While text message marketing isn’t fading from relevancy, there’s another trend in marketing through messaging that you should be aware of.
OTT (over-the-top) messaging services are downloaded apps that provide similar communication capabilities to SMS or MMS...with an extra oomph. Adoption is increasing— over 45% of smartphone users use OTT in addition to SMS—and for good reason.
Benefits to OTT for the Consumer
OTT services have rapidly grown in popularity, disrupting existing infrastructure for many services such as TV and messaging. "Over-the-top" refers to bypassing traditional providers, such as cable (think Netflix, YouTube) and carriers (like FB Messenger.)
In countries where consumers have to pay a premium to text, OTT has a very tangible appeal, since using apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp is free. Spain is a good example: SMS and voice services are relatively high there, so 80% of Spanish smartphone users opt for instant messaging or OTT services.
Another perk is that users can send messages to anyone in any country without having to pay for the privilege. As today’s world shrinks, more people want to stay in touch with others around the globe, and with OTT, they don’t have to pay to do so.
And consumers love the rich features they get from OTT. Just look at Facebook’s M Assistant: by intuitively monitoring texts, the AI-driven assistant can make suggestions, help schedule an event, or give auto response options users can tap to send.
These benefits have pushed forward the adoption of OTT messaging, but more so, it’s popularity reflects the natural shift in way consumers think of connectivity for both people and content – a shift caused by the ubiquity of wireless internet connection.
By the Numbers
Before you write off over-the-top messaging as just a flash in the pan, consider the fact that nearly 20% of all smartphone owners use WhatsApp, most of whom are under 35 years old.
Globally, 1.3 billion people use Facebook Messenger each month. More than 80% of smartphone users aged 18-24 use it, while 51% of users 45 or older do.
So What’s in it For Brands?
Consumers are clearly enjoying OTT, but why should brands like yours get on board?
First, there’s having the ability to connect with consumers on their preferred platform. Many mobile users have replaced standard text apps with OTT like Facebook Messenger, so by using that platform, you can be in the right place to get your message across. Reaching your audience on a messaging tool they already use means your message is more likely to be read and acted upon.
Also, it’s not an “all or nothing” situation where you have to choose between marketing through OTT apps or traditional SMS/MMS. You can run similar campaigns on both channels (or even multiple OTT apps as well) and compare results.
Tools to Maximize Your Message on OTT
Over-the-top messaging companies have quickly realized the potential to drive revenue from brands, and are continually developing new marketing tools to foster adoption.
Facebook Messenger has several built-in tools to automate part of the communication process as well as ensure that the right message goes out to customers in a timely manner:
Messenger Greetings: can be customized and automatically appear when a Facebook user starts a chat for the first time.
Instant Replies: are like an autoreply for when a human can’t respond.
Saved Replies: can be used to address frequently asked questions.
WhatsApp has similar tools, including quick replies, automated messages, and messaging statistics.
Expanding beyond these built-in tools can provide a more valuable experience for the user. Some brands are optimizing the functionalities of FB Messenger using chatbots, which gives them the ability to provide their customers with utility tailored to their brand (check out how Kwik Trip uses chatbots to promote their loyalty program)
To open the conversations, social media ads on Facebook and Instagram can include a click-to-Messenger feature that will directly connect the consumer to the brand via Messenger.
An Expansive Future
If China is any indicator, the future of OTT will be much greater than just messaging. WeChat, China’s answer to Facebook Messenger (because Facebook is blocked there), not only allows users to send messages; it also lets them pay bills, order taxi service, have food delivered, and send money.
We may not be there yet here in the US, but given the rapid acceleration of mobile technology, we are sure to see more of these features coming soon. In fact, Facebook has been dabbling with peer-to-peer payments and food ordering in Messenger. We’re just at the beginning of the OTT adventure in the US!
To hear more about how brands our integrating OTT into their campaigns, be sure to check out our webinar with Kwik Trip.
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