Mobile has become the go-to channel for ecommerce for many shoppers as they embrace ecommerce – it is the easy way to get online for millions of people after all.
This has driven up m-commerce sales up more than 30% year-on-year, according to App Annie research, and 25% in just one quarter. In fact, globally, mobile is driving the consumers shift to online with shoppers spending an impressive 1.6 trillion hours on their mobiles in 2020 – and producing growth in m-commerce that would have taken “three to four years” under normal circumstances.
We have already received the odd text from a brand or retailer – often as part of customer service – but increasingly reaching out to interact. That is set to grow further still as brands and retailers start to embrace the other, richer, messaging platforms where consumers increasingly congregate: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and, increasingly, Google’s Rich Communications Services (RCS).
Research by Juniper Research finds that mobile business messaging traffic has grown 10% so far in 2020, with 2.7 trillion messages being sent by business to consumers.
Much of this is coming from retailers as they scrabble to drive traffic to their ecommerce sites over lockdown, with retailers and brands using mobile business messaging to issue order confirmations, dispatch notifications, tracking information and delivery updates.
The report found that SMS has proven resilient during the pandemic; owing to the messaging format’s ubiquitous nature; estimating that SMS will comprise 98% of all mobile business messaging traffic in 2020.
The report forecasts that mobile business messaging traffic attributable to the retail sector will grow by 20% this year, with volume increasing from 336 billion in 2019 to 408 billion in 2020. Consumers’ increased reliance on online retail service has been the primary cause of growth this year.
Additionally, it predicts that retailers will be early adopters of media-rich messaging services, with brands embracing rich media to provide interactive elements, such as real-time order tracking, to its users.
What are the messaging types?
Mobile messaging has been around since the beginning of mobile telephony. SMS was built into the mobile network back in the late 1980s as a way for telecoms engineers working on the network to communicate with each other.
Once consumers realised that they could do it too, a whole new way of communication was born. And that has blossomed over the years and now we see literally trillions of messages flowing about every day worldwide.
That business opportunity spawned a raft of other services that aimed to get their slice of this. Service that used the mobile data infrastructure to send messages – so called over the top (OTT) messaging – have proliferated, as they managed to deliver to consumer free or cheap multimedia messaging. As Wifi has become ubiquitous and everyone has a smartphone these services have become really popular.
WhatsApp leads the pack, but Facebook messenger, iMessage and others all work in the same way (iMessage being closed to Apple users only, the others open to all).
To combine this – and to offer mobile network operators a way of making money from this rich messaging boom – Google has now developed RCS, a sort of SMS on steroids that can offer a range of things.
What does it offer?
Messaging offers any business one main thing: reach. Everyone with a mobile phone can send and receive a text. Anyone with a more sophisticated feature or smartphone can access the richer experience of WhatsApp and the other messaging types.
With pretty much everyone – well some 4 billion people worldwide – able to be messaged, it is a phenomenal channel for interaction between brands and consumers.
Which leads us to the second thing that is good for business: richness. While we all have received texts from brands that often include a link, multimedia, OTT messaging, offers the chance to include images, GIFs, videos, graphics and branding and even – coming soon – payments.
That means that you can reach out to consumers with compelling, branded offers, that consumers will, in time, be able to purchase from the message. How cool is that?
How to make it work for you
So, how do you take steps to leverage rich mobile messaging? Let’s take a look at how it works with WhatsApp – that is the most popular and the lessons there are transferable to other messaging types.
Here are some tips:
- You need a phone – To make this work, you must get a dedicated company smartphone and install WhatsApp on it. To work, even for a corporate, WhatsApp needs a phone number. This phone is where it will all be run from (though there are tools to help as we shall come to). Once WhatsApp is installed, enter all your details then import the contact details of all your customers. If you already have them on Facebook, you can link the two and it will populate it for you (WhatsApp is owned now by Facebook).
- Individuals, groups and broadcast – With all your clients imported you need to work out how you are going to target them. You can naturally instigate one-to-one chats with them as you would with your mates, or you can build groups or you can broadcast to all.
- Individual WhatsApp-ing is ideal for customer service applications where you want to handle a specific issue with a specific customer, but is unwieldy at scale for marketing.
- Groups offer you the chance to bring together up to 256 people who can be messaged all at once. This can be ideal for marketing around specific interests or products. It is worth noting, however, that everyone in the group can not only chat to you, but to each other/the whole group.
- Broadcast lists allows you to message everyone in your contacts list – so your entire contact base in one go. It is similar to BCC in email, where no one else in the group can see anyone else in the group, and it allows you to reach everyone. It is more akin in that regard to email marketing, just on a platform that more mobile users use. A note of warning; bombarding them with messages will get you blocked for life.
- Tools to help – There are a number of tools that can help you deliver effective WhatsApp campaigns, including WhatsApp Bulk Sender, Bulk WhatsApp Sender, WAPanel, Bulkwhatsappmarketing.com and whatsappchannel.com.
They all do pretty much the same things. For example, WhatsApp Bulk Sender, which is a WhatsApp Marketing Software that lets you find most active WhatsApp number from your main list of mobile contacts lets you send scheduled messages using Text, Videos, Images, Audio Files, and GPS Location over WhatsApp and manage the whole process.
There is an ongoing revolution in messaging, driven to new heights by the pandemic, and tapping into it can lead to more sales. We have looked primarily (this time!) at WhatsApp, but many of the principles apply across the others too.
RCS is a bit different and is very new, but we shall look at that separately next time.