Q&A: Dan Neary – Brands Should Integrate Messaging Throughout the Customer Journey

Neary talks about a recent Meta-BCG study on the importance of business messaging, newly launched end-to-end shopping on WhatsApp in India, APAC’s place in the Metaverse, and more.

Following the release of recent research from Meta and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) highlighting the growing adoption of business messaging across the Asia Pacific region, we caught up with Dan Neary, the Vice President of Asia Pacific at Meta, to garner more insights on increasing consumer expectations of easier interaction with brands.

Neary, who joined Meta in 2013 and manages their business across APAC, has written previously about how the ability to message a business online has become a basic consumer expectation while emphasizing the importance for brands to embrace the trend.

Over the course of our conversation, he talks about the Meta-BCG findings, the need to integrate messaging across the customer journey, the recently launched end-to-end shopping on WhatsApp in India, APAC’s place in the Metaverse, and more.

 
 

A recent Meta-BCG study found that the ability to message a business is emerging as a baseline expectation for consumers. How well are brands adapting to this trend?

1:1 conversations have been at the heart of human connection, commerce and relationships. Today, messaging has unlocked the capability for us to have 1:1 conversations at scale and is increasingly becoming a preferred medium of connection and communication.

Every day, there are billions of interactions between people and businesses. People send over 140 billion messages on Meta’s messaging apps daily. 1 billion people message businesses every week across Meta platforms. The reason is clear: 7 in 10 feel connected to a business they can message.

New consumer expectations and habits have firmly taken root in APAC, which is a key region for business messaging. One in three consumers across the region chat with businesses at least once per week, and businesses are starting to notice this trend. Across industries we have seen businesses finding more ways to use messaging to connect with customers, from basic enquiries to lead generation to after-sales services and feedback and everything in between.

 
 

90 percent of businesses recognize that messaging apps are important for success. Brands should take immediate steps such as integrating messaging throughout the whole customer journey to meet them where they are. Customers want to hear from businesses when the content is personalized, timely, and has relevance. It is critical to build conversations that go deeper to ensure a smooth shopping experience. In addition, to drive higher chat conversion rates with consumers, brands should also adopt third party messaging technology solutions to rapidly scale their capabilities.

What are some of the biggest challenges for smaller brands in this area?

The pandemic has accelerated the shift across use cases to digital consumption. We are seeing retail shift online across categories as barriers to online shopping reduce. Consumers prefer the ease and efficiency of online channels for discovery, evaluation and purchase of products and services. Through business messaging, businesses can create an end-to-end customer experience across the entire consumer journey including after-sales servicing.

“New consumer expectations and habits have firmly taken root in APAC, which is a key region for business messaging. One in three consumers across the region chat with businesses at least once per week, and businesses are starting to notice this trend.”

In Southeast Asia, for instance, 40 million new internet users came online in 2021, with 80% of them purchasing goods online. As a greater share of commerce shifts online, communication will naturally follow, thus businesses must be prepared. Regardless of size, the BCG study shows that 90% of businesses feel that messaging apps are important for their success. And 80% plan to use messaging going forward.

Brands, therefore, need to take immediate steps such as integrating messaging throughout the whole customer journey to meet them where they are. Customers want to hear from businesses when the content is personalized, timed, and has relevance. It is critical to scale conversations that go deeper to ensure a smooth shopping experience. In addition, to drive higher chat conversion rates with consumers, brands should also adopt third-party messaging technology solutions to rapidly scale their capabilities.

Can you share some examples of how brands and industries are already seeing gains from incorporating business messaging in their strategies?

The use cases for Business Messaging continue to expand across industries such as CPG, retail, finserv and e-commerce, ranging from basic enquiry, lead generation, one-to-one consultation, customization, gaining feedback, re-marketing, and signals collection.

For example across different industries, the opportunities are:

  • Financial Services: Across APAC, consumers said it was important for them to message a business before they signed up for a financial product. Bank Central Asia (BCA), Indonesia’s largest private bank, used the Whatsapp Business API to improve its customer service and attract high-quality potential customers. WhatsApp Business API has achieved an incremental increase in leads for BCA by 23%.
  • CPG: Nestle IndoChina is very encouraged by the integration of business messaging. The business and brand value proposition for Nestle has been to really engage the consumer and shopper end-to-end from the moment they might have a question about our product, providing them with rich information, and for them to decide whether to purchase the product. Nestle is using this as a proof-of-concept to potentially scale the solution to other businesses from coffee to pet care.
  • Retail: GUMAC, a women’s apparel brand based in Vietnam, wanted to boost online sales by attracting more customers to its online store during the pandemic. To connect with tech-savvy online shoppers and provide an elevated customer experience, GUMAC worked with Facebook Business Partner and artificial intelligence expert Bot Ban Hang to set up an automated Messenger experience. The automated Messenger campaign saw the following results between March 2020 and March 2021 – 7x return on ad spend and 50% of sales earned from Messenger.

Meta recently announced its first end-to-end shopping experience on WhatsApp in a collaboration with India’s JioMart. Tell us about that and how it fits into Meta’s longer-term “super-app” strategy.

The way people and businesses are communicating is changing – people want the fastest way to communicate with businesses. That’s why we’re launching the first end-to-end shopping experience on WhatsApp with JioMart. The ‘JioMart Shop’ on WhatsApp will enable users in India to seamlessly browse through JioMart’s entire grocery catalog, add products to cart, make the payment and complete the purchase – all within the WhatsApp chat interface.

“It’s important to know the metaverse is a long-term vision that we are beginning to build, and it will take time, collaboration with other companies and entities and a lot of creative vision.”

The JioMart-WhatsApp shopping experience will enable people to seamlessly browse the JioMart grocery catalog, choose products and purchase them all within WhatsApp. With this innovative experience, our aim is to help onboard consumers in India who have never shopped online before by bringing the simplicity and convenience of WhatsApp to their fingertips.

This partnership is the beginning to realize our vision of bringing more people online and giving them access to digital tools that have the power to transform their lives.

What are some of the hurdles in creating such a comprehensive platform at scale?

APAC has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to digital adoption. The metaverse, which we see as a set of virtual spaces, is the next evolution of digital platforms – the successor to the mobile internet. Given the speed at which entire industries adapted to mobile and messaging, it’s not far-fetched to imagine that the same will happen with the metaverse.

At Meta, we believe our role in this journey is to help accelerate the development of the fundamental technologies, platforms and creative tools that will bring the metaverse to life, and to weave these technologies together into – and through – our social media apps.

It’s still very early, and our focus is more around building the foundational pieces for the metaverse, like VR and bringing more people into those experiences.

This is an exciting technological chapter, but it won’t be without challenges. Companies, governments and experts will have to collaborate on how to build responsibly and recognize that we all have a part to play in bringing the best version of this to life.

The metaverse has the potential to transform the way we interact online, but as with all major technological advances there are going to be big challenges and uncertainties too.

Earlier this year you talked about an Analysis Group report showing APAC leading all the other regions with the highest estimated potential contribution to GDP from the Metaverse. What differentiates the region compared to others?

APAC has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to digital and mobile adoption. According to the Analysis Group report, the metaverse has the potential to add an estimated $3 trillion to the global economy in a decade if adoption and growth are like mobile technology. Estimates are that the metaverse could add $1 trillion to the APAC economy by 2031. As with any innovation, it is challenging to predict exactly how metaverse technologies will be used or the business models and products that will build on the metaverse, and all their associated economic impact. The researchers looked at the development and penetration of mobile technology as an analogue for their exercise.

You wrote last year “we must resist the temptation to oscillate between a utopian and dystopian view of the metaverse.” Can you expand more on that?

It’s important to know the metaverse is a long-term vision that we are beginning to build, and it will take time, collaboration with other companies and entities and a lot of creative vision. While it’s an exciting and promising vision – there’s still a long road ahead, and we are still laser-focused on building and improving our tools and core apps that help you grow your business today, while we also look toward the future.

“APAC has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to digital adoption. The metaverse, which we see as a set of virtual spaces, is the next evolution of digital platforms – the successor to the mobile internet.”

Many of these experiences will only be fully realized in the next 5-10 years – and they’ll be created by companies that will bring their own capital, resources, and ingenuity to the metaverse. But the reality is we’re really early on this journey. We’ll first work to get the experience right for people, and then we’ll create an ecosystem around that for partners.

Having an inside view of its development, what have you seen as the metaverse takes shape that you are most excited about personally?

The metaverse will unlock new opportunities for people, communities, and businesses. There’s a lot to be excited about, and we’re already seeing businesses experiment with virtual and augmented reality on our platforms. For instance, Hyundai saw a 3.6-point lift in purchase intent after creating an AR experience to bring the showroom to the customers, which shows the advantages of their new TUSCON with the car’s spacious interiors and exteriors. Unilever PH also saw a 1.5-point lift in action intent and 5.4PT lift in dynamic metrics from their Beauty That Cares ecommerce campaign where they launched an AR production tool that helped influencers produce mobile-first video ads quickly, at scale and with consistent branding and messaging.

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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