Social Commerce Marketing: Facebook Messenger Bots vs. Email

Social Commerce Marketing: Facebook Messenger Bots vs. Email

Email marketing has been a staple favourite of marketers for a long time now and is still considered one of the most cost effective options on an ROI basis. Capturing email addresses is a relatively simply process and most consumers, whether B2B or as private individuals, don’t find email marketing overly intrusive. It’s a reasonably comfortably accepted norm.

Most marketing emails we ignore or take a very quick glance at. If the headline and/or content hits the mark we might even allow ourselves to be sold to or at least reach the consideration stage, which can in fact be enjoyable. If we think the emails from a particular sender will never be relevant to us, in the majority of cases a quick click of the ‘unsubscribe’ button will do the trick. But we usually don’t even bother or not for a while, because an email isn’t intrusive. The most organised even have a separate email address used specifically for circumstances where going on an email marketing list is an unavoidable part of a particular process. But overall, email marketing still works.

Email to Messenger Services Communication Migration
It’s probably fair to say that for many of us the role of our email account has changed somewhat over the years. We certainly still use email but probably not for all of the same categories of communications as previously. For many, much of the communication between friends and family has migrated over to messenger services in recent years.

It’s a different kind of communication – faster, more frequent, bite size and less formal. If email was one or two removals away from the hand written letters of the past, then messenger services are several more. Messenger services are also often called ‘chat’ apps and the communication style that they represent is very close to ‘chatting’.

Against the backdrop of the rise of the percentage of our regular communication we conduct through messenger apps, it is logical that marketing would eventually infiltrate the channel. It does of course cost money for companies to provide messenger apps used by potentially hundreds of millions of users. However, the challenge for the hosts of messenger services was to find a way that allowed for monetisation through marketing without being intrusive enough to put users off and push them towards rival messengers. That’s why in-messenger app marketing appeared relatively slowly. But it is here now.

Facebook Messenger Bots
Along with WhatsApp, also owned by Facebook, Facebook Messenger is the messenger app with the largest international audience – 1.3 billion active monthly users. As such, the Facebook Messenger user base is also the most attractive to marketers and the company has gradually opened it up to them. Messenger Bots are the most recent social commerce trend. For some social commerce marketers Messenger Bots work extremely well and for others they have proven less effective. So when are Messenger Bots likely to be a successful social commerce marketing strategy and when not?


What are Facebook Messenger Bots?
More generally speaking, a ‘bot’ is a piece of software that automates a process or processes. Messenger Bots use AI to interpret messages received, usually on a Facebook business page, and provide an appropriate reply. Facebook has created a Messenger bot engine that anyone can use to create a bot. Bots can also initiate a conversation, not only answer questions posed.

Like email marketing, Messenger Bots aim their message at a pre-defined target audience. They must also be planned and formatted like email and optimised based on response data. Bots also still speak for your brand and must therefore be programmed with a tone and language that is appropriate to that. Bots can, like emails, involve multimedia links to video and audio content or PDFs.

Unlike emails, Messenger Bots must be very short and to the point, to fit the chatty Messenger communication format. They must be programmed to respond to a very broad section of questions or inputs but each of these responses will be bite-sized. A clear advantage of Messenger Bots over email is that while email is clearly a one-way communication street, there can and should be two-way interaction with a bot. Messenger Bots are also more likely to be successful with younger demographics, as is the case with most forms of social commerce. For older audiences, email marketing is likely to prove to be the more effective medium.

Social commerce marketing using Messenger Bots is by no means mutually exclusive with email marketing. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Both also require a similarly diligent approach to planning the message to be delivered and having the right target audience to deliver that message to. What the follow-up to nurturing and keeping the audience engaged after initial communication is also crucial. Messenger Bots and emails are both parts of a marketing and sales funnel. Potentially even the same funnel.

Bots should be more ‘in your face’ than emails – that’s their advantage. But at the same time marketers must be very careful to keep the right balance and programme Messenger Bots in a way that they are not overly intrusive and annoy prospective clients. Dedication to optimising the number of questions a Bot understands and is able to respond to is also important.

It’s still early days for Messenger Bots as a social commerce marketing tool but success rates are often highest when a channel is new. Email marketing is far from dead and can be expected to be around for a long time yet. However, forward looking marketers, especially those targeting younger demographics, should be exploring and experimenting with Messenger Bots as part of their social commerce marketing strategy.

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