Facebook threw the gauntlet – what are brands going to do about Messenger?

Every business on Facebook has a Messenger account – and need to make a decision about how they run the channel.

Facebook threw the gauntlet – what are brands going to do about Messenger?

Facebook recently announced that their platform is shifting to a messaging-first ecosystem – one of many indicators that messaging is one of the highest valued experiences a platform can offer. This shouldn't be a surprise. Messaging is the fastest growing form of communication, outpacing every other format in increased use year-over-year. (Did you know there are 20 Billion messages sent between people and businesses on Messenger every month? That count has 2x-ed in 6 months. Wild.)

So with the majority of consumer's time being spent on messaging, what are brands doing about it?

To dig in, we'll start with a basic analogy: You can think of Messenger like you would a website. Within a site, you can provide different functionality for what customers can do – shop, view content, chat with support – and you can craft how customers can go about doing those things.

One primary difference, however, is that brands can decide if they want to have a website or not. Brands that have a Facebook page by default have Messenger. They've already adopted, intentionally or not.

No strategy = passive strategy

Because businesses on Facebook are defaulted to adoption of Messenger – any customer can message any brand – the first step for a business is to make a decision about how they use the channel.

The brands that are not making a decision about how to manage the channel are working with a passive strategy.

Once a brand decides how they want to manage the channel, and what functionality they want to offer within it, they are now in an intentional strategic position and can start getting to the fun part – the customer experience.

What makes a customer experience in Messenger?

There are two components to the breakdown of customer experiences within Messenger:

  1. Features, or, what a customer can do
  2. User experience, or, how a customer can access and navigate those features

While the features on Messenger are many, it's the user experience that dictates the access, consistency, and ease of use for a customer, as well as the scalability for the brand. Below we'll break down the features, and how the user experience impacts them.

Features on Messenger

Messenger can be used to offer many features, from navigation and content like what can be found on a website, to notifications and ongoing communication like what can be found on email.

When a brand is leveraging an active Messenger strategy, they are making decisions about what features are available to customers on Messenger. Brands in a passive strategy haven't made the decision, and as a result features can vary wildly customer-to-customer, at any given time, on any given day.

User experience on Messenger

The user experience dictates both how consumers access features and how they feel during the experience, as well as how well it scales for the brand. With Messenger, we start by looking at user experience across three buckets:

  • Live chat
  • Automation
  • Mix of both

(Within automation there are further tactics a brand can take with UI and behavior, but we'll start here.)

Each of these buckets are better at certain things then others, and can encourage different behaviors. They do not inherently unlock features, rather making them more or less accessible and more or less scalable.

For example, a team member at a business could use live chat to send a customer shopping recommendations, let them know when their item has shipped, or when a new product is in stock. But it's entirely un-scalable. Automation is much more effective in those situations.

While on the other hand, live chat can be a better experience for getting detailed and hands-on customer support. Too much automation around support can miss issues and leave customers frustrated.

Another key difference between live chat and automation is that the format for live chat leaves the options for the user hidden – the customer has to ask what can or can't be done, which can lead to redundancies for the brand, and missed opportunities for customers. On the other hand, automation proactively provides options for the customer, encouraging engagement with specific features.

Leveraging a mix of both can allow a brand to take advantage of the scalability of productive and positive experiences in Messenger, coupled with hands-on quality support.

What do your customers experience?

Below we've broken down different customer experience scenarios based on the strategy, features, and user experience that our example brand, Suits – a bathing suit brand for every body – could be offering.

Scenario 1

Strategy: Passive
Features: Unknown
User experience: Live chat

Suits hasn't made a decision about how to use Messenger yet. A customer messages them and asks "How do I choose a size for my suit?" A social manager on the team might see the message and could a) send the customer a long explanation of their sizing, b) send a link to their sizing chart, c) ask the customer follow up questions and then subsequently send a specific size recommendation, or d) not respond to the customer.

In this situation, because Suits has a passive strategy, there are a lot of experiences that could play out that are largely dictated by the individual team member who may or may not see the message, and what they feel like or have the time to do at the moment. That means that the experience can vary wildly per customer and the customer is not sure what they can get done.

Scenario 2

Strategy: Active
Features: Support
User experience: Live chat

Suits has decided to manage Messenger for support, and has decided that their customer support team members will own it. Customers are coming to their Facebook page, and messaging them to ask anything from "How long does shipping take?" to "When are new styles coming out?"

The customer support team might manage the Messenger traffic in their native Facebook Page Inbox, or a more robust CX tool like Zendesk. They have common responses ready for common questions. They can ignore spam, and escalate bigger issues.

Depending on the support teams hours, and the rate of inbound messages, customers might get a response in minutes or hours. As a customer, this is a pretty reasonable experience, though time might be a bigger stress point because of the immediacy that messaging evokes. Setting expectations is very important.

Scenario 3

Strategy: Active
Features: Shopping
User experience: Automated chat

Suits has decided to leverage Messenger for curated shopping, using automated chat to drive the experience. They're doing this with the viewpoint of replicating an in-store experience.

It starts with running ads that click into Messenger (much like signage outside a store encouraging customers to come in). Once in Messenger, a customer is greeted with a welcome message (much like they would be greeted by the store's sales rep). The customer can bounce (walk out the door), or opt-in by responding to the message (sales rep).

Once the customer has opted-in, they're asked a series of questions, then offered a product recommendation. They can then buy that product, or walk away and come back another time.

This works quite well in the same way that personalized shopping does – they're seeing 2x their standard conversion for site traffic – but shopping is the only thing a customer can do in this store. Which means that a customer who organically messages this page is only able to shop, and would have to go somewhere else to get any help with something like sizing or returns. You could say the manager is out of town.

Scenario 4:

Strategy: Active
Features: Shopping, Support
User experience: Automated, Live chat

In our last scenario, Suits has decided to run Messenger in the same way they run their in-store and website experiences. Enabling customers to either shop or get help with something, through a mix of automation and live chat.

The customer experience for shopping is largely the same coming from their ad traffic, but the primary difference here is that customers who organically message the page can choose what they'd like to do, and if they'd like to talk to someone on the team.

Suits works with an automation provider to handle the automated chat, which covers shopping and auto-response to FAQs, and then flags support issues over to their teams support platform (like Zendesk or the native page inbox), so that customers are answered quickly, and understand when they're talking to a person versus navigating an automated interface.

These are some of the primary ways brands can be managing their Messenger channel, and we've seen every version out there.

So what do your customers get?

If your strategy is passive, or your user experience is limited by live chat, there are great resources out there to form a scalable, useful, and revenue-driving approach.

Experts that have been developing experiences with brands on Messenger can help you generate a strategy. And just like with a website, your Messenger features and user experience can be developed with the help of a platform (much like you'd use Squarespace or Shopify for your website.)

Paloma offers channel strategy, creative, and development to generate a plan for your business that will offer better customer experiences on Messenger – and open your next storefront.

If you're interested in learning more, we're offering free strategy consults from our channel experts at Paloma. Send us a note to learn more, we'd love to hear from you 💌