The Post-App Era: Optimizing Customer Interactions with Personalization

In today’s mobile-first world, developing an app has become a must-have for nearly every brand — and rightfully so. With mobile commerce sales expected to double to $700+ billion by 2025, there’s an even greater push for brands to have a mobile app that is user friendly and functionally sound. After all, building loyalty and ultimately facilitating a purchase is at the top of every marketer’s mind.

It might feel like you’re missing out if your mobile app isn’t downloaded onto a consumer’s phone at the moment they are virtually shopping. Marketers focus so much of their time on creating a perfect in-app experience that they don’t take a step back and think about infusing more personalized social interactions with their customers into other channels.  

With billions of people on social media platforms, branded apps shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all for brands. Think beyond branded apps! Reaching consumers in their preferred mobile or social channel not only can help you build loyalty but also gives you yet another avenue to increase engagement and converse with your customers. According to IDC research, social messaging channels lead for conversational engagement, with 61% of companies surveyed using WhatsApp, followed by Instagram at 52% and Facebook Messenger at 51%. 

Now is the time to pivot. Shifting the focus to mobile and social messaging channels might seem like a tall order, but optimizing customer interactions through these channels can be easily accomplished if brands increase their social touch points with consumers. After all, a customer journey is only successful if you understand the customer’s needs upfront.

Less Selling, More Conversing

As more consumers turn to their mobile devices, you need to ensure that you are ready to converse and answer questions during the virtual shopping experience. If you haven’t already, there’s a big opportunity for you to adopt a conversational mindset and engage with consumers via two-way channels. Whether it’s SMS, Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp, activating a two-way conversational strategy can connect brands and customers in a more personalized and social way — an evolution of the more traditional mobile app experience. 

Nobody likes being forced to do something. Say you receive an email from a brand that an item you ordered is now out of stock and you need to call the company to re-order. It seems rather forceful and impersonal to ask a customer to do the heavy lifting and contact the company. Surely it would be better for the brand to converse with the customer via their preferred channel to discuss and help resolve the issue.

While most companies employ multiple channels and a majority are leveraging conversations, only 22% of companies use more than three channels for conversational engagement. On the flip side, consumers worldwide typically use four messaging channels, emphasizing the need to be active in the channels where your customers are. But with consumers in various channels, how can you ensure you’ll reach them with ease? 

Enabling conversational user experiences unlocks the ability to customize and scale messages via natural language understanding (NLU) and conversation APIs. Powered by AI, brands utilizing NLU enable the personalization of messages for each individual customer, reaching them in their preferred channel. 

Thanks to NLU, brands can essentially mimic the way humans interact, helping create a more personalized experience. For example, if a consumer is interested in a product that is out of stock, you can send a personalized message to them offering to explore similar products that might pique their interest. Beyond just chatting about an offer, you can also change the conversation entirely. Whether a customer wants to learn more about your return policy or check in on another order they placed, you have the ability to pivot when utilizing conversations. 

Through two-way conversation, you have the ability to answer customers’ questions at any time. If a live agent is needed, customers can seamlessly be passed off to them during normal business hours. Fortunately, conversational APIs make all of this possible, providing a single gateway for all customer interactions so you can send messages to customers on any channel they’d like. 

Branded mobile apps are here to stay, but if marketers can take advantage of deeper social interactions with their customers, then they can cast a wider net and provide a more fulfilling experience. Consumers like flexibility and convenience when shopping. Rather than convincing them to only use a branded app, offering your services in their preferred channel will better support the customer journey and encourage them to keep coming back for more.  

Matt Ramerman is President of Sinch for Marketing.

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