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Loyalty trends and best practices

Why Facebook Messenger Could be the Preferred Communication Channel for Retention Marketing by 2018

by Matt Gilbert
February 01, 2016
Why Facebook Messenger Could be the Preferred Communication Channel for Retention Marketing by 2018

In a recent blog post, Facebook’s VP of Messaging Products, David Marcus, announced that Facebook Messenger has crossed the 800 million monthly average user threshold.  According to Nielsen, Messenger was the third most popular app in 2015, delivering 31% year on year growth.  While Mr. Marcus downplays the milestone with an “early days” designation, businesses should be paying very close attention to the emergence of Messenger as a communications hub as they plan their retention marketing communication strategies for 2016 and beyond.


Source: Nielsen Tops of 2015: Digital


The prerequisite growth in end user adoption has created an opportunity for Messenger to displace email as the most effective channel for retention marketing.  Over the past 20 years, email’s sustained effectiveness has been primarily attributed to its (1) affordability; (2) ease of testing and optimization; (3) timeliness; (4) ability to personalize; and (5) consumer’s preference to receive messages in this format.  Each of these core attributes should be further enhanced by, or in the case of consumer preference, displaced by Messenger. 

The ubiquity of the smartphone and the growth rate of Messenger itself portend a shift in how consumers’ permission-based channel preferences will evolve.  As such, it is reasonable to expect to see material increases in opt-in rates for Messenger-based communications from businesses moving forward.  It will be a strategic imperative for businesses to evolve their retention marketing communications content and cadence to this new paradigm.  Those that embrace this dynamic, one defined by fleeting, albeit valuable, moment of opportunity to enhance their customer relationships through personalized, relevant, and contextual content, will emerge with real competitive advantages. The key to success, for both businesses and Facebook, is continued adherence to Facebook’s guiding principle of creating delightful experiences for its users. 

Based on Mr. Marcus’ presentation at F8, Facebook’s long term roadmap for Messenger indicates a strong awareness of the opportunity. The recent launch of the Businesses on Messenger capability underscores their commitment to that effort. With Businesses on Messenger, businesses will have the ability to have real-time, personal conversations with their customers and we should reasonably expect further enhancements to leverage native location, image, social sharing, and payment capabilities without requiring businesses to develop and market their own branded app.  Given the challenges of driving app installations and subsequent challenges to discourage uninstalls, drafting the halo effect of the Facebook brand and the related popularity of Messenger could be an attractive benefit for businesses.  Doing so would allow them to avoid the high cost of acquisition associated with new installations and overcome the inherent challenge of maintaining engagement with an app in between purchase cycles.

Standard retention marketing email catalogues including the welcome series, post purchase emails, triggered messages, surprise and delight, and win-backs could all be delivered seamlessly through Messenger with dramatic improvements in context, relevancy, and response rates. As such, Messenger is likely to become a primary integration point for the delivery of loyalty and lifecycle marketing communications and should be on the minds of CMOs as they consider their strategies moving forward. Further, enrollment in a loyalty programs and opt-in for Messenger communications could be integrated as part of an efficient check out process in ecommerce shopping carts.  It is even conceivable that Messenger could one day become an enabling platform for the first effective coalition loyalty program in the United States. 

While it may be “early days,” Facebook is in perhaps a unique position to become the primary B2C marketing communications platform for the next 20 years.


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