The use of messaging applications has been soaring lately. Recent reports have shown that since 2015, monthly active users on messaging applications have surpassed the monthly active users on social media. The numbers have been growing ever since.
It doesn't seem like mobile messaging is going anywhere. That's a good thing because it offers an incredible opportunity for retailers all around the world. This article identifies seven ways messaging applications can be used in retail.
Your Customers Are Ready and Eager
Before diving in, it's probably best we put some fears to rest. Most companies avoid implementing new marketing approaches because of the resource costs (time and money). Understandably, you need to know your audience is ready for this new mobile messaging thing you create.
Research suggests your customers aren't only ready, but are eager. This study shows over 63 percent of consumers believe businesses should be available and contactable via messaging applications. Another study by Facebook IQ revealed that 67 percent of consumers expect to message more with businesses over the next two years. Clearly, the current trend isn't about to fade. Investing in mobile messaging for your business seems like a good idea. Here are seven tips for doing so:
1. Provide easy and effective support. Mobile messages are fast and instantaneous, exactly what your customers are after whenever they're looking for information about your company — e.g., store hours, products, store locations, etc.
By implementing messaging applications in your marketing strategy, you'll be available to your customers through a channel they already use daily, answering their queries at lightning-fast speed.
2. Make use of chat bot technology. As a small business owner, being around 24/7 is impossible. You're always going to have down time when any inbound questions may remain unanswered for several hours.
Welcome to the world of chat bots — i.e., coded robots that run your mobile messaging campaigns. Chat bots work 24/7, never sleep and are programmed to answer questions in ways that you would naturally.
Here's a simple example: a chat bot that allows your customers to ask your store hours, 24/7. You wouldn't have to respond to these simple messages; you would input your hours once and let the chat bot do its job. Chat bots can be as easy or as complicated as you would like.
At the moment, we're still very limited in the number of tasks a chat bot can do, but the technology is in its infancy.
3. Give your customers real-time coupons. Messaging applications provide direct communication with your customers. One way to leverage this is by providing timely digital coupons.
As you may know, 82 percent of consumers say digital coupons are more convenient than printed. Your customers will appreciate yours delivered through their favorite messaging application. Better yet, you may offer coupons based on the conversations you've been having with a particular customer through a messaging application. Have they been asking about a particular product? Send a unique, one-off personalized coupon straight through the messaging application, redeemable in-store.
4. Focus on nearby customers. Messaging applications enable you to gather additional data about the people to whom you're talking. One of these additional bits of information is localization.
You could choose to focus your marketing budget on customers that are physically nearby. Someone started a conversation with you and is in the same city as one of your stores? Concentrate on that person first and encourage them to visit.
5. Bring conversational marketing to life. Chris Messina, a developer and thought leader in the tech community, declared 2016 as the "year of conversational commerce."
Messina's view is that messaging applications will allow businesses everywhere to interact with their customers, thus creating marketing opportunities that are more personalized because of the one-to-one interaction.
Offer your customers the most amazing experience simply by talking to them, one-on-one, via a channel they're already using every day.
Conversational marketing, or conversational commerce as Messina puts it, is likely to be the future of marketing. Thanks to messaging applications, we're going to experience chatting with businesses as customers (and vice versa) in ways we haven't yet thought.
Get a head start on your competitors today.
6. Get in-depth feedback. Use messaging applications to solicit feedback from customers about your products. Integrate a messaging campaign that automatically sends messages after a recent purchase. For example, "How did you find our service?," "Did you get what you were looking for?," "On a scale from one to five, how likely are you to recommend us to your friends?," and so on.
Thanks to the intractability of messaging platforms, you can enter into a real back-and-forth conversation with customers. This will not only allow you to figure out if anything went wrong, but also drive happy customers to public platforms like forums or review sites where they can document their positive experience for everyone else to see.
7. Take full advantage of the "dark social." Although the name might seem scary, the dark social is perfect for your business. It represents all the shares that happen between individuals that cannot be tracked by search engines or other software.
Think of a funny video you saw on YouTube and decided to send to your friend via WhatsApp. Your friend clicks on the link from WhatsApp and watches the video too. This interaction isn't tracked; YouTube doesn't know where that second viewer came from.
Messaging applications allow you to leverage the full potential of the dark social. By interacting with your customers through messages that aren't tracked by any software, you build an active presence in the dark social.
As a final example, you can even leverage recommendations by offering redeemable coupons for customers to send their friends via the same messaging application. Often, all it takes is hitting the "transfer" or "share" button inside the application to send your coupon directly to a friend.
Alex Debecker is founder and CGO of Ubisend, a mobile messaging platform that allows you to send messaging across different mobile messaging applications all from one centralized account.
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