Like shopkeepers in previous centuries who talked to customers one at a time, digital marketers need to master the art of the individual conversation.
Except that now it’s at the scale of millions of individual conversations.
“Messaging apps are morphing into relationship platforms,” Forrester vice president Thomas Husson told me. He’s co-author of a new report from the research firm, “The Future of Messaging Apps” ($499).
That future, he indicated, is best represented by WeChat, which has become a major vehicle for all kinds of communications, control, and transactions in China.
Chinese consumers spend more than a third of their mobile device time in WeChat, which has over ten million official brand accounts. Users regularly make purchases within the app, plus conduct a growing number of other activities — like booking a doctor’s appointment, scheduling a marriage ceremony, even remotely controlling the lights in a hotel room.
“In the next stage of [messaging apps’] evolution,” Husson said, they will be “not just about you and peers, or you and friends, but you and the environment.”
To prepare for this new age, the Forrester report recommends that marketers:
- “Be human, helpful, and handy.” This, the report says, is in contrast with marketers’ traditional role of pushing “their offers in a traditional broadcast.” Instead, focus on two-way conversations that embody your brand’s value.
- “Get consumers to speak in your brand,” by investing in and testing emotional and visual language aids, like emojis, stickers, and GIFs.
- “Get ready to serve customers in real time.” This means making sure you are set up internally to handle rapid-turnaround social media marketing, which might include a chatbot platform for automated responses.
- “Prepare for a variety of brand security and privacy threats.” Messaging apps, after all, are built around private conversations, so remain flexible but aware of potential privacy pitfalls.
- “Stop thinking of just owning mobile moments in your own app or mobile website,”
and instead consider that these kinds of contextual marketing approaches need to be applied across the board, at all times.
The report points out that messaging apps, chat bots, and intelligent agents are all blending into intelligent conversational interactions. But the report doesn’t think this is all heading to “one bot to rule them all,” such as a Facebook M, Alexa, or Siri that manages all your brand relationships.
Instead, Forrester sees a “team of rivals”:
“You might use Janice [the bot] for parenting advice, Bo might talk you through last night’s sports updates, and Yoshi and Dinah may conduct a morning talk show with you over breakfast to update you on world events.”