Direct Messaging Apps Provide New Inbox Opportunity

Messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, What’s App, Kik and Line are gaining in popularity, and email marketers need to understand the importance of the opportunity in front of them. Because they’re tasked with direct messages that leverage first-party data, they can use this capability as another inbox to reach customers. No one else on the marketing roster has a better skill set than the email marketer to manage this new communication channel.

What is the Opportunity?

According to eMarketer, messaging apps were used by over 1.4 billion people worldwide in 2015 — 32% more than the year before. That number is expected to hit 2 billion by 2018. Additionally, according to Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report, 21% of Gen Xers (born between 1960 and 1980) and 24% of Gen Y (millennials) rate Web chat as their first choice of channel for business contact. Lastly, messaging apps are visited around nine times per day by individuals that have them downloaded on their device, according to Yahoo’s Flurry Analytics Blog.



What’s driving the popularity and adoption of these apps? The simple answer is convenience and utility. Rather than download a branded app on their device, consumers are much more willing to allow brands to message them on apps they already use.

If you’re considering sending via this channel, it’s important to map out a plan.

How Should You Get Started?

To communicate with your customers via messaging apps, you must give your customer a means to start the conversation. Facebook Messenger, for example, allows brands to use plugins and buttons on site to promote Messenger presence, codes that are scannable with the phone, or short Messenger-specific URLs to allow the customer to send the first message or request information via Messenger from brands.

Once you’ve decided  how you want to open a dialogue via messaging apps, you then have to prioritize what communications make sense for the channel. Here are some ideas:

Greeting and Welcome: Just as you would with email, you want to have a good welcome approach. It’s different than email, though, in that the messages need to be short and simple.  The welcome experience shouldn’t talk about your brand, but how you can engage the person to take the next step. A message of “How can we help you?” with buttons linking to various options is an example of a good welcome experience.

Ongoing Communications: You don’t want to use messaging apps to send everything that you would via email. These apps make sense for order confirmations, shipping confirmations, and only your best and exclusive content that your customers have asked for.  Zulily, for example, uses Facebook Messenger to send order and shipping confirmations. It also notifies customers about flash sales of the brands they have made favorites. For me, it’s a helpful way to ensure that I’m notified of very specific promotions that I have noted I am especially interested in.

Other ideas include content that may have an element of interactivity: maps, product selections in a carousel, call-back number, boarding passes, or any type of messages in a series that, based on the response, will determine the immediate next message or question in a process.

Messaging apps are and will increasingly become important to some of your most influential and socially savvy customers.  

Are you currently an email marketer with direct messaging under your area of responsibility?  What types of messages are you sending?  Let me know in the comments.

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