Effective cross-generational communication with customers requires an excellent omnichannel strategy and chat is fast becoming the cornerstone for brands around the globe. But chat channels still carry a degree of security hesitancy that companies will need to overcome if they hope to reap the full rewards of chat commerce.
In a global multi-industry survey of 405 companies, Aberdeen Research in partnership with Clickatell, found that at least two-thirds of firms use chat and that those that use chat in commerce achieve superior financial results while delivering a better customer experience. This included a 75% improvement in annual revenue growth and a 48% bump in customer retention rates.
While there is a very clear business reason to use the more popular chat channels to communicate with customers, business leaders must also be aware that users may harbour some mistrust when it comes to sharing personal data over digital channels. A significant 64% of consumers recently surveyed for Clickatell’s Consumer Trends Report said they’re “not sure” about security and confidentiality of chat apps.
“We are very comfortable exchanging information with our friends and family over chat, but for many customers, dealing with a bank or mobile network in this way is still a new concept. Businesses may need to spend some time educating customers around the safety of these channels,” explains Anand Sivakumar, director of products at Clickatell.
“We need to repeat the message that initiating the purchase of a product, topping up on airtime, or ordering electricity over WhatsApp is just as safe as shopping via a regular ecommerce store, or buying airtime or electricity tokens via your banking app or even at your neighbourhood store.”
Not all channels are created equal
Sivakumar says it is also important for businesses to choose the channels they use with care as each has its unique strengths and weaknesses.
So while Facebook Messenger has extraordinary reach, rich media capabilities and deep collaboration with its social cousin Facebook, it currently lacks end-to-end data encryption. However, WhatsApp’s high level of security with end-to-end encryption makes it the preferred channel when it comes to sharing sensitive information.
“When it comes to WhatsApp, only the customer and the merchant can see what is in the communication. Customers are literally holding the encryption key in their hand,” Sivakumar explains.
Sivakumar says that financial services provide the perfect use case as to how to choose the correct channel based on the purpose of the communication. In its Consumer Trends Report, Clickatell identified the top three banking services consumers wanted via chat were customer support, account balances and bill payment. The report notes that depending on security levels and other features, different channels are better for certain uses.
WhatsApp, Google Business Messages, and Apple Business Chat are best suited to customer care, account management and banking “lobby” experiences, such as scheduling appointments.
Facebook Messenger, meanwhile, was better suited to immersive user engagement and conversations, like answering customer questions that don’t require sensitive personal information.
SMS remained the most relevant for time critical notifications. However, Sivakumar points out that SMS is most popular for outbound use cases such as appointment reminders, shipping notifications, flight confirmations, fraud alerts, or marketing campaigns but less for inbound business interactions.
Clickatell also advises merchants to consider obfuscating personal information in communications as an additional layer of customer protection. By showing only the last few digits of an account or card number, for example, even if the message were to be intercepted, fraudsters would never have access to all the information. What’s more, this would add to the level of customer comfort, encouraging the acceptance and use of the chat channels.
“As businesses begin to embrace chat commerce and develop their strategies, they will have to strike a balance between robust security, usability and adoption. The selection of a messaging app that is best suited for their needs will depend on many factors from both a business and user perspective. Security and privacy must play a key role in the decision, especially when businesses exchange sensitive and personal information,” Sivakumar advises.