Photo by Dennis Maliepaard on Unsplash

Millennial Ben Parr got an early start catching people’s eyes. Co-founder and chief marketing officer of Octane AI, the platform for conversational commerce and messenger marketing for e-commerce, he wrote “Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention.”

Parr also advises brands such as Lufthansa on attention and growth and writes a monthly column for Inc. The former editor of Mashable capped his youth surge as a member of the Forbes 30 Under 30.

He joined another young spirit, millennial expert and top-rated marketing and brand strategist Chelsea Krost, to talk about conversational ads, benefits of Facebook messenger, email marketing compared to messenger, artificial intelligence and using Short Message Service — or text — for customer service.

“Conversational ads are posts or messages that include a call to action to engage your audience,” Krost said, giving their key benefits:

  • Collect contact information.
  • Offer incentives.
  • Create personalized customer service.
  • Allow for follow up.

“They are like normal Facebook ads, except they initiate a two-way conversation with a customer,” Parr said. “That often leads to an increased chance of a sales conversion. Some brands double their return on assets with these ads.

“Traditional Facebook ads lose lots of people throughout the conversion funnel,” he said. “Once they bounce, you’ve lost them. When someone clicks conversational ads, though, they open conversations on Facebook messenger, which means you can follow up with them.”

Parr goes more in depth on conversational ads through the Octane AI playbook, which he calls “the definitive resource for merchants implementing messenger, SMS and conversational Facebook ads.”

“We cover conversational ads, how to set them up and how to send automated messages,” Parr said.

Facebook messenger is a big opportunity for e-commerce merchants.

“Although many other platforms have grown in popularity through the years, Facebook is still king, and Instagram is queen,” Krost said.

“Unlike other social platforms, Facebook lets you customize your ads with specific goals in mind,” she said. “From collecting info for qualified leads, encouraging users to learn more about your brand or promoting relevant products, Facebook does it all.”

Value in being there

Parr said, “You have to be where your customers are,” with these statistics to back him up:

  • 78 percent of smartphone users use a messaging app monthly.
  • 59 percent of people who message a business expect to use messaging to make more purchases.
  • 20 billion messages are sent between people and businesses monthly.

“Email has been the traditional marketing channel in e-commerce, but those customers are on messaging,” Parr said. “The software to run marketing automation on messaging via Octane AI now exists.

He cited “crazy stats” a few of Octane AI’s e-commerce customers have achieved with messaging:

  • 25 percent increase in average order value
  • Six to 14 times return on assets
  • 80 to 95 percent average open rate
  • Five time increase in abandoned cart conversions

Facebook messenger marketing has several pillars that Parr also details in his playbook:

  • Customer acquisition: Conversational ads plus on-site pop-ups and more to acquire new customers.
  • Retargeting and conversion: Send targeted messages about browsing and cart abandonment, welcome series, etc.
  • Loyalty and retention: Building relationships with customers via quizzes, sales and more.
  • Customer Support: Octane AI answers common questions coming in on messenger using artificial intelligence. It integrates with awesome products such as Gorgias to connect with customer support.

Parr had these suggestions to make sure pop-ups aren’t a nuisance to website visitors:

  • Use no more than one at any time.
  • Use “smart” pop-ups such as exit intent.
  • Companies such as Privy and Justuno are masters at smart AI-powered pop-ups. They also integrate with Octane AI.

Debates continue about whether email marketing or messenger is better.

“While email campaigns are still a great marketing tool, messenger is starting to take over,” Krost said. “Messenger has higher open rates, click rates and reply rates than email.

“When it comes to millennials and GenZ, messenger is a clear winner,” she said. “Today’s generations of consumers are starting to spend more time in messenger than they are texting or opening emails.”

Parr favors a buffet.

“The multi-channel strategy always works best,” he said. “That’s messenger plus SMS plus email.

“Neither is better than the other,” Parr said. “You have to do both email marketing and messenger-SMS marketing to be successful.”

Get to the point

Automation also enters the picture. According to Business Insider, over 80 percent of businesses already use chatbots or plan to use them within a year. There are other automatic processes.

“The best direct-to-customer businesses coordinate their email, messenger and SMS brands by integrating and timing their flows,” Parr said. “This is what the Octane AI integration does with Klaviyo, one of the top email and growth marketing platforms.”

Using both of them, email campaigns should differ from messenger strategies.

“Messenger and SMS campaigns need to be short and clever,” Parr said. “They should convince to respond in some way. Email can be longer and filled with more imagery. Use it for long-form content.

“Messages don’t need the same kind of headline, but also the message is the headline,” he said. “Messenger works well for drip as well, but you have to make sure the user is expecting it. You need to do a bit of both and time them correctly.”

SMS marketing should be incorporated in sales funnels.

“We must think mobile first,” Krost said. “People underestimate how important their subject line is.”

Effective mobile marketing means gathering information for future reference.

“You should collect phone numbers now, even if you aren’t going to text them yet,” Parr said. “Build up your SMS list because it could very well be more valuable than your email list.

“Send regular SMS broadcasts around key sales and holidays,” he said. “Activate SMS cart-abandonment messages to recapture lost revenue ASAP.”

All facets of marketing must meld together.

“Integrate your SMS campaigns into your email and messenger flows,” Parr said. “If you’re a direct-to-customer brand, space out the timing of your cart-abandonment messages: 30 minutes for messenger, three to four hours for email and 20 to 24 hours for SMS. This will ensure higher conversions.”

A “cart-abandonment message” might be an unfamiliar term, but is has familiar use.

“The message is a reminder or follow up with customers who have put an item or service in their shopping cart but did not complete the purchase,” Krost said. “These messages entice shoppers back into the sales funnel.”

High cost of abandonment

Cart-abandonment messages can include item reviews, discounts and product highlights. According to Forrester, shopping cart abandonment costs e-commerce retailers $18 billion per year. More than 75 percent of carts are abandoned.

“Browse abandonment is also an important flow,” Parr said. “It triggers when people visit a site but don’t add to their cart.”

Both messenger and SMS help automate customer service.

“SMS helps businesses provide fast-action customer service,” Krost said. “Gone are the days of sitting on the phone waiting to reach the correct person or department for a simple question.

“Messenger bots let you quickly answer questions with template responses and guide customers in the right direction for specific inquiries,” she said. “Everyone wins. SMS is also a great tool to provide real-time updates to customers for shipment details and delivery notifications.”

Automation excels in the face of boring repetition.

“A lot of the questions asked by customers of e-commerce brands have repeatable answers: Where’s my order? What’s your return policy?” Parr said. “Messenger and SMS plus software like Octane AI lets you automate answers to common questions like these.

“Octane AI, in particular, uses neural networks to help learn answers to common questions,” he said. “It’s still early though, so you want to connect your customer-support platform to messenger and SMS, too.”

Parr recommends a combination of messenger automation software such as Octane AI plus a support platform such as Gorgias or Re:amaze.

With holidays sprinkled throughout the year, Krost and Parr combined suggestions for evergreen marketing tips and strategies:

  • Run conversational ads now.
  • A/B test landing pages using Shogun Page Builder.
  • Run really segmented and personalized email, messenger and SMS campaigns.
  • Upgrade your email service provider to something such as Klaviyo to run really segmented campaigns.
  • Use the right e-commerce platform such as Shopify and Shopify Plus.
  • Set up messenger and SMS campaigns and browse or chart flows now.
  • Send targeted campaigns during Black Friday and Cyber Monday with no spam.
  • Get Octane AI in the Shopify App Store.
  • Add loyalty messages and reviews to your e-commerce site. See, Loyalty Lion, Yotpo, Stamped and Loox.
  • Read the Octane AI Playbook.

Krost added that SMS is “a great way to let customers know when a popular item is back in stock.”

About The Author

Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services and worked in public affairs for the Air Force and federal government. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Helping Americans shave years off of debt, cut thousands of dollars in interest, increase lifestyles and save for secure #retirement.

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