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How messaging apps transform customer communication

4 May 2021

More than half of UK businesses now use mobile messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to keep in touch with their customers.

Businesses are increasingly turning to mobile messaging to communicate with customers, according to research conducted by PwC for Esendex. The survey of more than 4,000 businesses on their use of mobile messaging apps in customer communication has revealed that sectors including IT and telecoms, retail, finance, professional services and manufacturing have significantly increased spend in this area over the past three years.

Overall, 52% of UK businesses are using messaging apps for customer communication. However, it seems that large firms are ahead of the curve, with 62% of large organisations using mobile messaging apps to reach their audience compared to 45% of SMEs. The number of people using mobile messaging apps is projected to grow to three billion by 2022; WhatsApp is already used by 54% of millennials every day.

The findings suggest that there has been a marked increase in the use of messaging apps because of the pandemic. More companies have used mobile channels for emergency communications and alerts (up 42%), event-driven marketing (up 40%) and customer notifications and reminders (up 38%), compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Amy Robinson, senior brand development manager at Esendex, said: "COVID-19 has … forced companies across all industries to reflect on the way they communicate with their staff and their customers and to make necessary adjustments and improvements in order to avoid getting left behind while their competitors harness the power of various communication channels including SMS, social media and online chat.

"The UK has a higher-than-average uptake of mobile messaging with 52% of firms utilising this form of communication channel, compared to 47% globally. There is a lot of talk that the pandemic has changed the way we live and work forever, with hybrid workforces expected to become the norm. The same can be said for customer engagement - many businesses have taken a real step forward over the last year in the way they connect with those who pay for their products and/or services; it's likely that this trend will continue as companies put more emphasis on customer growth and retention during what is still a very tricky time."

While messaging apps are in the ascendancy, new research has suggested that business leaders are losing faith in social media as a sales tool. A new report by Bango, Board to Death, concludes that "meaningless metrics" are "putting the board to sleep".

Its findings show that:

  • 59% of CEOs do not believe social media generates sales for their business;
  • 62% believe too much marketing budget is wasted on activities that don't deliver meaningful results;
  • 60% of CEOs say the marketing potential of social media has been exaggerated.

"Nobody's saying that social media can't add value," said Anil Malhotra, CMO at Bango and co-author of the report. "The problem is that this value isn't translating to the boards of the businesses surveyed. Digital marketers have got so wrapped up reporting on clicks, likes and engagement rates, that they've lost focus on the business metrics that actually matter in the boardroom - leads, sales and profits.

"The rise of Facebook and Google as ad platforms has convinced marketers that what people like and share is an accurate reflection of what they will buy, so today's marketing budgets capture browsers, not buyers. That's why our report argues that digital marketers need to start targeting their audiences based on actual purchase behaviours. This is what will impress the board - the ability to turn social into sales."

Written by Rachel Miller.