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How mobile messaging is driving sales

When Chinese internet sensation Tencent QQ launched an app enabling free text messaging back in 2011, no one could have anticipated its impact on the e-commerce industry. Today more than 800 million QQ users use the platform to send money to friends, buy clothes and book appointments. The phenomenon is now sweeping across the US, UK and into Australia. So, how can marketers capitalise on mobile messaging services to drive sales?

Two of the biggest messaging apps – Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook) – don’t offer advertising features. Instead, unlike traditional advertising channels, they encourage conversations between people and brands.

In recent weeks Starbucks introduced a Facebook Messenger chat bot for its pumpkin spice latte. The app allows unconvinced customers to speak with the brand about the highly controversial hot drink in real time. Move over ‘Ask Siri’ folklore; I predict thousands of blogposts dedicated to conversations with the festive flavoured coffee in the near future.

Quirky it may be, but this clever piece of marketing enables potential customers to hear directly from the brand about why they should buy a product. Not to mention it’s an engaging way to drive social conversations about Starbucks. #pumpkinspicelatte

Today, many brands are having personalised, not to mention instant, conversations via WhatsApp and Facebook – transforming a new world of bespoke customer service.

Facebook’s latest tool facilitates fully encrypted one-on-one conversations in real time, complete with receipts and order tracking embedded in the conversation. These in-the-moment private conversations can take place at every point in the customer experience and encourage dialogue with those who are less likely to post on an open forum.

On the flipside, Snapchat, has mastered the art of the sell. Once used heavily by brands as a marketplace for influencers to broadcast their devotion for a product or service, tighter guidelines – #ad – have encouraged a shift from sponsored posts toward content creation. Here, brands are using creative Snapchat Stories to engage with their audience in real time.

The New York Times do it brilliantly by encouraging followers to watch stories as they happen. In this clever skit, they walked Snapchat fans through their story on how to use Snapchat, via Snapchat.

While great for content distribution, in a landscape where metrics are everything, one shortfall mobile messaging brings is a lack of analytics. Most platforms provide read receipts, and while Snapchat can provide stats on views, data for reporting is fairly limited beyond that.

Regardless, expect to see a monumental surge in messaging apps over the next few years. It won’t be long before every point of a consumer’s daily contact with the world will be via these personalised platforms. From booking dinner, inviting friends and paying the bill, mobile messaging apps will be a one stop shop.

Get ahead of the game and consider how you can be offering this level of service via one of these ever-popular messaging platforms. Rather than asking ‘does mobile messaging work’, you should be asking ‘how can we use it’ and ‘are we using it enough’?

Richard Spencer is chief marketing officer at Isentia, a Sydney-based media intelligence group. 

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