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Conversational messaging: What it is and why customers love it

Conversational messaging combines the personalized care of in-person experiences with the accessibility of e-commerce. Read on to learn how you can use it.

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Introduction

In 2022, businesses are finally realizing that talking at their customers is no longer going to cut it if they want to build trust and loyalty. Instead, customers want to be the ones who initiate conversations. They also want to feel as if communication is truly going both ways. That’s why conversational messaging is on the rise.

But what exactly is conversational messaging?

Conversational messaging is two-way communication between brands and consumers on preferred channels, combining the personalized care of in-person experiences with the accessibility of e-commerce.

To learn more about conversational messaging trends, we recently surveyed nearly 4,000 consumers across 10 countries, and compiled all our insights into a report you can download here: Conversational Messaging: The Next Storefront Experience.

In this post, we’ll break down the shift to conversational messaging, best practices, and what we see for the future of this communication strategy.

Let’s get started.


Why the shift to conversational messaging?

Customers are constantly bombarded with company communications. That’s why so many consumers mute notifications from non-essential mobile apps.

To better serve customers, businesses need to adjust to these shifting behaviors and keep messaging simple. If they’re on Facebook Messenger, you should be there too. The same goes for WhatsApp, SMS, Google’s Business Messages, and more. Reaching out to customers where they’re already spending their time is the first step in providing more secure and authentic communications.


Conversational messaging is a powerful opportunity to engage

Too many businesses have fallen behind in addressing these changing customer behaviors. What's worse is that consumers have noticed. For companies, this shift represents an opportunity to differentiate by transforming how they connect with customers through personalized, context-rich conversations.

One-to-one conversations between businesses and customers isn’t new. However, the rise of new types of A2P channels like the WhatsApp Business API (the A2P counterpart of WhatsApp) and Google’s Business Messages shows the potential for how marketing, operations, and customer service can streamline their communication approach using messaging.


Evolving from transactional notifications to conversational messaging

The majority of messages sent to consumers from businesses today are still one-way (think account notifications, one-time passwords, or promotional messages), which are still extremely important. However, consumers are increasingly interested in two-way conversations with brands, too. They want to feel heard and valued when communicating with a company.

95% of consumers said they would trust a brand more if it was easy for them to initiate a conversation.

The growing expectation to provide intelligent assistants or staff customer experience representatives to respond in real-time via channels like WhatsApp or SMS is becoming a non-negotiable for those organizations who value their customers.

Conversational messaging not only empowers customers to get the help they need, but customer service agents' metrics will improve by giving them the tools to simultaneously manage one-to-one customer interactions with multiple customers. It’ll also increase trust—95% of consumers said they would trust a brand more if it was easy for them to initiate a conversation.

That’s why Hubspot, a Twilio customer that offers a customer engagement platform, invested in conversational messaging. Customers were already asking for this type of support via messaging apps, and agents were managing customer WhatsApp conversations on their personal phones. That made for a bad experience for both sides. Now that they’ve centralized their conversational messaging, they are “only limited by [our] imagination with how to deliver great experiences…” according to Connor Cirillo, senior conversational marketing manager at HubSpot.


Conversational messaging best practices

Businesses need to provide customers the option to opt-out of communication if desired. Consumers also expect organizations to give them the option to choose the channels they prefer, and reach out when it’s convenient for them.

Giving customers the control to choose communication channels signals to them that your company respects their time.

Consumers who initiate conversation with a brand consent to continue communicating in that instance. But in order to maintain compliant messaging not initiated by consumers, companies must first receive consent from them and periodically reconfirm consent for recurring campaigns.

Personalize what and how you communicate

Giving customers the control to choose communication channels signals to them that your company respects their time. And by adhering to their preferences, you’re able to help build greater trust with them as well.

Companies and consumers agree that personalization increases brand loyalty, and almost two-thirds of consumers say they’ll stop using a brand if their experience isn’t personalized, according to our 2022 State of Customer Engagement Report.

Consider the role of AI and automation

To best manage the customer’s experience using conversational messaging, consider using artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. Using these technologies to streamline the customer experience can improve nearly every stage of the customer journey, while also helping you scale.

Here are a few examples of this practice in use:

  • Address common customer needs using chatbots to resolve challenges faster
  • Create rule-based challenge routing to create a personalized experience
  • Reply to customers after-hours with links, resources, or business hours
  • Send relevant nurture information to respond to common customer behavior
  • Automatically keep teams in tune with changing customer preferences
  • Trigger appointment reminders to reduce no-shows
  • Allow customers to be kept abreast of their deliveries
  • Connect internal teams to ensure customers can be served more quickly