Rolls Out Chat Tool To Improve Customer Service

What Happened is getting on the chatbot bandwagon as it starts to roll out a chat tool for customers to communicate with the hotel they booked. The messaging tool, built entirely in-house, will be made available via its website and mobile apps first, but the company says it is working on integrating it with some popular messaging apps, including Facebook Messenger. Users can ask hotels questions or make requests with their Booking account, and hotels can initiate a chat with a customer to ask for information about their arrival time and accommodation preferences. does not specify whether the chat tool is powered by a chatbot or real human customer service reps, but it looks to be a mix of both.  

What Brands Need To Do
With the roll-out of this chat tool, joins fellow travel booking sites Kayak and HotelTonight in modernizing their user experience and customer service with messaging. With more and more smartphone users relying on messaging apps as their primary communication channel, it is crucial for brands, especially those in the service industry, to update their touch points and communication channels with messaging tools so as to better serve their customers.

For more information on how brands can effectively reach consumers on messaging apps and other conversational platforms, we recommend reading the Conversational Interfaces section in our Outlook 2016 and our Fast Forward analysis on chat bots.


Source: VentureBeat

Shoppable Ads Coming To Snapchat

What Happened
Snapchat has been steadily building out its ad products to attract advertisers, adding support for branded content and third-party traffic measurement to its platform in recent weeks. Today, the popular messaging app started testing shoppable ads, with Target and Lancôme being the first two brands to test this new ad format with placements in Cosmopolitan’s Discover channel. Users are instructed to swipe up on those ads, which then pull up the mobile sites of these two brands where users can shop for the featured products without leaving the Snapchat app.

What Brands Need To Do
Over the past few months, Snapchat has been experimenting with a variety of ads that ask consumers to swipe up for more content. In February, mobile game Cookie Jam became the first advertiser to run app-install ads on Snapchat. As consumer attention, especially that of the younger generations, increasingly shifts from traditional media to mobile apps, it is imperative that brands follow suit and reallocate their ad budgets. As Snapchat continues to diversify its ad products and make its platform more brand-friendly, we expect more brand advertisers aiming to reach the coveted young Millennials to give it a shot.


Source: AdWeek

Messaging App Kik Launches Chat Bot Shop

What Happened
Kik, a messaging app popular among teens in North America, has officially launched an in-app store for chat bots today. Aiming to build out its platform and attract more brands and publishers, Kik now allows developers to use Kik’s API to create chat bots on behalf of brands and serve users with entertainment content, customer service, and other functions via automated replies. The Washington Post, for example, is working on a chat bot that can surface relevant news stories at readers’ requests. Other brands and media owners that are trying out this Bot Shop include H&M, Vine, and The Weather Channel. The new Bot Shop will be the focal point for their discovery.

What Brands Need To Do
The launch came right on the heels of Microsoft’s debut of its Bot Framework for building cross-platform chat bots last week. Similarly, Facebook also quietly released an SDK that allows developers to build bots for its Messenger app in January. While it is too early to tell how Kik’s Bot Shop will stack up against competitors, it nevertheless provides an interesting new way for brands to connect with young users. With eMarketer predicting that messaging apps will reach 80% of global smartphone users by 2018, brands would be smart to consider experimenting with branded chat bots to reach customers on popular messaging apps.

To learn more about how brands can use chat bots to better serve customers via messaging interfaces, check out our Fast Forward feature on this topic.


Source: AdWeek

Header image courtesy of Kik’s Blog

Fast Forward: Microsoft Rolls Out Conversations As A Platform

• Microsoft announced a major initiative that enables the development of cross-platform bots
• Brands can develop bots to reach customers on messaging apps that are popular among mobile users
• Branded bots are poised to become a crucial tool for brands to get on conversational interfaces

What Microsoft Announced
On Wednesday at its annual developer conference Build, Microsoft unveiled its grand vision for building out the next-gen tools for conversation-based platforms. And at the center of its plan is a bot framework that will allow developers to build cross-platform bots that will enable brands to communicate with customers, enhance services, and gather feedback across websites, social media, messaging apps, and Office 365 email. The BotBuilder SDK is now available on GitHub under an open source MIT license.

Moreover, Microsoft also announced that it’s adding Cortana, Microsoft’s AI personal assistant, and an API for bots to Skype with the launch of Skype Bots Platform. Skype users will soon be able to book trips, shop, or order take-out just by talking with Cortana, who will communicate with third-party party bots to carry out the tasks as needed and aiding in the discovery of new services. The company also previewed the Skype Video Bot, which aims to bring bots into real-time video.

What Brands Need To Do

• Develop useful bots to reach customers on the messaging apps they’re already using
• Take advantage of the emerging popularity of conversational interfaces with messaging-based customer services
Integrate some humanizing touches into automated replies to make users feel more comfortable engaging with bots

For many brands, bots can be a great tool to reach customers on the messaging apps that they are already using. By developing cross-platform bots, brands will be able to tap into the marketing potential in conversational interfaces, which we discussed in detail in our Outlook 2016. Since mobile users spend the majority of their times in social and messaging apps, it is getting increasingly difficult to convince consumers to download an app for tasks that aren’t daily habits. Chat bots can help brands remove the friction in that process and serve customers directly in the places and methods that they are accustomed to.

Furthermore, well-designed bots can create an environment in which users are more willing to share free-form answers to open-ended questions than they would in a formulaic questionnaire, which could uncover valuable insights for brands from regular customer feedback. This kind of software is also much easier to iterate and improve as functionality that users want is requested explicitly and updates can be rolled out without the approval of App Store gatekeepers.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 3.07.33 PMFor travel and hospitality brands, bots can help users look up travel information and book flights and hotel rooms. Hyatt Hotels currently employs of a team of 60 across three global locations to help guests with their customer service needs via social and messaging channels. Earlier this week, KLM airlines announced a partnership with Facebook that will allow KLM customers to receive flight confirmations, check for flight status updates, and ask questions right in Facebook’s Messenger app. Building cross-platform bots with Microsoft’s framework can help automate and expand these use cases to more platforms and reach more customers.

For restaurants and QSR brands, bots can be of great help in handling online orders and gathering customer feedback. Microsoft showcased a Domino’s Pizza bot created with the BotBuilder framework, which works in multiple apps such as Skype and Slack and supports natural language interactions.

For retailers, bots can be a great tool for product recommendations while also allowing retailers to sell directly to users on messaging apps. For example, Sephora recently created a bot on messaging app Kik that will guide users through a short quiz and offer them a customized product recommendation based on the answers users give.

Market Impact
Microsoft is hardly the only company that wants to help developers and brands build bots. All major players in the development of conversational interfaces, from big companies such as Facebook and Google to messaging apps like Kik and Slack, have all announced their own programs and tools to help brands build bots to communicate with consumers. What Microsoft announced on Wednesday, however, will make it a lot easier for developers and brands to build bots that will work across various marketing channels and touchpoints. The coming proliferation of bots should also propel the mainstream adoption of conversational interfaces, which would change the rules of search and content discovery and further alter brand-customer interactions.

How We Can Help
Please contact Client Services Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) at the IPG Media Lab if you would like more detail or want to schedule a visit to the Lab to discuss how your brand may benefit from integrating with messaging apps and voice platforms.

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit Please reply with any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your input will help us immensely.


All images courtesy of Microsoft’s developer site

ComScore To Measure Snapchat Discover Traffic

What Happened
Following its deal with Nielsen to provide brand advertisers with some transparency on how many times their ads are shown, Snapchat is now reportedly teaming up with online measurement firm comScore to bring traffic measurement to the Discover channels, Snapchat’s content portals for publisher partners. By introducing a respected third-party like comScore, Snapchat can offer advertisers a clear idea of how many views each of the Discover channels receives. Last October, Snapchat started allowing brands to sponsor non-permanent Discover channels to showcase their branded content, and on Monday, Burberry became the first luxury brand to get its own Discover channel.

What Brands Need To Do
This partnership should bring more transparency to Snapchat ads, enabling brand advertisers to choose which Discover channels to advertise in. It also puts pressure on publishers to improve their content quality and compete to attract more traffic to their Discover channels, which would in turn bring in more eyeballs for brand advertisers. As Snapchat offers more clarity on its ad performance, brands looking to reach the app’s young-skewing users will have more data to adjust their Snapchat campaigns with accordingly.

Source: Digiday

Branded Content and Customizable Ads Coming To Snapchat

What Happened
Snapchat made two moves this week to ramp up its ad efforts. On Wednesday, the popular photo messaging app started testing a new ad product that allows brand advertisers to attach branded articles containing text, images, and GIFs to their video ads in Live Stories and Discover channels. AT&T appears to be the first brand to try out this new product with a listicle of GIFs to promote its mobile live-streams for NCAA games. Earlier this week, Snapchat also updated its privacy policy to allow for ad targeting. Under the revised privacy policy, the Los Angeles-based company will be able to use customer data to customize ads going forward, increasing its capabilities for brand advertisers and catching up with the other large social networks.

What Brands Need To Do
Snapchat has been working on improving its ad products for the past few months. In February, the company struck a deal with Nielsen to bring some much-needed transparency to its ads. As Snapchat continues to diversify its ad products, brands will have better tools at their disposal to effectively reach the coveted demographics of young Millennials and teens on the app.


Source: Marketing Land & Digiday

KLM Airline Integrates Into Facebook Messenger

What Happened
KLM has become the first airline to integrate with Facebook’s messaging app in order to reach customers where they already are. The Netherlands-based airline has announced a partnership with Facebook that will allow KLM customers to receive flight confirmations and digital boarding cards, check for flight status updates, and ask questions directly in the Facebook Messenger app. The integration kicks off today and will roll out globally “in the coming days and weeks.”

What Brands Need To Do
Messaging apps are dominating time spent on mobile devices as more and more mobile users start using them as their primary communication platforms. eMarketer forecasts that the number of messaging app users worldwide will reach 2 billion by 2018 which will be 80% of smartphone users. KLM has seen a 40% increase in customer feedback since it activated the Messenger button on their Facebook Page last year to allow customers to contact KLM via private messaging. It is clear that customers like this way of communicating with brands, the same way they communicate with everyone else. Therefore, brands need to follow their customers and consider integrating their customer communications into popular messaging apps.

To learn more about how brands can navigate the unique challenges that messaging apps presents, check out the Conversational Interfaces section in our Outlook 2016.


Source: VentureBeat

Snapchat Inks Nielsen Deal To Offer Better Ad Measurement

What Happened
Snapchat has struck a deal with leading audience measurement firm Nielsen to give brand advertisers a better idea of how their ads are performing on Snapchat. With this new partnership, brands can get the third-party stats they need from Nielsen to gauge the performance of their video ads featured in the app’s Live Stories and Snapchat Discover, Snapchat’s content portal featuring a variety of publishers, such as MTV, CNN, Daily Mail, and ESPN. In addition, Snapchat has also reached agreements with ad-tech firms Innovid and Sizmek to further improve its ad measurement.

What Brands Need To Do
This partnership should bring more transparency to Snapchat ads, enabling brand advertisers to measure Snapchat campaigns through the lens of Nielsen Ad Ratings and compare the performance of their ads across different content portals. As Snapchat offers more clarity on its ad performance, brands looking to reach the app’s young-skewing users will have more data at their disposal, which they should utilize to adjust their Snapchat campaigns accordingly.


Source: AdWeek

Facebook To Allow Brands To Send “Ads” To Customers On Messenger

What Happened
Facebook is reportedly planning to allow brands to send unsolicited messages to customers that have previously started a conversation with them on the Messenger app. The social network has been working on making its messaging platform more business-friendly since its F8 developer conference last March, adding support for business accounts and encouraging users to chat with brands on Messenger app. Some early-adopting brands, such as Hyatt Hotels, have already started using Facebook Messenger as a customer service tool.

What Brands Need To Do
While this is a bit different from advertising to users on messaging platforms via an ad network, this new feature should give brands more initiative in communicating with customers on Messenger and leverage established connections to raise awareness for new products or encourage repeat purchases with value offers. Nevertheless, brands need to be cautious with the frequency and relevance of their messages so as not to turn off customers.

For more information on how brands can adapt to conversational interfaces and effective reach consumers on messaging platforms, check out our Outlook 2016,


Source: TechCrunch

The New Quartz App Will Text You The News

What Happened
Quartz, a subsidiary of Atlantic Media, is taking an innovative approach to deliver content to a mobile audience with the launch of its new iOS app. The new app sends users snippet of news curated by editors via a messaging interface, along with occasional sparkles of emojis and Gifs. Upon receiving the news, users can choose from a few canned responses to indicate whether they are interested in learning more about the news item or move on to the next one. Breaking news will be delivered via notifications to keep readers in the loop, and banner ads will also be displayed in the messaging interface.

What Brands Need To Do
By employing a messaging interfaces, Quartz is able to transform news consumption into a texting-like experience that most mobile users are already familiarized with, therefore better engaging with its audience. Conversational interfaces, whether voice-based like Amazon Echo or text-based as this new Quartz app is, is an emerging trend in UI design, presenting new challenges in building  brand-consumer touch points that brands need to adapt to.

For more information on how brands can develop authentic brand voice on those interfaces and navigate the new discovery systems it brings outside of standard SEO, check out the Conversational Interfaces section in our Outlook 2016.

Update 2/16: It appears that Quartz has added some more “native-looking” ads into the app, as the following screen grab shows.

Quartz News app native ads


Source: The Verge