This article was previously published in MarTech Advisor on April 4, 2017
Brands are personalizing messages with consumers to strengthen their emotional connections. Jason Kapler, Vice President of Marketing at LiveWorld, covers how messaging apps have opened new opportunities for brands to engage in more human-to-human conversations
Brands are getting personal with consumers by strengthening their emotional connections. However, creating emotional responses and bonds with customers is nothing new for marketers and salespeople. They have known for years that the deeper the connection with a customer, the greater opportunity there will be to build a relationship and foster loyalty. While the theory has changed little with time, the channels and technologies to enable emotional connections have come a long way.
Recently, companies have invested significant funds into technology that used complex algorithms to determine consumer buying habits and preferences in order to customize marketing messaging and offers. These offers often came in the form of email advertisements, customized banner ads on the Internet and traditional mailers. While these may have been a step up from mass emails and catalogues, they did little to engage the customers in a personal way.
Direct-to-consumer communications has become highly personal. Messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger, have opened new opportunities for brands to engage less in brand-to-consumer, one-way messaging and more human-to-human, two-way dialogue on demand. These private conversations can happen when the customer seeks out a brand instead of when the company initiates the engagement.
Connecting on Customer Terms
The value of interacting with customers and prospects in real-time on their terms is immeasurable. These on-demand conversations help customers feel like a priority and appreciated when they can simply text a brand as they do their own friends and family members. Knowing a brand is there, ready to listen, engage with them, and answer their questions is the foundation for a strong relationship.
Brands who perfect the strategy understand the key is to repeatedly engage and act on requests quickly in order to earn a special place in the consumer’s heart and as a result, their wallet. Facebook Messenger is the ideal channel by which businesses can develop a personality beyond an advertising or marketing campaign. Using Facebook Messenger to engage in one-to-one, personal dialogue with customers and prospects gives brands the coveted space to create emotional ties in the tone of the interactions and conversations shared.
Messenger is the perfect platform to engage with consumers in real-time at every stage of their life and in the moments that count. Consumers who use Facebook Messenger to reach a brand do so when they are in need – in need of an answer, a product or service, or a resolution to an issue. They are seeking instant connection to a brand representative and with Messenger, they get exactly what they want without the wait or marketing gimmicks.
Build Passionate Brand Advocates
Consumers appreciate on-demand accessibility to brands. It builds loyalty through convenience, utility, deep personalization, immediate engagement and tailored relevancy. In essence, it provides the best possible customer experience, which in turn, creates passionate brand advocates. The inspired retention fosters word-of-mouth endorsement by those who received remarkable experiences in messaging apps via a combination of chatbot and live agent conversations.
Brand advocates are the most valued customers, yet few brands are actively pursuing them. Two-thirds of marketers do not have a referral program. This is a missed opportunity that could potentially increase sales if executed properly. Data from a 2016 survey conducted by Nielsen’s Harris Poll found that 82 percent of Americans say they seek recommendations from friends and family when considering a purchase.
Balancing Chatbots and Human Agent Interactions
If brands are going to leverage Facebook Messenger as a brand-to-consumer communication channel, they must understand how to balance chatbots with live agents. Chatbots answer the issue of scale, but they do little to promote the personal relationships consumers want. Chatbots must have a human counterpart that can come to their aid when the chatbot reaches its limitations. Complicated or detailed inquiries outside of the commonly asked questions will often require human assistance. A Messenger solution should and must include the ability to seamlessly transition from a chatbot to a live agent in order to ensure a great customer experience.
Brands should follow best practices employed in traditional customer channels, such as setting expectations around wait time. Apply this best practice from phone wait time to waiting for a Messenger response, for example. Delivering on a reasonable wait time, particularly when the customer will get to speak with a live agent, creates a positive experience.
A brand can use their messaging strategy to stand out from the competition as they project a unique social identity. They can establish an emotional connection with customers by having conversations that reveal customer motivations, needs, desires, preferences and life events. Using a conversation management platform to scale one-to-one personalized engagements can be a shortcut to greater retention rates and deeper customer relationships. Happier customers will, more often than not, result in more transactions and greater lifetime value.