Will Facebook Messenger Bots Become the New Email Marketing?

By: Jerry Ascierto

April 11, 2018

About 1.3 billion people actively use Facebook Messenger. Let that sink in for a moment.

Then consider this: While nearly 20 million businesses use Messenger as a marketing and customer-service channel, only a fraction of them, around 15%, actively use chatbots, according to a survey of more than 5,000 marketers conducted by Social Media Examiner (SME).

Much of the talk at last month’s Social Media Marketing World focused on the death of organic reach on Facebook, but chatbots emerged as one silver lining, a way to reach customers where they are despite looming algorithm shifts that will all but banish branded content from the NewsFeed.

As Mark Zuckerberg prioritizes community and “meaningful interactions,” the need for companies to be human, authentic and relatable is more important than ever.

“And if you can’t be human, you can be human-like,” said Michael Stelzner, CEO of SME. Messenger chatbots are emerging as a key tool to connect brands and consumers, he noted. “Bots allow you to show the personality of your brand.”

It’s more than a bit ironic that artificial intelligence will allow brands to forge a more intimate, effective connection with consumers. But the numbers don’t lie. While the typical open rate on a marketing email is around 20%, the typical open rate on Messenger is closer to 80%. And while click-through rates (CTRs) on emails hover in the 2%-3% range, the CTR on Messenger marketing reaches far into the double-digits.

“I know some people have trouble understanding what this bot thing is about, but it’s simple—you have an email list, now you have a messenger list.” said Mikael Yang, CEO and co-founder of bot maker ManyChat, during a keynote panel on bots at Social Media Marketing World “And anything you’re able to do with email you can do 10 times more effectively with bots. I think in the next three to five years, Messenger will become the main channel for communicating with your customer.”

Bots can be used for much more than just answering FAQs. Now that Facebook allows businesses to process payments through Messenger, it’s evolving into an e-commerce platform, primed to engage at every turn of the marketing funnel.

“All of us are messaging more every day with our friends and families and that’s impacting how people want to interact with businesses as well,” said Linda Lee, who leads strategic partnerships for Facebook Messenger. “Businesses are using bots for every step of the marketing funnel—awareness, engagement, getting new leads, enabling transactions. Even post-purchase, bots are a really effective tool for enabling that follow-up and re-engagement.”

Bots can be used for simple things, too, like booking appointments. The makeup brand Sephora, for instance, has a bot that allows you to book makeovers, and Mercedes Benz built a bot that lets consumers book a test drive.

But while it may seem like only the most well-heeled brands are pushing the envelope, it’s only a matter of time before Messenger bots become as common a marketing tool as email is today, panelists said.

“The future is already here,” said Yang, “it’s just not distributed evenly.”


Follow Jerry: @Jascierto

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