Building an email list is one of the most critical marketing activities an e-commerce marketer or business owner can undertake. It enables you to build an ongoing relationship with people who have visited your site or social pages so you can develop them into long-term, loyal customers.
As important as email marketing is to any business, it does have its limitations. Firstly, you need to entice people to opt-in to receive your emails – email opt-in rates average only 1.95% so there are a lot of people who don’t subscribe. Secondly, you need those people who subscribe to actually open and read your emails. However, email open rates average approximately 22% for retailers. Of course, there’s always the possibility of ending up in the spam folder too.
With 1.3 billion active users globally (and growing) Facebook Messenger offers you a new way to re-engage with your customers. Currently messages sent in Messenger enjoy around 80-90% open rates, almost four times what you get with email. Furthermore, we have seen Messenger opt-in rates as high as 15% for some of our clients, up to seven times what you might get with email.
One major advantage of Messenger over email is reduced friction to sign up, which means you could convert a higher proportion of your website visitors into subscribers.
So why is subscribing in Messenger easier for users than email? Your website visitors don’t have to type in their email address to subscribe, which can be a little painful, especially on mobile devices. Instead, your visitors simply click or press the Messenger button and click another button to authorize the connection. That’s it! The visitor is now a subscriber and you can engage with them on Messenger.
Another advantage of Messenger over email is that your customers don’t need to log in to your site for you to know who they are. People are usually logged into Facebook 24/7 so you have access to re-engage with Messenger subscribers after they leave your site, for example, to send checkout reminder messages if they have abandoned their shopping cart.
We’re not suggesting that Messenger should replace your email list building and email marketing activities. However, Messenger is an increasingly important channel that you should take full advantage of to boost your customer engagement and sales.
We share below eight ways to go about growing your Messenger subscriber list. The more of these that you implement in your business the more rapidly you will grow your Messenger subscriber base.
How to grow your Messenger list fast
Before you start make sure you apply to Facebook for permission to send subscription messages to your Messenger subscribers. Follow our step-by-step guide to apply to Facebook.
1. Add the Send to Messenger Plugin to your website popup
One of the quickest ways to grow your Messenger audience is to add a subscribe popup to your website, which triggers either after a certain amount of time your visitors spend on site or upon exit intent. It’s almost identical to an email subscribe popup you would be very familiar with.
You also have the option of keeping your existing email popup and adding a Messenger subscribe option to provide your visitors a choice. For example, Maisie integrates with popular providers like Justuno and Privy so that you can grow both your email and Messenger subscriber lists.
2. Insert the Send to Messenger Plugin to your order confirmation page
Adding a Send to Messenger button to your order confirmation / thank you page gives you another opportunity to capture customers who ignored or blocked your popup.
The rationale for customers connecting to you on Messenger will also be different post-purchase – you can offer them the option to receive their order confirmation and shipping status updates directly in Messenger. Platforms like Maisie, which integrate deeply into your ecommerce software, handle all this automatically for you.
You might ask why you should bother adding a Messenger opt-in post-purchase as you would have collected a customer’s email address during the checkout process. The reason is that some of your customers might prefer to engage with you in Messenger rather than via email or are more likely to open and read your message in Messenger than your email. I also believe that the more points of contact you have for a customer the better as people might prefer to engage in different channels at different times or for different use cases.
3. Install the Checkbox Plugin on your product pages
Installing the Messenger Checkbox Plugin to your product pages provides another opportunity for you to get your site visitors to opt-in to Messenger. The plugin can be inserted beneath your Add to Cart button so that it doesn’t interfere with your key product details or prevent people from adding items to their shopping cart.
You could invite your visitors to subscribe to get product updates or special offers in Messenger or you could incentivize them to subscribe with a discount on their next purchase.
Using this plugin is a great way to both build your list and remarket to subscribers who add items to their cart but do not complete purchase. You can send them up to 2 checkout reminder messages in Messenger to get them back to your site to complete their purchase.
4. Include your m.me link in your emails & other marketing assets
A m.me link is a URL shortener operated by Facebook that enables you to easily share with anyone the link to your Messenger account. Clicking on the link on a mobile device will open up a person’s Messenger app and start a conversation with your business. On a desktop clicking the link will open a new Messenger browser tab.
Your link is simply your Facebook Business Page handle added after the m.me URL.
You can use your m.me link anywhere to invite people to connect with your business on Messenger. For example, you could include it anywhere on your website, in your marketing or support emails, in any printed materials, on your packaging, etc.You can find your m.me link by visiting your Facebook Business Page, clicking Settings in the top right navigation then clicking Messenger platform on the left menu.
Scroll down the page until you see your Messenger m.me link.
5. Add the Message Us Plugin to your website
On your website you might prefer to use something nicer looking than the m.me link discussed above. Facebook offers a button called the Message Us Plugin that you can insert onto your website pages.
Similar to the m.me link clicking on the button on a mobile device will open up a person’s Messenger app and start a conversation with your business. On a desktop clicking the button will open a new Messenger browser tab.
Setting up the Message Us Plugin will require a few small changes to your website html code. You can read Facebook’s setup instructions here.
6. Run Click-to-Messenger Ads
If you’re happy to invest in some advertising Click-to-Messenger ads might be an option worth testing. Click-to-Messenger ads are the same as your typical Facebook or Instagram ads except that instead of people clicking through to your website they click through to your Messenger bot to engage in a conversation.
This can be a cost-effective way to boost brand awareness and capture new subscribers that you can re-engage on Messenger and eventually convert into a sale. Click-to-Messenger ads offer the following advantages over the usual ads where people click through to your website:
Most people use Facebook, Instagram and Messenger on their mobile devices so clicking through to your website on a small screen might not be the best way to engage with the customer and generate a sale.
Clicking through to your Messenger bot enables the user to easily engage in an automated chat with your bot and because it’s automated you do not need to provide human resources to support your ad campaign.
To create a Click to Messenger ad campaign visit Facebook Ads Manager and create a campaign in the usual way. When creating your ads Facebook offers you the following options for how you would like to have a conversation with people who click on your ad.
Select one of the three options above and click the Create chat button. You will see the following screen where you can build your own automated mini-conversational just for this ad campaign.
7. List your business in the Messenger Discover tab
Discover is what Facebook calls its Messenger app (bot) store, where people can browse and find Messenger bots, nearby places and businesses to message. People can access the Discover tab by pressing the icon in the bottom right corner of the Messenger app.
Whilst there are lots of bots and businesses already listed in Discover it’s worth your time to list your business as well – it’s reasonably straightforward and you never know what new customers it could bring you. To get listed in Discover visit the Messenger settings screen for your Facebook Business Page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page until you see Discover settings.
Click the Set Up button to reveal a form that you must complete.
Once you have completed the form click the blue Submit button. Also make sure Discover visibility is set to Show or else you won’t be visible in Messenger discover (although people can still find you through search). Allow at least a couple of weeks for Facebook to review and approve your submission. Once approved you will be listed in Messenger Discover.
8. Send Messenger invitations with Customer Matching
It goes without saying that Facebook has collected a LOT of cell/mobile numbers from its users, either from their use of the Facebook mobile app or as a way of providing an extra layer of validation and security when signing up to or logging into Facebook.
If you have collected a list of your customers’ cell/mobile numbers, say during the checkout process or as part of your loyalty program, customer matching can be a great way to quickly boost your Messenger subscriber list.
The customer matching feature will enable you to send invitations to your customers to connect in Messenger where you have a cell/mobile number for that customer. The customer can choose to accept, ignore or reject your invitation to connect. If they accept your invitation they will be subscribed to your Messenger bot so you can re-engage with them.
Note that the invitation message you send must not be promotional in nature. Also not that Messenger invitations will not be sent where the customer has already subscribed to your Messenger bot or where there is no match between the mobile number held by you and that held by Facebook.
Unfortunately customer matching is in closed beta so unless you have a US-based admin for your Facebook Page and spend quite a bit on Facebook ads you probably won’t be able to use this feature quite yet. If you think you might be eligible for customer matching you will need to contact your Facebook partner manager or representative to learn more. We’ll keep you updated as soon as customer matching is made widely available.
Conversations are essential to building relationships and a successful business depends upon strong customer relationships.
Every time we meet someone new, we use our words to shape and craft the message we want to deliver. When you interact with your customers, the same narrative holds true. As our digital world continues to grow, how do we bridge our real world conversations into an online experience? Meet Conversational Commerce.
Defining Conversational Commerce
Truth be told, the term ‘Conversational Commerce’ isn’t new to the industry.
It first gained popularity in a post on Medium published back in 2014 by Chris Messina, a product designer alum of both Google and Uber. In his words, the term was all about “delivering convenience, personalization and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare”.
Simply put, Conversational Commerce is automated technology that allows consumers and brands to engage with each other through chat- or voice-based conversations. This technology is powered by rules and, in some cases, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
Conversational Commerce can take place across any channels your customers like to use – on your website, in messaging platforms (e.g. text message, WhatsApp, Messenger), on social media or even on smart speakers using voice assistants (e.g. Amazon Alexa & Echo, Google Home).
Since Messina’s post in 2014, Conversational Commerce has not only significantly increased in popularity, but has become known as an essential user experience (UX) feature for online stores.
By enabling this technology, brands have the power to improve the customer experience and buying journey by being there to assist their customers 24/7. Imagine what 24/7 real-time customer support can offer your customers – the convenience of quick access to answers on complex or simple questions on anything from product to order related topics.
eCommerce websites aren’t optimized for selling
Did you know that only around 1 in 33 website visitors make a purchase? And that after over 20 years eCommerce still only represents around 10% of total retail sales? Clearly something is not quite right.
While your website is the foundation of your ecommerce business, the web was never intended to be a retail environment – websites were originally designed to make it easy to store, index and display large amounts of information.
Think about how your experience in a brick-and-mortar store compares to online. In a store there is often someone there who can offer advice or answer questions, which in turn, makes you more likely to purchase. Whereas online, you have to find your own way around and, typically, there’s no one there to provide assistance in a timely manner. To no surprise, this results in lower conversion rates.
In order to make your ecommerce store more successful overall, you’ll need to create a better user experience, one that goes beyond a typical set of nicely designed web pages. Conversational Commerce is becoming an essential element in making websites and apps more interactive and conversational, helping take your business to the next stage of growth. Conversational commerce will help you increase conversion rates, improve customer loyalty and retention, and, overall, create an optimal, headache-free experience for your customers.
Consumers prefer to communicate via messaging
Consumers are now more connected than ever before, primarily due to an addiction to their smartphones. People send over 150 billion messages every day to each other and to businesses!
That being said, the way consumers communicate has also continued to evolve as new platforms and technologies enter the digital age.
With so many communication platforms, brands struggle to understand how and where their customers are engaging.
When it comes to chat-based communication, the industry has seen a subtle shift in what type of messaging platforms consumers use most. Back in 2015, the combined user base of the top four chat apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat and Viber) overtook the combined user base of the top four social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn).
While that statistic may seem surprising to some, increasing concerns over privacy have highly contributed to the shift. More consumers are reducing their public footprint and, instead, are engaging in private messaging as an alternative. Social media platforms are responding to this industry shift and have re-focused on their messaging efforts. Facebook’s focus is now primarily on its three messaging apps – Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct Messages.
Mainstream use of smart speakers and voice assistants is also growing rapidly. In December 2018 there were 66 million adults in the United States with a smart speaker.
Amazon dominates the smart speaker market with its range of Echo devices, holding a 61% share whilst Google has grown rapidly to take second place with a 24% share. The key to their success has been aggressive pricing and continued improvement in the voice bots that power conversations with consumers. Consumers are also able to engage with voice assistants such as Google Assistant or Siri on their Android and Apple mobile phones respectively.
Some people think that voice assistants are created or intended exclusively for home or personal use. However, online businesses can benefit greatly from integrating voice assistants into their online store.
For your busy, on-the-go customers, voice can be an optimal tool they use to engage with your brand, especially for re-ordering regular, repeat purchases. A great example of utilizing voice messaging for your business is Amazon Alexa’s capability of ordering products and processing checkout – entirely via voice communication between the user and the technology.
How conversations are impacting the way shoppers purchase online
Conversations are empathetic, natural, authentic, and deep-rooted in emotion – and that’s exactly what consumers look for when they’re shopping online.
In today’s world, consumers are sharing posts on social media, sending direct links to their friends or family group chat, or even engaging in conversation with their smart speakers to learn more about a product or service.
Most importantly, consumers now live in a world where they expect to engage with brands directly and in real time.
Let’s use an example:
Emily receives a Facebook Messenger message from one of her favorite fashion brands featuring a pair of shoes she absolutely adores. She shares this message with her friend Stephanie, adding the following message, “You have to see these shoes! They’ll look amazing with your little black dress!”.
Stephanie clicks the link in the message and sends a question directly to the brand’s Facebook Messenger bot, “Do you have these in size 8 in red?”
Stephanie has now engaged in conversation with the brand and expects a quick, friendly response. Unless brands are willing to staff these chat apps 24/7 they’ll need to employ bots to deal with these types of questions.
How Conversational Commerce works
There are four types of conversational experiences you can deliver:
One-to-Many/Manual (e.g. sending message broadcasts to customers to announce a special promotion or event).
One-to-One/Manual (e.g. engaging in conversation with an individual customer after they’ve had their order delivered).
Different conversational experiences can be offered at different stages of the customer journey. Steps in a typical buyer journey that can include conversational elements are:
Discovery – helping customers find products that suit their style or tastes
Consideration – providing answers to product questions, checking stock availability, getting feedback on products from friends.
Purchase – answering questions about returns. delivery, etc, offering incentives to those likely to abandon their purchase.
Retention & loyalty – checking order & delivery status, processing returns, helping with setup or installation, offering loyalty incentives.
Advocacy – purchase sharing, asking for service and product feedback and reviews, refer a friend programs.
It’s important to customize your messaging to suit the stage in the customer journey and to reflect your brand voice. Conversational Commerce platforms like Maisie enable you to customize pre-built, use case specific conversation templates to reflect your brand voice.
Chatbots enable conversations at scale
We know that the ability to have real-time conversations is influencing the way consumers shop online and, in turn, is raising their expectations.
So, imagine what a technology that acts as a personal shopper for your customers – offering recommendations, providing support and quality information and offering intelligent promotions and discounts – could do for your online business.
Chatbots are automated software that can initiate conversations with and also respond to questions from customers on your website or in apps like Messenger or WhatsApp.
Chatbots empower retailers to engage with customers in real-time, across channels and at scale, both proactively (based on customer behaviour) and reactively (in response to customer queries) .
In a competitive world, brands cannot afford to scale their staffing to support real-time customer engagement at the level that chatbots can perform. This makes chatbots both a time- and cost-effective solution.
Chatbots also provide a great user experience – for example, consumers often prefer using online chat over picking up the phone to call customer support. Chatbots allow your business to efficiently address issues or find ways to upsell or cross sell while making customers feel they are personally taken care of in a friendly manner.
Chatbots can be used in a variety of ways to help retailers engage with consumers throughout their buying journey from product discovery to purchase to after-sales support.
Benefits of adding Conversational Commerce to your online store
In summary, conversational commerce is about providing a better experience for your customers, thereby enabling you to sell to them more effectively. Instead of forcing your customers to come to you, conversational commerce enables you to go to where they are and engage with them in the manner they prefer. The flow-on benefits for your online store are many:
Increased sales revenue from higher conversion rates
Greater engagement with customers
Higher customer satisfaction
Improved customer retention, loyalty and word of mouth
Conversational commerce is here and is starting to take the ecommerce industry by storm. Make sure your business doesn’t get left behind!
With over 4 billion people around the world using messaging apps regularly and major technology companies like Facebook and Apple opening up their messaging platforms to businesses now is the right time for retailers to start using messaging to build better relationships with customers.
Five reasons why
We believe messaging is going to become the main channel for e-commerce over the next few years. Here are five key reasons why.
1. Messaging is not new nor a fad
Messaging in one form or another has been around for over 25 years and its use keeps growing. People have been sending text messages (SMS) to each other since 1993 and Instant Messaging (IM) or “chat” has been widely available for over 20 years, with popular brands like ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger taking off in the mid-1990s.
2. Messaging has overtaken social
People around the world are using messaging apps to not only chat with friends and family but also to connect with businesses, browse products, look at pictures and watch videos.
The combined user base of the top four chat apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat & Viber) overtook the combined user base of the top four social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & LinkedIn) way back in 2015. Chat apps also have higher retention and usage rates than most mobile apps.
Why are messaging apps so popular? Messaging apps took off as a free alternative to the pricey SMS messages offered by mobile operators. As network effects took hold and as richer features beyond simple text were added (e.g. images, emojis, voice calling and video chat) their use and spread exploded.
To illustrate the rapid growth of messaging we can look to Facebook’s Messenger app. Facebook launched Facebook Chat in 2008 as part of the main Facebook app. In August 2011 it released standalone apps for Android and iOS but it wasn’t until April 2014 when Facebook created the Messenger app as a separate app from the main Facebook app that growth really took off. In just over 4 years Messenger grew phenomenally from around 200 million users to around 1.3 billion users in 2018.
3. People are already messaging businesses a lot
Given messaging is so popular among people it is hardly surprising that people want to message businesses as well. Facebook has, for several years, enabled its users to send messages to businesses via their Facebook Page.
Consumers want to be able to message businesses to find out about their orders and delivery status, provide feedback and reviews, learn about new products, receive promotional offers and, of course, get help.
Recently Facebook announced that 10 billion messages are being sent between businesses & consumers every month! So it’s pretty clear that people want to message your business whether you like it or not. If you’re still not convinced a recent Facebook survey showed that 53% of people who send messages are more likely to shop with a business they can message. Can you afford to ignore that many potential customers?
4. E-commerce growth is being driven by mobile
Globally there are around 7.9 billion mobile accounts, about 5.7 billion of which have broadband internet connections. This growth is being driven by the availability of cheaper phones and declining data prices.
In 2018, according to eMarketer, almost two-thirds of worldwide e-commerce sales occurred on mobile devices, representing 6% of total (online + offline) global retail sales. Mobile (m-commerce) sales as a proportion of total retail sales are forecast to more than double to 12.7% over the four years to 2021.
That’s some pretty spectacular growth but it can’t be achieved with only a mobile-friendly version of your desktop website. There is just too much friction trying to fill out order forms on the small screens of mobile devices.
Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messenger and WeChat are designed specifically for mobile use so consumers can expect a better and easier purchase experience compared to a mobile version of your website. A good messaging experience, using automated bots to help consumers discover, purchase and pay for products, will speed up the customer journey and drive more sales.
5. Email & social channels are over-saturated
Business owners and marketers are well aware of the declining performance of digital marketing channels like email marketing and social marketing on networks such as Facebook and Instagram.
Whilst email is often the most effective marketing channel for retailers, especially for generating repeat purchases, only one-in-five emails sent gets opened and about 15% of those opens result in clicks through to a website. Inboxes are just too overcrowded these days and emails quickly vanish from view and memory.
Retailers typically invest a lot of time into social channels such as Facebook and Instagram but engagement rates from organic posts are depressingly low both due to the high volume of posts and the algorithms used to determine to whom such posts are shown.
In stark contrast, our experience with Facebook Messenger is showing very high engagement rates. Message open rates are often around the 80-90% level with click-through rates of 30-40% quite typical.
How can retailers use messaging today?
There are many ways retailers can benefit today from using messaging apps and retail use cases will only continue to grow over time as messaging platform features develop and their surrounding ecosystems of bots and apps grow.
Whilst each messaging platform is at a different stage in terms of features offered to businesses, Facebook Messenger currently has the most to offer (outside WeChat in China). Combining Messenger with chat automation platforms (‘chatbots’) such as Maisie you can:
Assist consumers to select the right product with automated product discovery inside Messenger
Increase conversion rates by answering questions from consumers throughout the purchasing process
Rescue abandoned shopping carts by sending checkout reminder messages in Messenger
Recover sales from stock-outs by sending back-in-stock notifications in Messenger
Reduce customer support costs by sending order confirmations and delivery status updates in Messenger
Build a list of Messenger subscribers for later remarketing and engagement
Send segmented broadcast messages to your Messenger subscribers
Right message, right time, right channel
The ultimate goal of marketing is to deliver the right message to a customer at the right time and in the right channel. If many of your customers already spend time in and enjoy having conversations with friends and family in messaging apps, why, as an e-commerce marketer or store owner, wouldn’t you want to engage with them where they like to hang out?
There are three types of messages you can send to people who opt-in to your Facebook Messenger bot:
Subscription messages – Your Messenger bot is permitted to send messages any time but these messages must not be promotional in nature. This type of message is intended for sending news and information (e.g. new blog posts) and reminders.
Standard messages – Your Messenger bot may send one message within 24 hours of a person sending you a message or opting-in to receive messages via a web plug-in on your website (e.g. our Abandoned Cart Rescue plug-in). After the 24-hour time limit has expired you may send only one additional message unless the person messages you back in which case the counter resets. There are exceptions to this rule for notification type messages like order and shipping updates, event reminders, payment & account updates, etc.
Sponsored messages – A Facebook ad in the form of a standard message (but marked ‘Sponsored’) that can be sent to all, or a segment of, people who have open conversations with your bot. Facebook charges an advertising cost for sending these messages but they can be a very effective investment to re-engage inactive subscribers.
So, what’s changed?
Previously businesses could rely on the subscription messaging permissions already granted to apps like Maisie.
However, Facebook announced a new policy in February 2018 that businesses could no longer rely on the permissions granted to the apps they use for sending messages. Instead businesses would be required to apply directly to Facebook for approval to send subscription messages.
Facebook allowed a transition period until 31 December 2018 for businesses to apply for and receive approval. After this date, businesses without such approval are prevented from sending subscription messages.
How do I apply for approval?
As Messenger is tied to your Facebook Business Page you need to be a Page Admin for the Facebook Page you have connected to Maisie to apply for subscription messaging approval.
To apply simply follow these few steps:
Login to your Facebook account and click Settings in the top right corner.
Click Messenger platform in left menu.
You will now see your Messenger Platform settings screen.
Scroll down the page and click the Request link under Subscription messaging in the Advanced messaging features section.
A form will pop up for you to complete. First, select the News radio button.
Next, in the Provide additional details section, describe the type of information and updates that you would like to send to your subscribers. For example, you might type something like “We will send blog updates and how-to videos on a monthly basis”.
Next you need to provide 2-3 examples of the type of messages you will send. Remember these are messages – they are meant to be brief and informal. Here are some examples that you can tailor for your category & brand.
We have a new blog post you might like to check out.
Need to freshen up your look? Check out our tips for making your wardrobe work for you.
Watch our latest video on how to service your bike at home. It’s easier than you think!
Once you have completed these example messages check the box at the bottom to agree to Facebook’s policies and agree that you won’t send marketing or promotional messages via subscription messaging. Click the Save Draft button.
You will see your Messenger Platform settings screen again with Ready to submit displayed in the Subscription messaging section.
If you would like to review or edit your application form click the Edit link. When you are happy and ready to submit click the Submit for Review button.
You will receive confirmation on screen that your submission was received and you will also receive an email at the email address you use to login to Facebook.
Facebook will review your application and advise you via email as to whether or not they have approved your subscription messaging permissions. As this is a manual process it might take up to 5 business days to receive a response from Facebook.
You can also check back under Page Settings > Messenger Platform to see whether your application is under review, approved or rejected.