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    How Meta is powering up business messaging for next-gen conversational e-commerce

    More than half of adults (54%) say they find traditional forms of communication with businesses to be frustrating, according to a 2020 Business Messaging Research Study*, while almost three-quarters of adults (72%) believe that waiting to speak with someone at a business is a waste of their time.

    As part of Meta’s ongoing Community Conversations series in APAC, the tech firm invited a select group of small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) to attend a workshop dedicated to the importance of business messaging and how conversational commerce can help to build positive brand experiences as people embrace shopping via online chats.     

    “In the last two and a half years, the pandemic has actually accelerated the adoption of conversational messaging by businesses,” says George Neo, a messaging platforms partner manager at Meta. “It has also increased the level of comfort that consumers have when communicating with businesses over messages.”

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    Conversational commerce

    Conversational commerce, which refers to the intersection of e-commerce and online messaging apps, can be applied to virtually any industry. Phongthas Loetthanaphan, who runs Ruen Petch Suki, a food and beverage establishment, links up a business messaging platform with an offline reservation platform for his restaurant. It has been transformational for his business.

    “One of the key benefits of chatbots is that they automatically reply to messages,” says Loetthanaphan. He explains that in the past, customers would switch to other merchants if he didn’t reply within five minutes: “chatbots can answer customers instantly so I can close the sales or answer the questions that the customers need to know the most.”     

    A recent BCG & Meta survey published in August 2022 revealed that businesses which use third-party technology solutions or work with partners tend to have higher purchase and conversion rates with their customers. Working with partners can help create a sustainable, scalable business messaging ecosystem that drives efficiency and lowers costs.

    “What we have seen with the 150,000 businesses that are using us is that within about six months’ time, they’re able to reduce the customer acquisition cost by up to 40%. That is the real value of that one-on-one interaction with the customer,” says Pancake partner Aditya Gupta.

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    Online shoe retailer GDX worked with Pancake to help track orders from Facebook Live chats and manage online sales. Pancake helped GDX to increase its daily order quantity by 1,500% – from 100 orders per day in 2018 to 1,500 orders per day in 2020.

    “The main driver for that traffic is something called click-to-message ads,” explains Gupta. Meta’s click-to-message ads send people who click on ads directly into conversations with the business in Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp. “There is a lot of interest in this from Meta because this drives real business value for advertisers and merchants.” ??Today, 70% of GDX’s traffic is driven by conversational ads or messaging.

    Humanize your comms

    However, implementing conversational commerce comes with its own set of challenges. Responding to messages from customers in a timely manner can be difficult, and chatbots are no substitute for human communication. “Customers know that they’re chatting with a chatbot,” says Loetthanaphan. “It might decrease the engagement between them and the brand.”     

    To increase engagement, improve the shopping experience and drive the completion of transactions, we can take steps to humanize these interactions. Research published by the ??University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee last year revealed that giving chatbots a human name, using familiar language, infusing humor into the interactions, and implementing communication delays designed to replicate a human-to-human chat conversation had “a direct and beneficial relationship with transaction outcomes”.

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    Other businesses have chosen to get around this problem by skipping the use of chatbots altogether and designating employees to prioritize replying to customers directly on online messaging platforms.

    After learning about the benefits of conversational commerce, Chintan Jani, the owner of iHatke – a mobile accessories and personalized gifts e-commerce retailer – changed his approach to replying to messages.      

    “I immediately took the decision to appoint a person who can reply to customers on Instagram and Facebook,” he explains. This proved successful, and Jani’s company currently has a 37% success rate for converting Instagram direct messages (DMs) to customers. Overall, conversational commerce now accounts for 35-40% of Jani’s customers.

    Commerce that builds connections

    Consumer reliance on messaging apps continues to grow. The success of conversational commerce shows how effective it can be when brands focus on providing a helpful, personalized service that meets customers where they are most comfortable and aims to move them through the sales funnel at their own pace.             

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    Finally, the rise of conversational commerce shows the importance of building a connection with customers to stand out against the noise online and create a successful business.

    “Every time consumers communicate through messages with a business, it inspires trust,” concludes Neo. 

    To find out more about Meta’s Community Conversation series visit the Meta Supports Small Business Hub, or visit Pancake to learn how to make your business messaging more engaging for customers.

    *Business Messaging Research Study (Facebook Commissioned study of 8,214 adults ages 18 and older in U.S., Germany, the UK, India, Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia), September 2020.

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