Just as marketers were starting to dismiss Facebook for its low engagement rates and aging user base, the social media mammoth announced a series of updates that indicate the platform has the full intention of remaining the head honcho among other social networks for brands, businesses, and consumers. The most interesting of these new updates is the ability for users to shop and chat with brands through Facebook messenger.
This may sound vaguely familiar as we’ve previously discussed the increasing interest and trend of linking social media to ecommerce. However, the simplified way in which Facebook messenger shopping works and the competitive user base (roughly 500 million), indicate both a significant differentiator for Facebook from other platforms, as well as an overall shift in its role in people’s lives, from recreational to functional. Despite rarely handling the sale of their product, CPG brands have a lot to benefit from in this new evolution of Facebook. With this altered role of social media (more specifically, Facebook), there is certainly a lot for CPG brands to learn. Here are a few areas brands may want to familiarize themselves with:
Déjà vu, but brand new
Twitter, Pinterest, and third-party vendors for Instagram have all been experimenting with creating a closer link between social engagement and e-commerce. However, a majority of these experiences still rely on clunky, multi-step processes that are all too similar, if not even more complex, to traditional e-commerce. The shopping functionality on Facebook messenger (currently in pilot with fashion/apparel brands, Everlane and Zulily) is much more streamlined and simple, while still keeping a certain level of personalization. Facebook has managed to make their shopping experience appear to be a natural extension of the messenger, where casual, intimate conversation then effectively transitions to purchase. Rather than trying to create or link to a traditional online store-like set up, this is a smooth and effortless transition.
Brands as personal shoppers
Not only are shoppers able to order, pay, and track a product within a single conversation with the brand on Facebook messenger without opening any new windows or redirects, they are also able to receive hyper-personalized recommendations and solutions. The aspect of direct customer service and recommendations is how CPG brands can leverage this new functionality. Similar to a live chat on brand sites, Facebook messenger will allow brands to talk directly to individual customers. However, with Facebook messenger the chat is happening in a place that is a part of the everyday ecosystem of the individual while the brand is gaining instant access to loads of information about the consumer (as expected from a Facebook profile). This allows them to immediately identify products and services that are a fit for each individual’s lifestyle. Furthermore, unlike Twitter, the conversation remains private and is not limited to 140 characters. Ideally, this functionality can lead to the next generation of e-CRM, where rather than blasting groups of people with generic messaging, a brand is able to initiate a private conversation with consumers about their products.
Social media becomes so much more
We as consumers, traditionally think of each app on our phone as having a distinct purpose. As marketers, we think of each app having a distinct role in our communications. The purpose for a social media app, like Facebook, has been to stay in touch with friends and express ourselves, and, similarly, the role of Facebook for brands and marketers has been a place to build authentic and emotional engagement with consumers. However, with the increase in the range of functionality which Facebook is providing and organic shifts in the way people use it, Facebook is becoming less of a place to just “hang out” and fill “empty time”, and more of centralized hub for various activities and tasks. One can get news, send messages, shop, and make payments, all within Facebook itself. Brands, therefore, need to move away from social media as a distinct channel with a singular purpose and start thinking of it as the new environment within which the full range of communications and actions occur.
Social media and messaging applications are slowly becoming the hub of all consumer activities on their digital/mobile channels and this provides great opportunities for brands to advertise to and integrate with consumers, regardless of where they are and what they are doing.