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Messaging: The Next Trillion Dollar Opportunity

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“The time is now, the opportunity is in front of us, and those who are early will be the ones that ultimately win in the future.” – Bonin Bough

“We are putting a stake in the ground today and saying messaging will be the next frontier for engagement with consumers in a space where the most amount of human attention exists today,” said Bonin Bough, Founder and Chief Growth Officer at Bonin Ventures, as he opened Social Media Week’s first-ever Messaging Summit.

The one-of-its-kind event brought together an exciting lineup including leaders in messaging technology in addition to a variety of brands and platforms all taking advantage of this next wave of innovation.

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Here are a few key highlights from the Summit:

Messaging as a Brand Builder

Messaging is how and where people are spending the majority of the time but it’s still a largely untapped opportunity for brands.

A few stats in support of this notion shared throughout the Summit include:

  • In 2018. U.S. adults spent an average of eleven minutes per day using messaging
  • 68% of consumers expect messaging to enable better customer experiences
  • 83% percent of global consumers message businesses to learn about a product or service; 76% percent message to get support, and 75% message to make a purchase
  • 89% of consumers expect a brand to respond to them within 24 hours
  • 64% of consumers would rather message a business than pick up the phone or send an email
  • 10 billion messages are exchanged between people and businesses around the world on Facebook Messenger each month

Right now is the new norm. People want to be able to connect with brands in their own language and on their platform of choice. In turn, companies must begin to rethink relationship marketing in favor of 1:1 customer care in a new environment where people are increasingly choosing experience over products.

“Conversation counts. Brands should think about different friction points where having a conversation could help people make a purchase decision faster.” – Lauren Marie Kehe, Global Marketing Lead, Facebook

With the evolution of new technologies like AI, AR, and VR, brands can more easily and effectively craft personalized experiences at scale — closing the gap between discovery and action, and pushing more success for in-store services and purchases. This is primarily due to messaging allowing brands to connect with people at multiple touchpoints across the customer experience.

As much as the space continues to evolve — however — when growing an audience for messaging and designing creative conversations it is critical to not lose sight of who you’re attempting to connect with: humans. They want to be known and respected. They want to be part of meaningful moments. They want to be enthralled through compelling experiences.

“The reality is that the brands people use are part of their self-expression,” said Emogi CEO, Travis Montaque. This precise notion of utility is how audience growth for messaging will be achieved. Beyond this, the power of messaging results from the fact that it’s native, intuitive, opt-in, personal, instantaneous and on-demand, personalized, and platform friendly.

What this translates into for brands is the unique ability to be able to drive top-of-mind awareness and integrate into conversations in more fun and innovative ways at moments they were never able to participate in before.

Privacy

”People are just starting to become sensitized to the topic of privacy,” said Dr. Augustine Fou, Cybersecurity, Anti-Ad Fraud Consultant at Marketing Science Consulting Group. during a fireside conversation on the topic of privacy in messaging. This was most recently precipitated by the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal.

He continued to describe that a lot of companies toss around the word “privacy,” but we haven’t actually seen how they’ve put the term into practice. There is a constant tug of war between the needs of the advertiser and the needs of the person, and per Dr. Fou, “you can only serve one master.”

Speaking to government’s role in the matter, self-regulation isn’t working to address these issues according to Dr. Fou. He added that GDPR is creating ripples that are going to cause existing companies to create something new or create opportunities for new companies to come into play that will be more on the side of the consumer.

“The pendulum has swung too far to the advantage of the adtech companies,” he said. Along these lines, he reiterated that consumers need to control their own privacy because companies won’t do it for them. And if ever there was a trade-off, the company would choose their own profit, not the protection of the consumer.

There is indeed a new etiquette yet to be defined and Dr. Fou believes a lot of what we can learn is what not to do by looking at today’s adtech companies. He closed the conversation with a piece of advice for brands: respect your consumer; whether a customer or not yet customer; because without this foundation of respect, you can’t start building a relationship.

Messaging as a Commerce Platform

In a panel featuring representatives from Farmers Dog, Twice, ForceBrands, Recess, and Tiny Organics, it became apparent that a large role messaging will play in commerce is humanizing the shopping experience through personalization in a way that lends itself to authentic connections.

It will be about putting the right thing in front of the right person at the right time. In turn, this will give companies character, a unique voice and allows customers to know you’re there and ready to hear them.

For ForceBrands, this means taking the stress out of job hunting; for Tiny Organics, this means personalizing a baby’s wellness and nutrition for parents; for Twice, it’s about taking something as trivial and toothpaste and turning it into a platform whereby the company can build friendships with their customers.

“A brand that just uses text to ask for things is like a friend who only messages you when they need something,” said Cody Levine, Co-Founder and Chief Brander Officer at Twice.

Stated differently, conversational commerce in messaging won’t be just an outlet to push a product or service, but more about serving as a new, open communication platform to educate customers, inform them, and above all, learn and grow with them.

A major part of sustaining these relationships will entail giving people the opportunity to reach out and engage when they’re looking for support. Through this, brands can be the conduit. “Who knows, maybe there will be a time in the future where people are talking directly to each other and we’re there simply facilitating,” said Julie Fabricant, VP, Digital Market and Strategy, ForceBrands.

The panel mutually agreed more and more brands going forward will be textable and integrated into our mobile phone books. “Eventually you might have to go through and clean it up kind of like you unfollow people on social apps or unsubscribe to emails,” described Levine.

“We definitely have an advantage in being here early on,” said Sofia Laurell, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Tiny Organics.

“We believe this is easily a trillion dollar opportunity but more importantly it is the next place we’ll connect with consumers and drive a source of growth and connection that we were thriving for during the early days in conversations of digital and social…The time is now, the opportunity is in front of us, and those who are early will be the ones that ultimately win in the future,” Bonin concluded.

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