At its inaugural “Conversations” event on Thursday (May 19), Meta revealed new products, pilots and plans to make messaging the heart of next-level social commerce, leveraging demographic tailwinds that are now sunsetting email as the prime means of B2C communication.
The news was teased by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the kickoff, who told a live and virtual audience that Meta is opening the WhatsApp Business platform “to any business of any size around the world with the new WhatsApp cloud API.”
“In just a few minutes, any business or developer can easily access our service, build directly on top of WhatsApp to customize their experience, and speed up their response time to customers by using our secure WhatsApp cloud API hosted by Meta,” he said .
“This is an important step to help more businesses connect with people and help more people message the businesses that they want to support big and small.”
WhatsApp vice president of product Ami Vora ran through series of other new platform enhancements, noting a pilot now running in Brazil “where businesses can get listed to Directory right inside WhatsApp” with click-to-purchase options embedded directly into the chat stream.
Vora said Meta is developing small business tools “like the ability to manage chats across up to 10 devices and new customizable WhatsApp Click to Chat links to help businesses attract more customers. We’re building features like these to help businesses scale their operations beyond just a few people will make them part of a new optional premium service. We’ll be testing soon.”
She talked up a new cloud-based version of the WhatsApp business platform to any business across the world. With hosting and security handled by Meta, she said, “This infrastructure update means businesses can increase the number of messages they send to their customers and gives them instant access to new features we build.”
Vora noted that Zendesk has been testing this option “and is already benefiting from it.”
See also: WhatsApp Offers Cloud-Based API to Businesses
65% of Users Prefer Messaging
All but declaring email over for business use, Meta vice president of business messaging Matt Idema said, “Our research shows that 7 out of 10 people feel more connected to a business they can message, and over 65% of people said they actually prefer messaging over email and phone.”
Sharing a story from his own recent travel experience, Idema noted hourslong wait times that are becoming common for airline call centers, saying “imagine messaging with an airline agent the moment your flight is canceled. Right in your messaging app you see options and can rebook your flight, and someone responds right away if you have questions. Even if you’re frustrated, you know someone’s hearing you and being responsive.”
Because that thread is now inside Messenger and the experience was (presumably) satisfactory, “you’re far more likely to be responsive to the offer they want to send you when they run their next campaign.”
He cited a recent Gartner study estimating that by 2025 80% of customer service organizations “will abandon native mobile apps in favor of messaging on third party platforms,” adding that “Messaging is changing how we buy. According to Forrester, 50% of US online adults now use chat for commerce, meaning to buy something, and the level of use only increases among younger demographics, peaking with 25-to-34-year-olds, at 62%.”
See also: Today in the Connected Economy: Meta Adds ‘Pay’ Button to WhatsApp
Meta’s vice president of business messaging Emile Litvak gave a series of use cases in which integration between Meta’s family of messaging apps with service providers from insurers to rideshare companies enables complex transactions, all within message threads, never clicking off to third-party apps — a clever way for Meta to capture traffic from social commerce competitors.
Litvak outlined three key areas of focus for Meta messaging to drive commerce, including Click to Message, enabling customers to chat directly with brands on WhatsApp and Messenger; automating customer communications to improve responsiveness with natural language processing; and conversational commerce to browse, add items to an online cart and buy.
In addition to “new ways to engage and reengage customers with relevant updates and timely notifications,” he said Messenger and WhatsApp are adding voice and video capabilities.
“For people, messaging becomes a single interface that is delightful, and ease of use making them lifelong loyal customers. For businesses, it offers a single view of the customer in one channel,” he said. “All of this happens in the messaging thread, which they can personalize to every customer.”
Putting a happy face on Meta’s new push is Kustomer (with a “K”), acquired in 2020 and now squarely at the center of delivering elevated commerce experiences in messaging.
Kustomer Vice President Brad Birnbaum said, “We believe the next evolution in customer service is a messaging-first platform built on top of the messaging apps people use most, [and that] works across all the channels your customers are used to — phone, email, chat, SMS, and of course messaging. It brings customer conversations seamlessly from each channel into one unified single screen view.”
Describing buying journeys that take place completely within messaging, he gave a hypothetical of a user reaching out to a brand on Instagram. “The entire interaction could take place right there,” he said.
“Kustomer’s natural language processing detects not just her history and intent, but also her sentiment and her specific issue, and suggests a personalized set of options.”
See also: Facebook Pay to Be Rebranded Meta Pay