With F8 wrapped up for another year, it’s clear that Facebook is fully committed to powering customer engagement for brands over messaging channels.
Earlier this month I joined Facebook’s F8 Refresh. The online event included many exciting announcements from the team at Facebook.
Although there were many new features and capability updates shared, the key takeaway that caught my attention was Facebook's commitment to messaging not only as a customer service channel (where consumers are reaching out to a brand) but as a marketing and acquisition channel (where brands can reach out to consumers over messaging channels).
New channel functionality announced will make it easier for consumers to have conversations with brands over messaging channels, saving us time by the introduction of capabilities like native list pickers, in-channel surveys, new message templates, and more. Facebook is also making it easier for brands to leverage messaging channels for marketing and acquisition, allowing consumers to sign up for notifications and complete transactions – as such making these channels more marketing and acquisition focused – a phenomenal move by Facebook in my opinion.
The focus is very much on enabling two-way conversations to flow seamlessly between brand and consumer. Here’s what I consider to be the biggest factors to come out of the event affecting brand-to-consumer communication over messaging channels.
Customer Acquisition After Cookies and App Tracking
Apple’s rollout of the iOS 14.5 update, described as “the most significant improvement in digital privacy in the history of the internet”, has created a challenge for Facebook (among the new features is App Tracking Transparency (ATT) which gives Apple device users the option of opting out of apps tracking their activity). Pair that alongside Google’s announcement that the new version of Chrome will stop using third-party cookies to track, it seems like 2021 is the year that Big Tech is starting to get to grips with concerns over user data privacy.
Facebook is leaning heavily on their private messaging apps, opening them up for more advertising, marketing, acquisition, and commerce use cases and templates on all channels from Instagram and Messenger to WhatsApp. Following Facebook investments, it is clear they believe in the power of messaging and conversational commerce experiences.
And the market is sharing the same feedback, in a survey conducted in September 2020 – 75% of consumers said they want to be able to message a business, and 64% said they prefer to message a business over sending an email or calling.
Facebook attributes this to messaging being familiar, convenient, and personalized which in turn builds trust.
And for businesses – it is efficient, effective and it enables building long-term relationships.
During the pandemic, there was a >40% increase in conversations between people and businesses!
3 Million Advertisers use Click-to-Messenger Adverts
Ankur Prasad, Director of Product Marketing for Business Messages, shared that today 3 million advertisers use Click-to-Messenger adverts to direct consumers to a messaging experience. With websites or mobile apps, even if there’s a landing page created specifically for conversion, there are plenty of steps in the process where potential customers can drop off. Click-to-Messenger (CTM) adverts are unique. They enable a 1-1 personal conversation using an automated bot and sending a lead straight to a Messenger conversation. Once a lead has clicked but not necessarily signed up, rather than having to retarget using your pixel, you can simply send a follow-up message to re-engage.
Ankur also presented a new Native Customer Feedback template for messenger.
WhatsApp’s Doubling Down on WhatsApp Business Messaging
After Ankur, it was Ajit Varma‘s, the Head of Business Products at WhatsApp, turn to share news and updates. WhatsApp is really doubling down on business messaging and is releasing loads of functionalities to make it easier for consumers to engage with brands and for brands to reach out to consumers. This represents a new approach by WhatsApp – more open to marketing and acquisitions use cases. To protect the integrity of the platform, WhatsApp is putting safeguards to prevent spamming, allowing the consumers to report brands and as a result, shut down their WhatsApp profile.
Whatsapp now has 2 billion users on the platform and 175 million people message a business every day!
Ajit introduced lots of new capabilities, describing the major WhatsApp feature updates, message types and new simplified onboarding to get started much faster.
The goal of the new features is to make it easier and faster for consumers to interact with brands. These include:
List messages for businesses using the APIs
Reply buttons using the APIs – allowing consumers to make a selection from 3 options with one simple tap.
New tools to allow end-to-end commerce journey directly on WhatsApp – People will be able to view business profiles, their products, add items to a cart, and check out. Allowing for complete commerce experience over WhatsApp Business.
NEW message templates and proactive notifications – WhatsApp is extending its notification templates to allow consumers to sign up for notifications and updates.
Consumer safeguards – with all of these new targeting features, to protect users from spam, and the integrity of the platform WhatsApp is putting safeguards to prevent spamming, allowing the consumers to report brands.
Finally, WhatsApp shared that they will provide hosting for WhatsApp for free (omitting the need to spin up servers for WhatsApp implementations). This will include maintenance, network computers, and storage. Making it much easier and faster for businesses to be onboarded on WhatsApp. More to come on the release dates soon!
Facebook's Commitment to Messaging Channels
I left the virtual event even more excited about Facebook's high – and increasing – commitment to messaging channels. We've seen in the past the impact this has on the whole industry, from brands adopting more messaging solutions to pushing other platforms to innovate and develop messaging capabilities.
The future of customer experience is conversational and it lives in messaging.