ASIA-PACIFIC - Messaging apps have become ubiquitous, with 3 billion consumers spending a lot of time on at least one app, but the options for interested marketers remain relatively immature.
However that doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t take advantage of these channels, as they represent the ideal ‘relationship platforms’ for engaging with consumers on an individual basis.
This is because messaging apps hold the elements that enable powerful relationships in a digital environment: frequency of use, emotional connection, and convenience.
In its “The Future of Messaging Apps” report, research firm Forrester noted that there currently only two real forces in the space: Facebook and Asian apps.
Asian apps lead with players such as WeChat, Line and KakaoTalk having expanded into use cases that are typically associated with marketing and ecommerce platforms. Facebook is currently the only one that competes at scale, due to its combined reach of WhatsApp and Messenger.
Facebook is also catching up quickly to the more mature Asian apps, thanks to moves such as opening Messenger as a platform in 2015 and launching bots on Messenger, enabling brands to connect directly with users.
For example, marketers will be able to integrate Messenger Codes into their online and offline marketing materials. Brands are just starting to tap into new capabilities like customer-care tools.
For example, airline brand KLM is using Messenger plug-ins to allow customers to receive booking confirmations, check-in notifications, boarding passes, and flight-status updates.
"Messaging apps will introduce a paradigm shift for marketers where interactive and contextual conversations will replace ad broadcasting," said Forrester analyst Thomas Husson in a blog post introducing the report. "New conversational interfaces will drive deeper relationships between consumers and brands."
Forrester predicts that in the next 18 to 36 months; messaging apps will emerge to drive smart contextual services on branded accounts, usage of APIs, mobile commerce and payments, and internet-of-things connections.
Like WeChat already does in China, the research firm expects most messaging apps to provide features and services throughout the customer lifecycle, during both the acquisition phases (discover, explore, and buy) and retention phases (use, ask, and engage).
In addition, the next three to five years will see messaging apps rising in tandem with adjacent technologies. Technology innovation in natural language processing, semantic search, image and voice recognition, and especially AI will progressively blur the lines between messaging apps, bots, and voice-based assistants.
“Together, these tools will create a new computing interface that will change how we interact with each other, with our connected environment, and with brands,” the report authors noted.
To make the most of emerging opportunities in the messaging app space today, Forrester has the following recommendations for B2C marketers:
- Be human, helpful, and handy.
- Get consumers to speak to your brand.
- Get ready to serve customers in real time.
- Prepare for a variety of brand security and privacy threats.