- Facebook updated its Messenger platform today with new features to better connect businesses and their customers, according to news shared with Mobile Marketer. The update includes additional customization for customer chat and a plugin that lets people more easily interact with businesses across their websites and in Messenger on any device without losing conversation history.
- Messenger's customization tools now let businesses change their greeting text and color to match the brand. The platform also added notifications to tell customers when a business responds to a chat, along with new quick reply tools for customers to send their contact information auto-populated by their Facebook information, in order to speed up responses. Now, the platform supports Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser to ensure better stability and performance for a wider variety of users on their preferred browser.
- Facebook also rolled out two new metrics to help marketers better understand how customers are engaging with their business, including counting the total number of open conversations between a Page and customers in messenger, and the number of conversations initiated by people who hadn't previously interacted with the Page.
The new features are another step in Facebook's quest to beef up Messenger, which has more than 1.3 billion users worldwide, into a stronger consumer support channel for businesses of all sizes at the same time that the social media giant is downgrading opportunities for brands in the News Feed on its main platform. More than half (56%) of people in a Facebook-commissioned study by Nielsen said they'd rather message a business than call customer service, and 67% expect to message businesses more frequently in the next two years. This signals that both platforms and marketers need to focus more heavily on text-based customer support features to meet consumer preferences.
Messenger's 2.3 platform arrives about four months after the previous platform update that introduced the customer chat plugin in closed beta to let businesses chat with customers on their websites and in the Messenger app, with the ability to transition back and forth without losing the conversation's history. At that time, Adore Me, Air France, Argos, KLM, Mermaid Pillow, Volaris and Zalando were the first brands to participate in the test. Now, all marketers can interact with customers without asking them to reiterate information they'd previously shared with the company, easing a common customer service frustration among many consumers.
As Chinese tech giant Tencent has demonstrated with its massively popular WeChat app, messaging apps have enormous capability to also provide shopping, money transfers, ticketing and ride-hailing services in a complete "lifestyle" platform. Messenger has emulated some of that development in its evolution from a once-simple messaging app into a somewhat cluttered mix of add-ons such as payments, customer service bots, games and disappearing posts similar to Snapchat Stories. That development has led the company to make simplifying and streamlining the app another key priority this year even as it upgrades its functionality as a customer support channel and grows its business user base.