• May 20, 2022
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Meta Touts Messaging as the Future of Business at Conversations Event

While Elon Musk’s presumed takeover of Twitter has been capturing most of the headlines in the social media world, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg made news yesterday by expanding the possibilities for businesses to use messaging to grow and better serve their customers.

Speaking at his company's Meta Conversations event May 19, Zuckerberg said messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram Direct are "an important focus for us and a huge opportunity for businesses around the world."

For a deeper level of interaction, messaging "has become a central part of our lives," Zuckerberg said, noting that people want to contact businesses with the same ease that they contact one another. "And they want to get support and make purchases right from chat."

To help companies do that, the social media giant announced plans to open up its WhatsApp API to any business that wants it. Zuckerberg called this "an important step to help business connect with people and people to get support from businesses."

Meta is also introducing a cloud-based version of its WhatsApp for Business, with everything hosted by Meta, according to Ami Vora, vice president of product at WhatsApp.

And this fall, the company will be rolling out a new capability that will allow businesses to send recurring notifications to customers right within Instagram Direct and other Meta messaging apps, Ankur Prasad, director of business messaging at Meta, announced during the event.

Early data shows that with recurring notifications, "people read the messages and stay engaged," Prasad said, noting that 65 percent of the consumers who receive them make same-day purchases.

Messaging has been an area of heavy investment at Meta for some time, but the medium has only gained steam in the past year or two.

"The industry was already moving in this direction, and the [COVID-19] pandemic only accelerated it," said Matt Idema, vice president of business messaging at Meta.

That change, he said, is being fueled by customer demand, noting that people around the world exchange more than 140 billion messages per day on Meta's platforms. And, seven in 10 people feel more confident dealing with businesses with which they can exchange messages, he added.

Messaging, Idema said, "will transform the way we communicate with businesses."

Today, 50 percent of U.S. online adults use chat to make purchases, according to Idema, "and this behavior is only accelerating."

"We are investing in the future here," Idema boasted.

That investment has three goals for businesses, according to Emile Litvak, vice president of product and engineering at Meta. They are starting conversations, scaling with conversations, and delighting customers.

And that investment at Meta centers around helping businesses incorporate click-to-message capabilities within their customer outreach, increasing their use of artificial intelligence and automation, providing seamless integrations between messaging and other business applications, and adding voice and video capabilities, he said.

"We're entering a new era in customer service powered by messaging," Litvak stated.

Brad Birnbaum, founder of Kustomer, a customer engagement platform provider that Meta acquired in December 2020 for $1 billion, said definitively that conversations are "the future of commerce."

That is especially true for smaller businesses, according to Pooja Piyaratna, vice president of product marketing for SMBs at Meta.

Piyaratna said SMBs can do three things quickly to grow their businesses through messaging:

  1. Add a "send a message" button on their websites, mobile apps, and digital communications. "Think of this as your digital 'we're open for business' sign," she suggested.
  2. Use Meta's efficiency tools and the Meta Business Suite to scale across platforms.
  3. Embed product catalogs right within company social media apps and feeds.

Businesses have already started seeing the benefits of messaging. Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, said messaging is "crucial" for his compay's operations. "Messaging is the No. 1 platform for us right now," he said.

With messaging, Uber can adjust in real time to traffic, weather, or other conditions that might delay drivers from reaching customers at their pre-arranged times.

Messaging, Khosrowshahi added, allows Uber to connect with customers in the way they want and then personalize it.

For companies that haven't yet adopted messaging, his advice is very direct:

"Hurry up. This is happening. Messaging has gone from the stage of delight to an absolute expectation," he said emphatically.

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