Is Facebook Messenger still a viable channel for brands?

A new Facebook Messenger product feature launched earlier this month is making it easier for businesses to talk with the more than 1.3 billion people who use Facebook.

The new feature, some marketers surmised, shows how Facebook is opening up even more advertising opportunities in chat, especially after brands’ initial interest in Messenger has cooled over the years. The new product feature linking Stories ads to Messenger is part of a bigger strategy for Facebook, said Phillip Huynh, vp of national paid social strategy lead for 360i.

“Longer-term, I think this is a necessary step as Facebook consolidates the Messenger ecosystem across all their platforms and opens up further advertising opportunities there,” he said.

Three years ago, Messenger drew plenty of interest from brands who saw it as a tool for customer service, commerce, discovery and entertainment, with some even building chatbots specific to the platform. But their interest dampened when it was revealed that Facebook’s AI-powered bots could only respond to 30% of requests without some sort of human intervention.

But for the right types of brands and use cases, Facebook Messenger can still be meaningful for the more than 140 million different businesses using it and Facebook’s other platforms.

The new feature, in particular, solves a challenge companies have had with doing business on chat platforms: It invites brands easily and directly to engage with consumers. “It’s hard for brands to earn permission to show up in that space and not just be immediately rejected,” Mike Dossett, vp and director of digital strategy for RPA.

While brands’ overall usage of Messenger may have dipped over the years, said Huynh, it’s more so because they better understand its value for specific types of brands and use cases.

This latest feature is especially useful for lead generation, said Gurbani Chadha, associate director of strategy, digital for Deutsch Los Angeles. “It’s a great tool to direct people to that one-to-one messaging setting, and to create conversions. It’s giving people something back for engaging with a brand.”

Transportation company Cardinal Logistics, for example, used Messenger to recruit new drivers, and saw a nearly two-times increase in quality leads while reducing their costs by 55%.

Other businesses are using Messenger as a customer service platform. Chadha said her agency’s clients see many of those service-related conversations taking place with Gen Xers and Boomers.

“We always tell our clients that if they want to use Messenger, or to use chatbots, especially, it needs to be more efficient than other available alternatives,” said Dossett. “If it solves a pain point, then use it.”

“We find the best messaging experiences are a balance of automation and human agents,” said Ze’ev Rosenstein, Facebook’s head of people to business messaging for Messenger. “Automation can easily handle certain types of interactions, such as greetings, serving up FAQs, or tracking a package, while freeing up human agents to handle more complex inquiries.”

Canadian airline WestJet saw customer sentiment increase nearly 25% since it launched its own Messenger chatbot. Employee productivity has also improved because Juliet now oversees 50% of all customer inquiries and can take five times more messages than traditional customer service channels.

Another popular use case, they noted, is for commerce. Burger King, for instance, enables people to create a meal and pay for it through Facebook Messenger, and then find a local Burger King location where they can pick up their meal.

In 2018, fashion company Michael Kors developed a Facebook Messenger chatbot that enabled people to find specific items and also answered any questions they had. It has since garnered more than 375,000 active users for the brand, and an average of 45,000 new users per month. The average containment rate on the chatbot is 98.32%, meaning that almost all who use the chatbot are staying with it as opposed to being directed to a customer service agent.

Last year, Nike did an exclusive Kyrie 4 sneaker drop via Facebook Messenger, and sold out of its inventory in less than an hour.

QVC has also used Messenger to create sponsored messages that generated 5.3 times higher return on ad spend compared to other digital solutions.

One thing marketers wish Facebook would change about Messenger, however, is that people who don’t have the Messenger app downloaded separately can’t benefit from a product feature like this because they’re directed to a dead end, Chadha noted. Keeping people in the same platform would be an even bigger benefit to marketers, she said.

Photo credit: Facebook

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