Brands around the world dealt with more online-messaging conversations, reports a study conducted by a chatbot-messaging firm.

The number of conversations between consumers and brands using messaging channels such as WhatsApp and custom-built apps has surged in the past 12 months, according to new data released by AI-messaging firm LivePerson. Messaging conversation in Asia and the Pacific (APAC) have grown 13% monthly over the past 12 months: there are now 4.5 times more message conversations taking place than the same time last year.

The firm asserts that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this shift, with messaging volume more than doubling (up 103%) since the start of the year. March and April 2020 also saw significant increases—including a 27% increase during a single three-week period—as many countries announced a state of emergency and economic lockdowns.

In addition, regional data for the Asia-Pacific region (APAC) shows: 

  • WhatsApp conversation volumes are 3.2 times greater than they were at the start of the year, and growing by 7% every week
  • In-App conversations surged in late March and are now 2.6 times higher than they were in January, growing by 5% every week
  • The number of Apple Business Chat (‘iMessage’) conversations are 2.4 times greater than the start of the year, growing by 6% every week
  • Web messaging has nearly doubled since the beginning of the year, growing 4% every week

Commenting on the data, LivePerson’s Regional Manager for APAC Wee Tee Lim said the way people want to communicate with brands is changing, and COVID-19 has simply sped up the digital transformation of many companies. “Our data reveals that COVID-19 has resulted in the take up of messaging channels surging as companies managed the closure of store fronts and customer-facing roles due to health and safety concerns. However, this shift to messaging has not happened overnight. It has been driven by demand for a better customer experience, and by companies making the right decisions for the future. The reality is that customers don’t want to talk on the phone for long periods or have to wait on hold. We want to use our favorite messaging channels, when it suits us, like we do with family and friends.”

Wee said that smart companies are picking up on this trend, and those that do not will risk being left behind. “In fact, we predict that most, if not all of the companies that have pivoted to messaging in response to COVID-19 will embrace it permanently. This is good news for customers who want the convenience and immediacy of messaging conversation, and good news for companies who want to future-proof their business”

Other observations by the firm gleaned from the study across the APAC region include:

  • The retail industry in the region experienced a 126% surge in conversations from mid-April to mid-May as storefronts closed and consumers turned to e-commerce solutions for purchases
  • A record number of conversations took place in the travel sector as consumers sought information, cancellations, flight refunds and credits in March, before engagement dropped in April once the reality of global travel restrictions set in. Specifically, conversations grew by 78% from February to March before falling sharply in April, May and June.
  • Telecommunications conversations grew 67% between February and June 2020 as companies dealt with a surge of enquiries related to connection issues and requests for data plan and service information as millions of people moved to remote-working juggled home-based learning using online platforms.
  • The insurance industry saw weekly conversations almost double from mid-February to mid-March, as consumers sought clarification on policy details and payment options amid growing concerns about the impact of the pandemic.

“This period has been really tough for brands and their customer contact staff but it’s resulting in innovation. Brands are realizing that messaging creates a better and safer work environment for their staff, that technology can help them do their jobs better, and that many customers often prefer engaging with them using messaging conversation instead of a telephone call. We believe this shift to messaging-based conversation is really about what is best for people throughout Asia and the Pacific—including both contact centre staff and consumers,” Lim said.