carts
  • Directly process transactions
  • Deliver tickets, and boarding passes

*Currently, Facebook is the only platform that allows for customer service and marketing use cases. For the time being, Apple and WhatsApp’s messaging products are solely customer service-focused.

As you can see, messaging isn’t only convenient, it’s multi-functional in a way that other channels aren’t. The same can be said for the customer service applications of messaging, which allow you to easily do the following:

  • Create a unified record of conversations with customers
  • Collaborate effectively with colleagues through a shared inbox
  • Automate responses to commonly asked questions
  • Seamlessly redirect complex questions to humans

By combining all of the above mentioned marketing and customer service functions on one platform, your organization can streamline its workflow and save money. In fact, messaging is 75% less expensive than other communication channels like phone and email and it boasts a tenfold return on investment.

Google Business Messages

Google Business Messages is a brand new solution. Consumers can directly send messages to the companies they are looking up on Google Maps or Local Search.

People can ask product or service-related questions in an easy, natural way, chatting as they would with friends and family. Businesses can just as easily answer potential customers, helping clear up any pre-purchase questions and driving quicker sales.

On top of being an easy-to-use chat interface, businesses can work with Airy to automate FAQs, so that customers get the answers they need without burdening support teams. If a customer question is more unique, the conversation automatically transfers over to a human support specialist, ensuring flawless communication in all circumstances.

Facebook Messenger

Facebook started allowing customers to interact with businesses through Messenger in March of 2015. In many ways this began the industry shift towards messaging. To quickly recap: Facebook for Business allows customers to easily contact a company through their Facebook page via chat to inquire about common questions, resolve customer service issues, ask for personalized suggestions, and more.

What benefit does this pose to businesses? For one, enabling Messenger on your businesses’ Facebook page essentially provides your customers with the option to easily contact you for customer service at their convenience.

WhatsApp Business API

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has also recently thrown its hat into the people-to-business messaging ring with the launch of WhatsApp Business API. WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users, which makes it the most widely-used messaging app in the world.

WhatsApp Business API was designed to help large enterprises communicate with their customers at scale. Much like Apple’s Business Chat, WhatsApp Business API will also allow customers to direct customer service-related questions to businesses using WhatsApp.

Users have long favored WhatsApp for its end-to-end encryption, which provides a private, non-intrusive messaging service. In order to maintain this user-friendly messaging experience, there will be restrictions on how often enterprise clients can message customers. According to their FAQ section:

“If a user contacts an enterprise, the enterprise can respond with any type of message in the next 24 hours. This type of message is free. But if the enterprise is contacting a user before the user sends a message or after more than 24 hours have passed, the enterprise can only send a message template.

Some attractive use cases for WhatsApp Business APIpossible thanks to the company’s rigorous security standardsinclude sending customers sensitive documents like flight tickets, boarding passes, movie tickets, order confirmations, and more.

From a businesses perspective, WhatsApp Business API will no doubt be beneficial to enterprise companies, as the API can easily be integrated to sync with existing programs like CRMs and accessed by multiple teams for collaborative work. The platform will also allow businesses to monitor metrics for campaigns like how many users have opted-in and how many messages were delivered or seen.

How to capitalize on customer messaging in 2021

Airy enables companies to redirect messages from Facebook Messenger to Airy’s platform, which is accessible via the web, iOS, and Android. Here users can manage all inbound and outbound conversations individually or collaborate with colleagues through a shared inbox.

From a customer service perspective, Airy Messenger boasts several advantages: Messaging Automations that seamlessly know when to defer to a live agent, visually appealing Saved Replies and Interactive Templates, and the ability to easily spot high-priority customers with Customer Tags, Star Ratings, and Filters.

In terms of marketing, Airy Messenger brings a lot to the table, as well. Marketers can also make use of the product’s Messaging Automations to send broadcasts and create personalized content subscriptions to bolster user engagement.

Airy also offers assistance with targeted Facebook ads to grow messaging volume and foster customer acquisition.

Currently, Airy offers an integration for Facebook Messenger and Google’s Business Messages and is able to provide brands with access to Apple Business Chat and WhatsApp.

Find out more about messaging in 2021. Get in touch with us.