The Everything App: How messaging apps are forging new customer relationships

Brand Stone deemed Amazon ‘The Everything Store’ – a one-stop shop for every purchase. Now, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Line are becoming Everything Apps.  A single app experience that promises a revival of, and a new future for, conversation and personalisation: something that many could argue had been lost in the transition from web to mobile apps.

The rapid growth of these platforms (notably with Facebook Messenger growing from 300m users in August 2014 to 1bn users in July this year) represents an enormous opportunity for businesses to connect with existing and potential customers in a whole new way – providing frictionless, rapid and personalised interactions in one single customer experience on a mobile device.

Why open up messaging apps as ecosystems?

  There are multiple factors at play that make it the perfect time for other messaging apps to open up to businesses and deliver value for customers: 

  • We are not using apps as fervently as before: according to Google, 26 per cent of apps are abandoned after first use.
  • We are tired and frustrated with broken experiences on mobile and with the disconnect between initial customer engagement, through to transaction and post-sale experiences. 
  • AI and machine learning capabilities are now capable of delivering human-like interactions and enabling businesses to scale real-time communication with consumers.
  • The scale and reach of social media tools, such as messaging apps, is extremely compelling for businesses looking to attract new customers.
  • Existing technologies that manage the customer, their data and the customer experience can be neatly integrated into these platforms to connect data and channels together.

It’s clear that opening messaging apps to a platform ecosystem where businesses and technology providers can innovate around it is a promising development for all. But what are the particular benefits and pitfalls to consider?

The upsides of messaging apps

The most obvious upside for any business to invest in building an experience on a platform like Facebook Messenger is the reach. If, like most businesses today, you are focusing on growth and customer acquisition, the potential of being able to reach almost one billion global monthly active users is a formidable proposition. In many ways, giving up ownership of the interaction-with-customers-layer to Facebook is a price businesses may be willing to pay in order to reach new customers at such scale. Combining that with advertising on Facebook and its other properties, such as Instagram, is also a compelling opportunity for any acquisition strategy.

To drive engagement of existing but inactive customers, businesses can look to a messaging app strategy to complement their reactivation efforts on other channels, such as email.

Today, customer relationships span multiple channels and complex steps across the customer journey. Traditionally, delivering a consistent experience from first moment of engagement, through to purchase and post-sale has been challenging for businesses and a source of frustration for most consumers. By combining messaging apps with technologies such as CRM, service and digital marketing platforms, businesses can get a full view of their customers in one single feed; this lets companies forge closer, more contextual and more conversational relationships with their customers. And with that comes happy and loyal customers.

KLM is a great example of one company that is using social media service to add to its overall customer experience. Using Facebook Messenger, KLM’s customers are able to receive their booking confirmation, check in notification, boarding pass and flight status via Messenger. Each interaction is directly routed to KLM’s social customer service agents so that they can log any service issues or interactions, and have access to a full view of the customer across all channels – offering a frictionless, rapid and contextual customer experience all in one app.     

The challenges

To ensure that your messaging app strategy benefits your customers and is not considered as yet another broadcast channel, it’s critical to connect data, channels and technologies. Many businesses will be building, or have built, what they consider their single customer view by harnessing multi-channel data from sales, commerce, marketing and beyond. It’s fundamentally important that this data and these technologies are connected to ensure the richest and most compelling customer experience on this platform. With data flowing between Facebook and the rest of your technology ecosystem in real-time, you’re able to learn more about your customers and then provide them with the contextual experience they desire.

Don’t try to shift your entire customer experience right away. Think about your objectives – are you looking to acquire new customers? Reactivate existing customers? Drive loyalty with existing customers? For instance, if you’re a hotel booking website –  make it easy for customers to retrieve their booking details from a bot when they’re jet-lagged and rushing through an airport. One simple solution can remove a lot of frustration for customers who would otherwise be searching around in their emails.

This is just the beginning of the types of simple interactions that can be delivered in real time and scaled to millions of customers within messaging apps, which will transform the customer experience without overhauling your customer engagement strategy. It’s an exciting time for messaging and that might create incredible enhancements through 2016 as customer expectations evolve and require new innovation in messaging.

Tom Smith is Product Marketing Manager for Salesforce Marketing Cloud in EMEA. With over 8 years of experience in digital marketing he takes a strategic, technology-led approach to product marketing.