In these uncertain times, SMEs can count on what they do best: speaking to their customers

France is a country with almost 4 million small and medium-sized enterprises *. One of my best childhood memories is the neighborhood toy store I used to go to with my grandparents. I came out with the last figure of the moment to complete my collection! I remember the shopkeeper knew my whole family. He always took the time to welcome us and chat with us.

This story will appeal to many small retailers who have a special bond with their customers. They play an important role in key moments in life and are an integral part of our daily life.

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The conversation is easy.

Whether it was the friendly toy shop owner telling me the latest news, the local greengrocer calling us when he received a new shipment of fruit and vegetables, or just informal conversations with the pharmacist about a festival. In the years to come, conversation has been the focus of business since its inception. It flows naturally, has been anchored in us for thousands of years. We want to be able to ask questions and get advice before buying so that we can have peace of mind in our decisions.

However, the pandemic has disrupted the lives of millions of small traders who have been forced to close all or part of their doors. This new reality has driven more consumers to shop online and has forced many small business owners to expand their online presence and, in some cases, even take their first steps online. While many of them don’t necessarily have the resources to compete with ecommerce giants, they can adapt quickly and have easy access to powerful and free technology. So how do they manage to stand out? Through messaging services and online conversations.

The conversation takes place online from the counter to the screen

We have long known that consumers want to talk to retailers they like. They want to be able to ask their questions and get an answer and the trend is only picking up. However, traditional means of communication such as telephone or e-mail are too slow and unreliable. They don’t offer the convenience of online messaging that enhances the brand experience. According to a study by Facebook IQ, 61% of people believe that

Messages are the easiest and most convenient way to contact a company. And 65% of the study participants, all generations together, state that they are more likely to buy from a retailer they can reach by email.

Since the initial lockdown began, the number of messages exchanged with businesses has skyrocketed. Over the past year, the total number of daily conversations between consumers and businesses on Messenger and Instagram has increased by more than 40% (or nearly 20 billion messages exchanged). The reasons for this phenomenon are obvious: whether for consumers or companies, the desire to be able to communicate despite the circumstances.

The key: an instant response, even if it’s automated

Online messaging reproduces the natural interaction that takes place when shopping in a store. This makes sharing more human, personal, and convenient than flipping through help pages on a website. Getting an instant answer to your question is more reassuring than waiting for an email. Even if companies use chatbots, for example, to answer frequently asked questions (opening times, address), the interaction is immediate and personal: two important criteria for the customer. According to a study published by HubSpot, 90% of customers think it is important, even very important, that their questions are answered immediately.

Automation is a real-time saver for companies when it comes to answering simple questions. This allows the dealer to focus on the more complex needs and what they do best: relationship building and selling. Another benefit for the retailer is that messaging allows the entire conversation to be maintained: customers and companies can pick up where they left off without looking for details from previous discussions.
Not only are small businesses the backbone of the economy, but I believe that with the entrepreneurial spirit of merchants, some of them will be able to innovate with the services available on our messaging platforms. I have so many fond memories of shopkeepers like those in my children’s toy store. What a pleasure to know that we are developing the right tools and services to help small businesses around the world and create lasting memories for generations to come.

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