A few months ago, I upgraded to the iPhone7 and needed a new case. I had seen several ads for Peel cases on Facebook, so I checked them out and decided to purchase one. During the checkout process, they confirmed my Facebook account and asked if I'd opt-in for communications through Facebook Messenger. So I did.
Facebook Messenger as a Marketing Tool
You may recall all of the drama that occurred about a year ago when Facebook rolled out their new Messenger and 'forced' users to download a separate app. The reason that it had to be separate was due to the additional functionality built into the platform. Namely, something that would enable businesses to develop custom bots within Facebook Messenger to provide enhanced sales and service capabilities.
And as frustrating as it was to download a second Facebook app that did something the old Facebook app used to do, chances are you did it and are now an active user. In fact, as of the last report, Messenger has about 900 million monthly active users worldwide and accounts for 10% of all VoIP calls. So the audience is definitely there, meaning you may want to learn about bots and consider if and how you can leverage them as part of your marketing and overall customer experience plan.
What Is a Bot?
The term "bot" describes any software that helps automate a task or basic communication. On Facebook, bots are created using their Wit.ai Bot Engine, which helps turn natural language into structured data. What's unique about this is that this format not only helps the bots understand conversational language, but can actually learn from it and become increasingly better over time.
When I made my purchase on Peel's website, their Facebook Messenger bot confirmed my order, sent me updates on shipping and even notified me when my case was delivered. I even had the option of writing back to the bot with a question (but didn't have any so I can't tell you about that experience). And while the information delivered was fairly basic, the fact that it was proactive, frictionless, and kept me engaged with the brand after the purchase was interesting to me.
How Customers Can Find and Interact with Your Messenger Bot
If you have your customer's information and their permission to contact them - as Peel had mine from the purchase process - Facebook Messenger can locate them on Facebook through customer matching. Conversations initiated using customer matching include a final opt-in upon the first Facebook Messenger communication, so your customers won't feel spammed.
If you're reading this post, it's fair to assume that your brand has a Facebook page. Messenger will use that page to create a short link allowing them to start a conversation with your business immediately, such as: m.me/MightyRoarAgency
Provided by Facebook, these buttons can be embedded into your website to allow someone to begin a Messenger conversation quickly. Depending on your brand and use case, this may be a great alternative to a 'live chat' link on your website.
Are Messenger Bots Right For You?
More exciting platforms and cool technologies exist than most marketing budgets have money to support, so you need to ask yourself if the investment is worth it. Consider if it will improve your customer experience, etc.? The best way to begin answering that is to examine the following:
Does a Messenger Bot Fill an Existing Need?
Think about your customer's journey when they are considering, purchasing, and using your brand. Are there frequent interaction points that could be automated to provide value to your customer without a risk of losing a human or personal touch?
When I received my first notification from Peel, I thought it was helpful even though the information provided was fairly basic. And there must have been value there since I bought the case in November and I am still thinking about the process.
Beyond shipping information, it's easy to see how a bot could help someone get past some frequently asked questions, or provide value through delivering basic design/color/size advice, etc. - especially if you allow the option to buy right on your Facebook page.
Is Facebook the right channel for your audience?
If Facebook isn't already a big part of your marketing then, chances are, you don't need to invest in creating a Facebook Messenger bot. However, if a lot of your site's traffic comes from Facebook and you have an engaged following on the channel, then you should consider catering to that audience through a Messenger strategy. Here are a few brands that are already incorporating Facebook Messenger into their marketing.
Do you have a team or process in place to support Messenger?
This is the big question you need to answer. To bring up "live chat" again, we've had many conversations with clients in different industries about adding live chat functionality to their websites. For the most part, it's a very good idea. However, the biggest obstacle is always: how will you staff it?
Even with an automated bot, you still need to be available to monitor any questions that your bot can't answer and oversee the entire experience just in case.
You may have a customer service person or team dedicated to Facebook already, if so a bot may help lighten the load. If you don't have anyone dedicated to customer service on the platform yet, you have to think about how you'll handle messages once you open that up as a channel to your customers.
If after considering these factors there is still a clear opportunity for a Facebook Messenger strategy, you should be able to implement a relatively simple bot to start. And if done strategically - with an understanding of the channel, audience, and their consumer journey - you'll see engagement within your Facebook audience grow in value.