How are messaging apps reshaping the retail environment?

With messaging apps becoming ingrained in most people's daily lives, retailers should consider how to use these to their advantage

“Out with the old, and in with the new.” This forms the very basis of all things retail. As seasons come and go, as do new products, offers, and innovations. In turn, retailers must always be ahead of the curve.

This means meeting the demands of today, and demands of today are increasingly digital. Often, customers choose online rather than in-store to find what they’re looking for and compare prices. Also, rather than lodging complaints in person, consumers increasingly do so from their devices instead. Furthermore, most customers today prefer using chat tools over telephone or email. Already, we know that customers have warmed to chatbots, but messaging apps are too surfacing as a trend.

Make way for messaging

By the end of 2017, WhatsApp was boasting over 1.5 billion users in 180 countries. Retailers have since taken a leaf out of their book and turned their attention to messaging apps.

This style of communication offers a personal experience that is unlike email or chatbots. Messaging apps offer consultancy to the user, mimicking what they would be familiar with from in-store visits. Customers are much likelier to respond to human-like interaction, which is the edge messaging apps have that chatbots still need to finesse. They can use the customer’s name to address them, sprinkle some emojis here and there, and give the general air that the customer is talking to, say, a friend.

You can also use messaging apps as a way to advertise. Unlike chatbots, which needs the customer to prompt conversation, companies can reach out to their audience through the app with news. Of course, you have to be sure to not go overboard; you don’t want to end up annoying people! Instead, every message should serve a purpose and not just be a reminder that you’re ‘there’.

What’s more, messaging apps can measure insights in a unique way. Organisations can explore click-through rates, assess bounce rates, and send feedback forms to customers for evaluation. Thus, your points for improvement are laid out much better.

Perhaps the biggest perk to customer messaging apps, however, is how instantaneous it is. If executed well, customers won’t be subjected to long wait times. Furthermore, messaging apps allow you to communicate with a number of customers at one time, which, of course, is impossible in a store setting.

Dare I say it, retail is perhaps the industry that needs to listen to its customers the most. In light of their messaging habits (which, if Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp stats are anything to go by, are sky high), messaging apps are the ‘right now’ chat tool that your customers will thank you for.

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