Staying connected with family, friends, and the world in general, is a basic human need that has been taken to a completely different level with the emergence of digital messaging applications. It’s also integral in business. These apps not only influence how we interact with each other but have also completely transformed the way online businesses are conducted.
Statista research shows the messaging application market is dominated by three big players — WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat — which together comprise more than 4.5 billion active daily users.
As Facebook owns WhatsApp as well as Facebook Messenger, this marks its emergence as the leader in instant messaging/messenger (IM) apps.
Other top chat applications, apart from the Big Three, that have gained popularity in Asian and European countries include:
- Kakao Talk – Also referred to as KaTalk, which is used by the majority of smartphone users in South Korea, making it South Korea’s number one instant messaging app.
- LINE – LINE is a free messaging application that can be used on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Initially released as a competitor to Kakao Talk in South Korea, it gained popularity in countries such as Taiwan, Turkmenistan, Thailand, Indonesia, and especially Japan, where it’s generally the most used IM.
- Viber – Also known as Rakuten Viber, this is a cross-platform VoIP (voice over Internet protocol, for online voice communications) and an IM application that is popular in Eastern Europe (Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine) and Middle Eastern and Asian (Iraq and Nepal) countries.
The Eight app itself also functions as an instant messenger, allowing users to instantly contact/reconnect with anyone business card they’ve acquired. Eight has established Japan’s biggest business social network, with over 2 million users.
Since more than 80% of individuals use messaging apps daily, consumers have shifted from traditional online forms to instant messaging apps to communicate directly with business globally.
“Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking. – Mark Zuckerberg”
This growing trend of interacting with businesses through voice technology and chat apps is known as Conversational Commerce. This term was coined by Uber’s Chris Messina in 2015 and covers a spectrum of concierge-style services that businesses provide consumers to interact with.
The emergence of conversational commerce
IM providers are now partnering with businesses to make it simpler for consumers to interact with them. This includes providing customers with personalized product recommendations, chat-based online shopping services, after-sales services and much more, where they can interact with a real human or a highly developed AI chatbot for a faster experience.
More than 80% of brands already use or at least plan to use chatbots as a point of contact for consumers.
The versatility and benefits of conversational commerce
Below given are some of the versatile uses and benefits of applying conversational commerce to businesses.
A personalized assistant
The biggest benefit of using conversational commerce is the personalized touch brands can provide consumers. Consumers can interact with chatbots or human agents, who in turn help them with personalized product recommendations or other after-sale services regarding their orders.
The best example of using instant messaging applications for after-sales services is KLM’s new customer service approach. KLM Royal Dutch Airline makes use of WhatsApp for business to provide seamless customer service.
After booking their desired flight on the main KLM website, customers have the option of receiving their booking confirmations, digital boarding passes, check-in notifications, and flight status on their registered WhatsApp account. KLM provides 24/7 multi-language support for their flyers.
Commerce circles around payments, whether it is B2B, B2C, or among peers. IM providers are trying to inculcate safe and secure payment practices in this positive shift to conversational e-commerce.
LINE’s in-app payment service called LINE Pay has been a major player as Japan seeks to increasingly go cashless. LINE Pay lets users send and receive money as well as split bills with their Line friends. Meanwhile, companies and services like Echo and Octopocket this this further by incorporating sending, receiving, and storing Bitcoin through Telegram.
The Swiss Army Knife
Messaging applications with just a chat service are a thing of the past. More and more of chat providers are inculcating secondary services to transform their applications as an all-in-one-app.
The best example of this is China’s WeChat. WeChat has transformed itself from a mere chat application to offer secondary services such as:
- Booking a taxi
- Ordering food
- Digital recharge
- Buying movie tickets
- Online games
and the list goes on
With more than 1 billion users per month and versatile services, WeChat is the leading chat provider in China.
Choosing the right messaging app for your business
Research from McKinsey found that social technologies such as messaging platforms can boost productivity by 25–30%, which saves an average of 8% time that is usually wasted by traditional modes of communication between brands and consumers.
Below outlined are some of the important qualities that you should keep in mind when choosing a chat app for business.
- Security: Overall Security of the application on the internet is of paramount importance. You need to find a robust messaging application that considers its users’ data security important. Consider chat applications that are ISO 27018 certified. This ISO certification is a standard for protecting personally identifiable information (PII) that is stored in the cloud.
- Affordability: When considering a chat app or software for your business needs, the pricing of the application is also an important factor to consider. You can choose the best package depending on your user base and required extra features such as reporting and analytics. Starting your journey with the most basic plan is recommended to best understand your needs.
- Integration with other solutions: The best messaging applications not only provide chat services, but they also provide more functionality by integrating with third-party applications and services. Third-party services may include email marketing, CRM and CMS tools, etc. CRMs can empower your human agent or chatbot with an efficient session with the clients by using their user history and sales records with the business.
Adopting instant messaging applications to efficiently enhance the customer experience has become a good practice in the digital world by making it more convenient for both the businesses and their consumers. If you think adopting digital solutions is for a short-term gain, think again. The digital era of conversational commerce is here to stay.
Keerthi Rangan is a freelance content writer and content marketer.