Many businesses are settling into a new reality – finding ways to work from home while staying connected and find a new definition of ‘balance’. Where families, friends and colleagues can’t meet in person, chat has fast become the go-to way of keeping in touch. In fact, people across the globe are now spending more time messaging than nearly any other activity online; and WhatsApp is the leading chat app in 112 countries, hitting 2 billion users in February, according to SimilarWeb. Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK were among the countries with the most WhatsApp users in 2019, clocking up 43.9 million, 32.9 million, 30.5 million and 27.6 million respectively last year, according to eMarketer. Meanwhile, 76% of the population in The Netherlands and 31% of those in France are using WhatsApp, according to Statista.
With consumers loving WhatsApp, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’re starting to see businesses adopt messaging as a communications platform too. Messaging is fast, personal, convenient and secure. Unlike traditional live chat, it is also sessionless, which means that customers can pick up where they left off and agents can serve more customers at a time, with the context they need to offer seamless, personal experiences.
While, until now, customer care has been one of the main ways that businesses use this channel, it is now increasingly being used for marketing, sales and even collecting product feedback. “In 2020, we’ll see increasing activity from brands deploying conversational techniques to engage new customers and drive incremental business value,” predicted Rob Lawson, Global Partnerships at Google, at the start of the year.
Zendesk’s State of Messaging Report has revealed that businesses are slowly embracing the notion that every customer interaction is part of a conversation. These conversations are taking place across various channels, with messaging and chat emerging as favourites for businesses and customers alike.
Conversational commerce is on the up
According to Facebook, 150 million people on Instagram now have a conversation with a business every month, with messaging being most common in the retail, entertainment, travel and financial industries, according to the State of Messaging report. And a growing number of other businesses plan to add this channel to their line-up in 2020.
Conversational commerce is also now emerging beside the more common service conversations, and in-chat payments may be the key to unlocking it at scale in the west. Apple Business Chat has Apple Pay built in, while Facebook has several projects in the works, with WhatsApp Pay and Facebook Pay. Meanwhile, in March last year, Instagram launched Checkout, which lets people shop and complete payment without leaving the app.
Buying things is a crucial part of the conversational customer journey, and it’s about to get a whole lot easier. “Conversational technology in 2020 will make an already competitive commerce landscape significantly more competitive,” thinks Lawrence Lewis, Sr. Director of Customer Experience at Dyme. “Adding conversational to your tech stack now will help separate your business from the pack,” he thinks.
Chatbots are now mainstream
Chatbots are another integral part of conversational commerce. Businesses are deploying bots across marketing, sales and support, and they’re doing so with a distinctly human touch. In fact, nearly half of finance and insurance businesses have embraced bots for everything from lead generation to customer support, according to Zendesk’s report. And that continues to rise. By 2022, 70% of all customer interactions will involve emerging tools like chatbots, machine learning and mobile messaging, up from 15% in 2018, according to Gartner.
For businesses who may still be on the fence, the results tell a clear story: messaging apps have the highest customer-satisfaction rating of any channel, with a CSAT of 98%.
“2020 will be the year we start to see meaningful industry maturity,” thinks Sarah Marion, Associate at Inovia Capital. “I’m seeing start-ups raise big money, while incumbents are bolstering their conversational strategy through acquisitions. 2020 is the year of billion-dollar conversational businesses.”