Last month, Facebook teased plans to make customer communication easier with a new business inbox within Messenger. Now the update’s ready and going live, the company revealed Tuesday.
The change essentially puts customer messages within the same app that store owners or other entrepreneurs use to chat with friends. The update arrives on iPhones immediately, with the Android version to follow.
According to Facebook, more than 90 percent of business administrators already use Messenger to chat with personal contacts, and many of them find switching between apps frustrating.
Now small businesses can “respond to customer messages and easily toggle between their personal and business accounts in the Messenger app,” Mike Weingert, a product manager for Facebook Messenger, explained in a post on the company’s blog.
Weingert cited a Hubspot survey, which said 90 percent of customers consider immediate response as important or very important when they have a marketing or sales question.
“Customers nowadays have a lot of questions about store hours, product availability, delivery and pick-up options, and more,” he added. “The new business inbox in Messenger will make it easy and convenient for businesses to respond quickly.”
Accountholders can also set reminders for timely Messenger replies. Business inbox ties into Facebook’s Page Manager App, where administrators can manage Facebook posts, make ads and view Page insights.
Tech companies have rallied around the retail sector in recent weeks, particularly independent businesses, which have been particularly ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and, in some places, recent looting events have scuttled planned reopenings.
While putting business and personal chats into one app may not seem like a seismic shift, for a small operator contending with an influx of messaging, it can be a meaningful change. Facebook cited an outdoor excursion operator that saw a 250 percent increase in messages from guests, as they shifted plans due to COVID-19.
The new business inbox launches during a key moment for online retail, as consumers have been relying more on online retail tools over weeks of shelter-at-home orders. And even as states and municipalities enter various stages of reopenings, at least some of those shopping habits are expected to stick.
The update may be helpful to retailers. It may also help Facebook. The social giant noted in March that overall messaging had soared by as much as 50 percent, but that those personal communications were not monetizable.
It’s not clear if pulling customer service and other shopping-related communications into the same bucket as personal communications will elevate business chats. But if it does, it seems likely that it will lay groundwork for some form of future Messenger monetization.