By Ann-Marie Alcántara
Companies large and small are increasingly reliant on outside
providers to manage their customer communications, enabling
consumers to reach businesses through a range of digital means,
including email, text messages and social media.
One major link, however, has been missing: The ability to
connect these third-party tools with direct messages on Facebook
Inc.'s Instagram platform, especially as the social media app has
become more of a shopping destination.
Instagram is now allowing developers and businesses to begin
integrating messages they get from consumers on its platform into
the outside tools many companies use to manage customer
communications. To enable this function, developers and businesses
use an API, which enables two applications to communicate with one
The inability for the third-party tools that help manage such
contacts to connect with direct messages on Instagram left
companies grasping for details such as order history when customers
contacted them on the platform.
The platform's new tool, Messenger API for Instagram, is meant
to help customer service agents and social teams get a more unified
look at their increasingly digital customers.
"We think that people are just going to message businesses on
Instagram more and more," said Ankur Prasad, director of product
marketing for Facebook and Instagram's business messaging.
Facebook originally released the Messenger API to enable brands
to connect with customers, such as by building chatbots to
communicate with users on the Messenger app. Facebook in the past
year integrated Messenger and Instagram messaging services to unify
the company's social media apps. But companies using the Messenger
API will still see a customer's message on either a Messenger or
Instagram inbox, depending on which channel a person originally
used to contact the company.
The new tool adds to Instagram's push into so-called social
commerce, an effort by social-media platforms and marketers to sell
more products directly through social media.
Instagram has announced several features in the past year meant
to make the platform a shopping destination, such as bringing
Shopify Inc.'s checkout and payment system to the app and adding a
tab that highlights items for sale.
Shoppers have more choices when they interact with companies
than they did in the past, said Adrian McDermott, chief technology
officer at Zendesk Inc., a customer-service platform provider that
helped test the new tool. That can be a plus for companies that
respond effectively wherever consumers find them, he said.
"The beauty of this channel is if people are already on
Instagram interacting with your brand, with your presence, it's
highly likely that they're going to take advantage of the messaging
feature, because it's there and it's natural," Mr. McDermott
Hundreds of companies, including meat-and-seafood delivery brand
ButcherBox OpCo LLC and fashion retailer TechStyle Fashion Group,
have used the tool since it entered limited testing last year.
ButcherBox receives an average of about 8,000 messages a month
across all social platforms, the company said. Before the new API,
however, the company wasn't able to efficiently track or measure
the types of direct messages it was receiving on Instagram. Now it
can group messages by categories, such as delivery questions or
inquiries from social-media influencers.
"A lot of what we're able to start thinking about is how we can
take these insights from the types of direct messages we're
getting, have the conversation with the support team, have the
conversation with the member experience team, to make small
changes," said Amanda Gray, director of social and community at
TechStyle, which operates brands like Fabletics LLC and JustFab
LLC, will start using the new API to monitor consumer sentiment,
said Meera Bhatia, president of expert services at TechStyle. The
company receives about one million social messages a year, with
Instagram accounting for a large portion of it.
The pandemic forced many companies to increase digital customer
service efforts and to forgo classifying consumers as
bricks-and-mortar or e-commerce consumers, said Jeannie Walters,
chief executive of Experience Investigators, a customer-experience
consulting firm. A tool like the Messenger API could help companies
create better customer service experiences, she said.
"With this integration, that's going to allow somebody to be
seen and recognized for where they are," Ms. Walters said.
Write to Ann-Marie Alcántara at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 03, 2021 06:14 ET (10:14 GMT)
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