Messenger apps, bots, and the future of customer connection

I’m hot off the press from Social Media Marketing World 2018 and like many others my head is spinning with insights, ideas and connections. I’ll be looking at tons of stuff over the next several weeks that came out of it, but today I want to focus on ONE LITTLE THING, that could well become the NEXT BIG THING.

And that is messenger apps. And bots.

I’ll pause now for your eyes to glaze over if you’re not a techie guy or girl. While there were many in the room that “leaned in” about this stuff, there were just as many, if not more that started scrolling their news feeds while a panel of geeky guys tried to explain it. Most of us get messenger apps. Anyone who is on Facebook likely also has Messenger on their phone. WhatsApp rules as an app in many parts of the world. And WeChat is huge in Asia. It’s the bot thing that sounds a little scary. How do those things work? How does AI fit in? Aren’t we supposed to be “more human” online to connect with customers?

But here’s why we should care about this stuff

  • 2 billion messages are sent between people and business on messenger apps PER MONTH
  • 1.3 Billion people PER MONTH use Facebook Messenger
  • All those messages are in the format of One-on-one engagement
  • All those messages are trackable with analytics data
  • Open rates on Messenger are 80-90%
  • Click through rates on Messenger are 10-30%

In short, messenger apps are one of the most engaging and effective platforms – way beyond social media exposure fighting to be noticed in the news feed, and they are usually prompted by a qualified inquiry, not just general browsing. The geek squad panel declared them the future of how people will communicate with brands.

Here are a few more compelling comparatives for businesses that are focused on email collection and follow up funnels:

  • The average email open rate for a qualified list is 20%. (It can be as low as 8-10% for some industries)
  • Click through rates on emails average 3-4%

Granted, these were geek squad delivered stats, and I would argue that a customer list should be WAY higher then 20% if you’re engaging them properly, and if they are raving fans, your open rates should be outstanding. But we’re talking averages here, which include broad swaths of mediocrity.

The bot thing

Bots are basically automated responses to inquiries that come in over direct messaging. They can be a form of engagement on your website, or they can be pushed channels to a direct and selected audience with a purchased promotional text message. It could be as simple as having built in responses to frequently asked questions, or a channel that feeds them to a human for more complex questions. Or it can be automated responses to promotional text messages that lead customers further down the intention to purchase. Done well, they offer the opportunity to tag and channel that database of people into funnels of interest for further follow up and 1:1 engagement. Messenger can now do credit cards to process payments. That is new, so it’s not just about conversations anymore. You can actually close a sale. And again done well, a bot can actually add personality to your brand – being cheeky, fun and engaging to move a customer along in real time.

Messenger is a new marketing channel. If you run a company Facebook page, you’ve likely been prompted to connect it to Messenger. It’s the bot thing you need to wrap your head around. If you want to learn more about bots, I can hook you up with a free video course from one of the geeky guys on stage I spoke to later. Here’s the link: Yes, you can thank me in the comments! It looks pretty good. You will of course note with some irony, that this link is to a landing page for the course where they ask for an email in order to give you access. See my final point below!

But there’s this thing that’s bugging me…

Facebook owns the data on Messenger. And at the end of the day, they will control the access once you’re addicted to using this as a marketing channel. And I don’t use the word “addicted” lightly. They have it set up to accept credit cards between customers and merchants, so for sure they are betting on this becoming BIG. But just like they are doing now with Facebook organic content, and any content from businesses and brands in the feed, they have shifted it to pay-to-play big time with recent changes if you’re battling to show up for a defined audience. You can bet Messenger will go there too eventually.

Why email and owned platforms still matter

Playing in this space will no doubt offer opportunity for early adopters. It always does. But I would still recommend building your house on land you own, not rent. Facebook and messenger apps are “rented space”. You don’t own the data and contacts, and the landlord can change the rules, charge more rent or kick you out in the future. Collecting emails on your website and landing pages, and having engaging follow up while moving customers through funnels, will be something you can OWN forever. The key is to do it well, and have your 1:1 engagement process turn them into raging fans.

Hey, speaking of RAGING FANS, do you know someone who should be getting my content weekly? Share this post and suggest they follow the blog, And if they’d like to be on the inner circle with my 5-Minute Tips enewsletter every Sunday morning, suggest they subscribe here. Simply HIT THIS LINK and we’ll get you on the list.

What do you think? Post a comment below. Let’s get this conversation started!







Mary Charleson


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