From Instant Messaging Service To Business Builder: The Evolution Of Facebook Messenger

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“Once we focus on the consumer, the businesses always follow,” says Facebook’s Dalya Browne.

And this has been the case for Facebook Messenger, which has just revealed there are now 700,000 Australian businesses on the platform.

Around one-third of customers engaging with businesses via direct message do so because they couldn’t find the information on a business’ website and 27 per cent have used Messenger ahead of making a purchase.

“Messaging is taking the friction out of the process that it takes to go and do something,” Facebook Australia group industry director Paul McCrory tells B&T.

“It’s just a really super interesting way for businesses to be able to connect much better rooms provide a better level of service for four people

The logic is simple – a customer would rather wait 10 minutes for a reply to a message than wait 10 minutes listening to elevator music while on hold to a call centre.

And the statistics back this up.

There are 20 billion messages sent between people and businesses on Messenger each month.

Much of this communication is automated through the use of chatbots, which are deployed to give customers instant service and help businesses provide a better-tailored experience.

McCrory explains that while Facebook will recommend certain third-party developers to create these bots, Messenger is simply the platform for businesses to build experiences on top of.

The experience for customers varies based on how the business wants to use a bot.

For a small company, it could be a creative way of covering off its FAQs, while some banks are using the technology to help its customers find the right home loan.

“It’s very quick, it’s very cost effective,” says McCrory.

“So companies like that, it helps them to manage their costs and it helps them to service people very quickly.

“But even more important is the way that people feel after they’ve been serviced in a good experience, and the actual positivity they get and the brand experience.”

Moving beyond customer service

Maximising the experience with a brand is one thing, but Messenger is now being used as a way to drive sales.

“Messenger is being used as a platform to increase loyalty for existing people that are already your customers but also to drive acquisition for new clients,” says McCrory.

Click to Messenger ads are one of the fastest growing ad formats in the entire Facebook advertising suite, where a user is looking at a company or product in their News Feed before they are taken into Messenger and a conversation is initiated.

To add to this, businesses can now advertise directly in a user’s Messenger inbox (but not in a conversation).

“When Christmas is going to kick in and there’s a big rush, you’re going to see so many different Australian retailers and global retailers building the best possible services to tell their story, service clients and then sell products and services on top of that,” McCrory says.

Completing the service

The growing popularity of messaging as a communication channel between brands and customers is causing companies to bring more and more of its services into Messenger.

Pizza Hut recently announced you will be able to order a pizza online via Messenger.

“Why take people out of a service that they like spending time on?” asks McCrory.

So if the aim is to keep people within the Messenger ecosystem, enabling payments on the platform seems like a natural progression.

WeChat Pay has taken off in China, while in the US ‘people to people’ to payments can be made through Messenger.

This is not yet available in Australia.

Facebook Messenger international communications Dalya Browne explains how Facebook is approaching the space.

“We do not yet have a paid people to business interface that’s built into our platform,” she says.

“You can buy the actual item that is suggested to you through a seamless experience that appears from the business’s site inside the Messenger app.”

“Of course we’re always looking to improve that experience,” Browne acknowledges, but assures she B&T “there is something being built”.

Interoperability

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently laid out his grand vision to merge Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram into a one-stop shop super messaging platform.

The challenges are obvious. For one, WhatsApp conversations are end-to-end encrypted by default whereas the others are not.

“We don’t know yet what the end product is going to be,” says Browne.

But by creating more communication channels for users and consumers, it’s an idea that should excite businesses.

But before businesses can get their hands on it, it has to go through the user.

“What our engineers are thinking about to execute this vision is the consumer, and how to make it as easy as possible for the consumer to pick up their phone and message you on

“We’re trying to make it as frictionless and as easy as possible for users right now, then we will integrate the business component.”

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