Chat Marketing for fashion retail and the multichannel strategy to Get Started with

Be where your customers are. That’s long been the first rule of survival for any business.

And for the past decade that meant for a fashion brand growing an audience on social networks — Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest — while keeping an eye on the horizon of these public platforms for new opportunities.

It also meant delivering excellent customer experiences on mobile devices when 4 out of 5 American consumers shop on their smartphones.

But over the last three years, messaging apps have started to outpace social networks when it comes to where we spend our time.

And it’s not surprising.

We go on social networks to discover news and content, share our thoughts and stories, and connect with other people. But it’s in messaging apps where we do all that plus make plans, come to decisions and become active participants in personal conversations.

That’s what makes chat as an interface for marketing — or “chat marketing” — a natural next step.

What is Chat Marketing?

Chat marketing is the fastest way to move buyers through your marketing and sales funnels through the power of real-time conversations. It builds relationships and creates authentic experiences with customers and shoppers.

In simplest terms, Chat Marketing is the process of promoting your brand and selling your products through messaging apps including Facebook Messenger, Instagram DM, WeChat, Whatsapp, and other 1:1 chat apps.

Our modern definition of Chat Marketing applied to fashion retail and apparel shopping is broader than ever before.

Chat Marketing is best known for creating personalized conversations with messaging apps, and as the fastest way to build relationships and move shoppers through your shopping experience while adding value at every step of their journey.

However, Chat Marketing looks at the entire customer lifecycle. It’s about seeing where and how you can use chat to create meaningful interactions that drive more committed customers from acquisition to retention.

How to chat marketing is changing the way fashion brands communicate with shoppers forever.

Consumer shift in fashion retail

Digital adoption has soared during the pandemic, with many brands finally going online and enthusiasts embracing digital innovations like live streaming, customer service video chat, and social shopping.

As online penetration accelerates and shoppers demand ever-more sophisticated digital interactions, fashion players must optimize the online experience and channel mix while finding persuasive ways to integrate the human touch.

There’s a problem with the way we’ve been marketing and selling — it no longer matches how shoppers buy fashion.

Think about it — when you’re not talking to someone face-to-face, where do most of your conversations happen? For most people, the answer looks a lot like this:

People love communicating with messaging because it’s fast, easy, and actually feels like a conversation. So it’s not surprising that 90% of consumers want to use it to communicate with businesses (and the majority prefer it over email) according to a recent survey from Twilio.

But most fashion brands and retailers are still forcing people to jump through endless hoops before a conversation can ever take place. Nobody has the time for that anymore.

And what is marketing to fashion store owners at the end of the day, it’s understanding consumer behavior. And then knowing what tools you have at your disposal to leverage that consumer behavior, to provide a meaningful shopping experience for the consumer that translates to revenue or a certain result for a brand or retailer.

Right? And so that’s why we as store owners and we’re obviously, very long-term thinkers. We always should be looking at long-term consumer behavior, which I think is why I’ve ended up betting so hard on, you know, Metta, chit chatbot marketing.

Facebook as the leader in consumer behavior and communication

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook F8 Conference 2019

Facebook themselves obviously understands consumer behavior on mobile devices, more than any company in the world, right? Like, social media and mobile consumer behavior, they have more data collected.

As we know, you know, Cambridge Analytica, all that fun stuff, they have it all. All right. And so when they say things like, Hey, this is what’s happening with the evolution of communication. We should listen.

You know, it started from print, television, email, social networks, right. We all remember, uh, I hope all of us remember, but we remember when Facebook and MySpace and Instagram, these things came out.

And prior to those things launching, how did you communicate with your favorite brands and stores? You know, you were calling a business, you were maybe sending them an email, right?

Those were the two main forms of communication. Well, after social networks, all of a sudden you could like go and do and look at them, on Instagram or Facebook.

And maybe you could message them there. Right. It wasn’t an established consumer behavior yet. That’s where it was moving so when Facebook opened Messenger API five years ago to third-party developers to connect automation, that was kind of them showing us: Hey, this is where communication consumer behavior is moving towards.

So then we spent the last five years proving that. And so now we’re at a time, this is my opinion where Facebook launching Instagram’s DM automation available to everyone shows that this is now a staple marketing channel and a true evolution of consumer behavior.

So I just want to make sure that you understand that whether you’re talking about, Facebook Messenger, whether you’re talking about Instagram DM today, or whether it’s talking about WhatsApp, later this year, when they released that and all of those channels are the mobile-friendly messaging channels that we all as consumers want to use more.

So I just want to make sure that you guys understand that Facebook, the leader, of understanding consumer behavior is saying: Hey! this is where the communication is going.

That’s exactly what’s happening with messaging and fashion brands right now. Exactly. And just to go off of that, we all at this point can agree that direct messaging, is the most intimate form of online communication in that private channel, second to video chat.

How fashion brands and stores answered messages before and after dm automation.

What can happen inside of that conversation is almost limitless in the sense that when you have a store talking to the shopper or a shopper talking to the store, anything can happen there, from support to lead generation, to even converting somebody just from a simple conversation.

So I want to move into then how most fashion brands are answering messages before DM automation was available. And then what that might look like afterward.

So somebody DMS your Instagram or Facebook store page right now, or you as a personal brand, whoever you might be. And then from there, if you have a support team or social media manager that is not 24/7 online versus going to wait a few minutes to maybe even a few days, I have waited a few days, even months.

And I’ve been researching around 1500+ brands in the past 3 years to come to this conclusion: at least 90% of brands are ignoring DMS on Instagram and Facebook.

I think some brands haven’t replied to me in years that I DM’d way back when. And so on the other hand, if the support team is online though, that person or that group of people have to spend time manually answering every single conversation, even if it’s the same thing, even if they have templates and responses that they’re pulling from, it’s still going to take several minutes of their time to get back to each one.

And it’s a struggle. It’s very overwhelming especially for brands and retailers that run accounts with over 100K followers and push out content daily…It’s scalable anymore. If you wish this was you and you wish you were getting more DMS, then this whole process that I’ll walk you through is a must.

Now, it can also help you then drive more DM. So let’s talk about that inbound process. Then afterward user deems a business and they trigger a keyword, let’s say, within your automation, that is something like, when will you restock the shirt from there and automated responses sent, but it’s not just one response, understand that with this DM automation, now you can create these back and forth conversations.

So now if let’s say their question was actually something like, Hey, how do I get a refund? The bot, the automation itself can even walk somebody through that whole process and say, step one, do this.

You can do that. Cool. Moving on, step two, do this. Did you do that and be able to get that input with buttons and just input from the user type again, at the end of that interaction, then we asked to answer your question.

Yes or no. We’re aiming for about 90% of the traffic to say that we were able to help them. And now is the point where oftentimes your, outbound traffic is going to start from, or like a specific flow.

Traffic would begin all the way here. So if it’s inbound, it’s going to go all the way there. But then at this point, you can share a related offer, like giving them personalized style advice, trend alert or maybe giving them a lead magnet or a discount code.

So depending on what they came to you for, or how you’re positioning the entry to this, there is an unlimited number of options in terms of things that you can be offering and accomplishing inside of DMS

All right. So when it comes to people buying though, let’s dive into that use case because let’s be honest, that’s where most people want to get their ROI from Instagram and Facebook, and the question is: how do I generate more revenue from DMs?

So that’s really awesome. And interesting. I know you guys are aware of it because most fashion brands and retailers spend a staggering amount of time and energy creating content daily on both platforms, so am sure you’re aware of 81% of people who are using Instagram and Facebook use to research products before they buy.

Then those people who are checking out fashion brands and boutiques, 50% of them make a purchase or visit a site to purchase after seeing that product or collection from a social post or account on both platforms.

These aren’t just a consumed content platform. These are shopping platforms. And so when it comes to the messages that brands get first off, this is a staggering number of 400 million messages that are sent every day between businesses and people.

So the DMs are already happening in the automation is going to help, but also drive more DMs. And at the same time, Facebook says that the messages businesses get, tend to fall into two categories, either sales inquiries, so product inquiries about, Hey, is this the right product for me? How does this work? And also just general support stuff.

Now, what we’re able to add to that use case with automation is to actually use this in a better way to drive people, to DMs for a specific purpose right now, most brands and retailers don’t do that. Most content is created with one call to action: shop in the website so that takes the user out of the platform.

You have your DMS open and people go to you for whatever they need. But now with DM automation, it’s possible for us to actually create a true conversational flow to say: “Hey, if you want this specific offer that I’m going to give to you a free coupon”, a lead magnet or discount, whatever it might be, then come into our DMS and I will help you get access to that offer.

Why is Facebook integrating the messaging components of Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger?

Most popular social media networks and messaging apps by monthly active users

So when we look at them, zooming out just for a moment, because this is important to loop back to what we said earlier about how messenger was first now, Instagram, and then soon WhatsApp.

Just to briefly touch on this Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Facebook themselves are in, what is this, the top five, if I can count properly, most popular social networks and messaging apps in terms of monthly active users as of this April.

So this is incredible because of the idea that I shared with you earlier that Facebook owns to implement what’s called interoperability on a previous post I wrote a few months ago about my top reasons to launch a chatbot, the #6 explains Why is Facebook Integrating the messaging components of Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

Crossmessaging: one message to all the channels

Just write that down. We’ll come back to it later on. And this is something you’re going to continue to hear ME talk about even past this article because it still has not fully happened is that back in 2019, Facebook said that we want to create a seamless experience for people on all three of these apps, even if they don’t want to have accounts on all three.

So that means that if I love using Messenger and I don’t even have a WhatsApp account, and I don’t really like to use Instagram, then I could message my friends and whoever I want to businesses on these platforms from Messenger and experience the same conversation that they do, but on their respective platforms. Awesome right?

So this is huge because what we’re going to talk about in this article will likely have many of you taking action to start on Instagram or maybe both Facebook messenger too, that’s my goal.

If you haven’t done anything with messenger yet. And then you’ll move on probably to add stuff into Messenger and start to use that as a marketing channel, some of you are going the opposite direction like us, where you’ve been doing things with messenger for a while, you have campaigns running, et cetera.

And now you’re applying that to Instagram, whatever way you go soon, it’ll be a seamless experience where everyone on all three platforms is going to have the same thing going. So that means you’ll have one chatbot that can act on all of them.

Just understand that what you’re learning now, what you’re taking action on gathering data on experimenting with is going to apply to all three channels.

So that’s massive for you to know. The interoperability here is like the ability to message someone from Instagram, Messenger, and Whatsapp. And they don’t even have that app, like the ability to message someone, from Facebook messenger and they’re receiving the message on Instagram.

Think about that from a business perspective. And then, and then you add WhatsApp. And so five years ago, you could only do this on Facebook messenger, hopefully. And I don’t mean we can’t say much, but hopefully at the end of this year, maybe by late year, or next year, all three of these will be fully capable, of having that same experience.

So when I was talking about, consumer behavior and where this is going, if you’re not convinced that this is a staple part of everyday consumer behavior, at this point, once, you know, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger are all interoperable and you can build AI-powered messaging automation on them.

If you’re not convinced at this point, then I think that you need to reevaluate, your understanding of marketing and consumer behavior.

Types of chat marketing

So moving on here, as I was sharing before chat marketing happens within the most popular social networks and messaging apps in the world and within the same ecosystem: the Facebook platform which is capable of connecting messaging automation at scale.

Even though they are all part of the same “Facebook family” they can operate as separate marketing channels with similar approaches that can be powerfully combined in one multichannel strategy, let’s take a look at them.

Facebook Messenger Marketing

Messenger Marketing is the process of getting shoppers interested in your products or collections using the Facebook direct messaging app: Messenger.

The goal is to grow your store by getting more subscribers and customers through more conversations. A Messenger Marketing strategy helps brands connect with customers, provide helpful content, and help them take actions that are meaningful for your retail business, such as guiding shoppers to find the right products, selecting the right size or color, or tracking an order.

Messenger chatbots help drive successful Messenger Marketing efforts through automating conversations so that the support team can narrow their focus on the interactions only when they are needed.

This allows boutiques and brands to engage in marketing activities at a much bigger scale than they might be currently.

Software that uses a smart combination of deterministic rules and artificial intelligence to replicate human conversation. It supports lead generation, personalized marketing, customer service, sales, and more.

Instagram Messaging Marketing

Given that Instagram users spend an average of 53 minutes every day on the platform, it’s no surprise that fashion brands and retailers want to leverage it to increase their sales.

But providing optimal customer service poses a challenge: Manually replying to hundreds — or thousands! — of direct Instagram Messages isn’t feasible for most businesses.

(Note that this isn’t a concern for brands selling on Facebook because Facebook Messenger makes it easy to automate and scale marketing using Messenger Marketing.)

So, what’s a brand to do when they want to embrace Messenger Marketing on Instagram? Facebook now allows select platforms like ManyChat to offer Messenger Marketing features on Instagram.

Instagram DM Automation is finally here, and all of us at Shopp.ai are incredibly excited to add this important channel to the Chat Marketing revolution for fashion retailers.

Are Instagram DM bots legal?

This is a question I get a lot and I know is a public concern for most social media managers and marketing teams.

Instagram bots are legal when they comply with the Instagram Platform Policy. Particular types of Instagram bots (like/follow bots and like/comment bots) violate Instagram’s terms and can be shut down or banned because they result in fake Instagram followers, fake likes, and sporadic bot activity.

That said, ManyChat Instagram bots are 100% legal. Their official partnership with Facebook has allowed them to create fully compliant Instagram bots you can use for your marketing campaigns.

ManyChat is an automation tool that helps you connect with real people, engage with followers, and build meaningful Instagram relationships. There’s nothing fake about it.

Like Messenger Marketing, Instagram bots will support brands-to-customer conversations by automating conversations and shopping processes.

The goal is to answer customer questions, grow your follower count, and generate sales through Instagram’s Messenger feature — all on autopilot.

The Instagram and Facebook team have decided to release access to Instagram Messaging Automation in three phases over the summer. In other words, not everyone will be able to access Instagram Automation immediately.

Implementation stages

Instagram Automation will roll out according to your Instagram account’s number of followers. If you have enough followers to qualify for the phase, you will be able to access Instagram Automation on ManyChat.

Phase 1: Accounts that have between 10,000–100,000 followers

Phase 2: Accounts with more than 1,000–100,000 followers

Phase 3: All Instagram accounts

As of July 7th, 2021, Phase 2 has started!

If your Instagram account has between 1,000–100,000 followers, you can join Instagram Automation by ManyChat today. Go to manychat.com/instagram to get started. If you already have a ManyChat account, simply go to your Settings → Instagram.

If your Instagram accounts have more than 100,000 followers or less than 1,000, then you cannot join Instagram Automation today.

Here are the tentative dates for the start of each phase. These dates are not final, as the Instagram and Facebook teams will ultimately determine when Phase 3 begins. We at Shopp.ai will, of course, provide more guidance as we progress into the summer.

Phase 1: June 2nd, 2021

Phase 2: July 7th, 2021

Phase 3: August 2021

If you want to dive into more detail here’s the official Manychat article that explains all about it.

Innovation stages: Are you a Leader or Laggard?

And now looking at this chart, this is how I’m considering personally Instagram itself because we are a part of the first group of agencies that got access to this after the beta phase ended.

And now, because you’re here with us and you have this opportunity to, it’s only available to a certain group of fashion brands and retailers right now, it’s going to roll out to everybody over the next few weeks.

And so right now you have the opportunity to jump on this where even people who have access, everyone has access to creating a messenger bot, but not many of them are actually able to generate incredible results or take advantage of getting as much our way as they could, as soon as it came out.

And so right now, because you’re here because you have this knowledge and information from us, you have the opportunity to do this and turn this into your top revenue-generating channel.

And look at when TikTok came out, we all kind of knew about it. We heard about it. We thought it was some other shiny object, oh, that’s not interesting. But eventually, everyone had to, you know, get into it.

The people who moved fast on TikTok, got millions of followers, tens of millions of views, things that no aren’t that easy or fast anymore. Now, if you were to try to go and start a TikTok, it would be much harder for you to gain that same benefit as the people who jumped in right in the beginning.

Well, that’s exactly what’s happening right now with Instagram DM bots. You’re going to have this curiosity element where if you’re building good experiences, you’ll see from a marketing standpoint, this is one of the most advantageous things that you can do to produce results.

Like I think that it’s easier. Let’s say to produce results in this new channel than it would be just Facebook ads as like a comparison black and white, right.

Because ads have been around forever and people are used to that and the advantage is not there anymore. Like I think that you, as a store owner or fashion entrepreneur have, it’s a little bit easier for you to get away with producing insane results, whereas you can still produce insane results with Facebook or with, Facebook ads.

Obviously, it’s just not as easy because of the stage that we’re in, in the overall marketing ecosystem.

So let me know if that all makes sense so far because this is really key for you to understand for you to be in the right mindset, to then understand how not only to gain short-term ROI from Instagram, which is the easiest part to understand but how this actually plays a bigger role in your retail business and your online store’s digital marketing ecosystem.

Whatsapp Marketing

Whatsapp marketing is a type of chat marketing, which implies promoting a brand through WhatsApp. This channel helps brands reach an enormous audience, build strong relationships with customers, and increase sales.

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging platform in the world. In 2020, its audience has grown up to 2 billion active users monthly. This marketing channel is a must-have for businesses that want to connect with audiences in developing countries.

WhatsApp marketing allows you to stay in touch with your customers — more than half of WhatsApp users check the app every day. Better yet, you can be sure they will get your offers, as text messages have a 98% open rate.

ManyChat is working with the Business API so that by extension, ManyChat users can send messages to their subscribers on WhatsApp via ManyChat. In other words, don’t worry about it! They got it handled. 😁

As part of the Facebook ecosystem, WhatsApp plans to enable Facebook Shops support, allowing consumers to message a business via WhatsApp with questions about products they see on Shops. (ManyChat will also support this Shops functionality on Instagram and Messenger.

WhatsApp chat is a powerful customer communication messaging tool and has become popular due to its ease of use. Adding WhatsApp Business solution to your omnichannel strategy is cost-effective and can open more opportunities to grow your business.

SMS Marketing

SMS marketing entails sending promotional messages to current and prospective customers through text messages. The messages are designed to communicate special offers, promotions, updates, alerts, and product information to inspire shoppers to take action.

Currently, the eCommerce industry enjoys the most successful use of SMS marketing. Merchants on Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and other similar platforms have seen great results thanks to how easy SMS marketing is to set up and implement. And the reason isn’t far-fetched as SMS marketing often outperforms email and other marketing channels.

What’s interesting on this point is the great opportunity fashion brands and retailers that are wrongly using SMS campaigns with platforms like Klaviyo along with their email campaigns to transform and supercharge your messaging to a personalized experience using customer DATA from Messenger, Instagram AI chatbots, I’ll write about it later.

Elevating your fashion brand’s Multichannel Marketing Strategy with AI

At this point that you probably have a wider understanding of what chat marketing is and how is going to help you get results that aren’t possible without technology, I want to talk about my approach and the strategy that I think any fashion brand should consider before implementing any of this.

In a WWD-produced article called “Elevate Your Multichannel Marketing Strategy With AI,” Marie La France, executive director of corporate strategy at Dash Hudson, joined WWD executive editor Arthur Zaczkiewicz to share insights on using AI to build a marketing strategy, adjusting in a post-COVID-19 world, building brand story and key digital channels.

While coronavirus has caused disruptions and major challenges in business it has also increased reliance on technology and media. Channels such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok have been pushed further into the forefront of daily lives and higher on priority lists for fashion brands and retailers.

Especially as physical spaces have been forced to close, businesses have also had to work through pivoting e-commerce operations.

One challenge these brands must face is that there is no longer one entry point for online shoppers.

“Your organic Instagram feed is now as much of a storefront as your Facebook page as your physical retail used to be,” La France said.

“The urgency here is really strong, so much so that the [chief technology officer] of one of Dash Hudson’s customers, Shopify, tweeted a few weeks back that Shopify is now handling Black Friday level traffic every single day.”

Overall, La France says it is important that brands create a “full-funnel experience.”

“Too often we’re seeing brands only focus on [on-site] style content across their social commerce touchpoints when they need to be taking a data-backed approach to their content at every stage of the funnel, especially now, when you have the opportunity to build brand loyalty,” La France said. “With AI in your toolkit, you can feel confident that you’re optimizing your creative at every single interaction that consumers have with your brand.”

Being available on different conversational channels is the core of any Chat Marketing strategy. As you grow in your marketing practices, you want to evolve from siloed channel management to a cohesive omnichannel presence.

The right timing and message are key to grabbing a potential customer’s attention and driving action.

Final thoughts 💭💭

Combine channels and personalized marketing

No, you’re not dreaming, finally is possible to be where your customers are without building a separate experience for each channel!

Now you can connect with your customers across messaging platforms all from one chatbot that manages all your customer conversations and relationships.

That means more opportunities to reach subscribers and more personalized messaging to fit their preferences. Personalized marketing is about sending the right message at the right time, AND using the right channel!

When to Use Each Channel

Using the right channel at the right time is key when it comes to getting a customer’s attention and driving action. The best medium is first and foremost the one that they choose — if they select a preference, be it Messenger, SMS, or Instagram, you should do your best to interact with them on that platform.

Omnichannel personalization is challenging, but it need not be overwhelming.

Instead of waiting to develop a complete system, fashion brands and retailers should start small, with the highest-value use cases and existing touchpoints, to prove its value.

That’s our proven system for success and one that brands will need to develop as the lines between the digital and physical worlds continue to blend.

Fashion entrepreneurs and store owners often view personalization at scale as a daunting undertaking, requiring millions in IT investments.

But successful players often start small, generate top-line impact quickly — in a matter of weeks, often — and self-fund the initiative after that. Only then can you invest in the automation and institutionalization of new ways of working across the whole organization and operations over time.

I’m here to help with that,

XOXO, Yari ✌️

Founder at shopp.ai. Making fashion shopping personal, conversational and fun again. I just love fashion & A.I., so I created FASHIONBOTS ❤️🤖👩‍🎤