The global enterprise messaging industry accounted for 2.7 trillion messages in 2020. It’s hardly surprising companies would turn to messages. After all, messaging is a great medium for engagement. It’s instant, and users tend to be much more responsive to messages compared to other media. They also tend to use messaging apps multiple times a day.
Therefore, brands that do messaging right will see much higher frequency and intensity of engagement than with other media.
Most messages delivered today use good old-fashioned SMS messaging. However, a new form of technology has emerged that greatly enhances the degree of personalization and interactivity that conversational marketing — marketing that leverages one-to-one conversation with the customer — can achieve: Internet Protocol (IP) messaging.
Unlike SMS messaging, which uses the telecom network, IP messaging — as the name suggests — uses the internet to deliver messages. Examples of IP-based messaging channels include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Signal, and Telegram. And while SMS content is restricted to 160 characters of plain text, IP messages enable richer interactions with images, buttons, and conversations.
To capitalize on the success of conversational marketing, it’s vital to understand the newest advances that are transforming this space. Here are a few ways that marketers can use IP messaging for better engagement.
1. Take Advantage of Rich Media Formats
A key component of IP messaging is rich media, which includes images, audio, and video. For example, an e-commerce company can send a customized IP message, based on a consumer’s past shopping history, about a related product with images and videos.
IP messages also include interactive, clickable buttons that enable users to respond with a single click. For example, a bill payment alert with a “Pay Now” button, a banking alert with a “Report Fraud” button, a flight confirmation with an “Upgrade” button, and so on.
To maximize engagement for customer interactions, marketers should incorporate these interactive multimedia capabilities into their IP messages.
2. Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
IP messages enable a higher degree of engagement and personalization than SMS messaging because they allow businesses to develop a personalized user profile, which they can then use to customize interactions.
To develop a user profile, IP messaging allows messaging workflows to be integrated deeply into a company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. By leveraging data-driven insights about consumers’ preferences, companies can personalize IP messages much like they would personalize email communications.
With deep integrations into CRM, IP messaging allows a user to communicate in human terms with a brand, which can trigger retrieval of the user’s preferences (common food orders, for instance), making it a personal experience for the user. For example, the user should be able to order pizza, or just about anything else, by just texting “usual,” after the user has some history with the brand.
By taking advantage of IP messaging’s personalization features, marketers can create conversational experiences that better suit the individual needs of each consumer.
3. Put the Customer in Control
With SMS messaging, consumers have little control over messages that they receive. With IP messaging, more control is with the user, who drives the conversation with the brand.
IP messages enable a two-way conversation between the consumer and the business. To handle the high volume of messages, businesses can automate sending and receiving chat messages through software programs called chatbots. Chatbots are programmed to respond intelligently to user queries.
In addition to providing options for users to point out when a message is not relevant, chatbots can come to a similar conclusion from data based on a lack of response. On some messaging platforms, bots will not even be allowed to initiate user conversations — only the user will.
Therefore, brands will have to create a pull effect to engage users. To do so, responses can be personalized based on many criteria: what stage of the persuasion cycle the user is in, the geographical location of the user, prior history of conversations, voting history, and social connections, just to name a few.
Since the users control the conversation flow based on personal preference, they are inherently engaged throughout the conversation. They can focus solely on the issues they care about without being distracted by information they’re not interested in. Also, their conversation history influences future conversations that become even more relevant and engaging over time.
4. Aim to Support, Not Just Sell
Marketing is not just about image, awareness, and lead generation — it’s about all the touchpoints that customers have with your brand. Brand bots can help users find the right product from their portfolio. For example, beauty retailers like Sephora, L’Oréal, and Estée Lauder use chatbots to help customers find the right cosmetic product.
The bot should be able to query user requirements and suggest the best matching product for that user, along with the option to get detailed product information. This bot is like the local bookseller whose advice customers rely on to buy the right book. For brands, this can be a great opportunity to upsell and cross-sell products.
Brand bots should be able to handle customer complaints and issues from existing customers. A bot that sells but doesn’t support will disappoint customers. A bot that says “that’s not my department” will create a poor impression. Bots should enable brands to reduce or eliminate phone wait times for their customers.
So, to provide the best possible customer experience, IP messaging must go beyond sales and become a right-hand person for consumers in their quest to find the right product or service.