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Conversational Messaging:

The Next Storefront Experience

Consumers want a new type of storefront, and it’s already on their phones.

The Conversational Messaging Era

Storefront experiences have evolved considerably over the last two decades. Physical locations and displays offered personalized customer experiences, which evolved to e-commerce websites and apps offering speed and convenience at scale. 

But, in both of these scenarios, the customer has had the obligation to visit the storefront, whether in person or online. These days, however, we’re seeing a shift in this model. Today’s consumers want businesses to meet them where they’re at, in the channels they prefer most.


Enter the tool driving the next evolution of the storefront: Conversational messaging. Conversational messaging is the ability to communicate directly with a brand at the moment you need them, through channels like SMS, in-app chat, web chat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram.

As new messaging channels crop up and consumers expect more than just one-way bulk messages and notifications, demand for a new kind of storefront has emerged. Here, businesses bring the storefront experience to consumers, offering branded displays of goods and delivering personal service outside of their physical locations, websites, and apps. Consumers can interact with the business at any point in their customer journey within their channel of choice. Our latest research underscores the importance of conversational messaging to put consumers back in the driver’s seat and build trusted relationships that generate loyalty and bottom-line growth.

For this report, Twilio engaged Lawless Research to conduct a survey of 3,900 consumers in 10 countries: Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Mexico, Singapore, United Kingdom, the United States, Indonesia, and India.

Key opportunities

1. Meet consumers in their moment of need through distributed digital storefronts.

77% of consumers want to use conversational messaging to get help with selecting a product or service, and 58% would use messaging channels to purchase a product or service if they had the option.


2. Build better relationships through conversations, not clicks.

80% of consumers would like brands to offer conversational messaging.


3. Earn trust by giving consumers control of the conversation.

95% of consumers say they would trust a brand more if it was easy for them to initiate a conversation.


We’ll explore each of these key opportunities and their implications one by one.


Meet consumers in their moment of need through distributed digital storefronts

What is a distributed digital storefront?

A distributed storefront brings the best of brick and mortar and e-commerce together, giving consumers the ability to engage with brands 1:1 and discover, explore, and eventually purchase products on any channel they happen to be using. For example, a traveler could message a hotel to ask about accessible rooms. A newly married couple could message a bank about which account is best for them. A teen could get recommendations for which skincare products are best for their needs through Instagram. These consumers no longer have to visit a business’s website or app to engage with them.


For businesses, distributed storefronts offer the opportunity to scale while still allowing the personalized engagement that consumers desire.


And how do we know this shift to distributed storefronts is happening? Because people are asking for the end-to-end storefront experience to be brought to them within their messaging channel of choice, and businesses who want to keep up with demand know they need to deliver.

Whether consumers are looking for a product or service, having an easy, accessible way to interact with a business makes the consumer experience more efficient and delightful. Getting questions answered helps consumers make decisions with confidence. Advice and recommendations lend personalization to the buying process. Just by having a human interaction, the everyday exchange of greetings and thank-you’s, can elevate a purchase from transaction to relationship.


Offering conversational messaging allows businesses to have these personal interactions in the channels where consumers spend their time. In this way, they are expanding beyond just physical and digital storefronts — like e-commerce sites and mobile apps — to build distributed digital storefronts.

Our research shows consumers already want to engage with businesses, move their buying process forward, and even complete purchases, all within messaging channels.


More than three-quarters (77%) of consumers want to use conversational messaging to get help with the early stages of buying, as they are learning more about a product or service. Delivering answers at this point in the journey can help guide buyers toward a decision faster. 


And, for 71%, there’s a desire to use conversational messaging to help them when they are further along in the buying process. 

Consumers want to use conversational messaging at various stages of the buying process
of consumers say that they have completed a purchase after contacting a brand through a conversational messaging channel

Messaging with someone, where questions and answers don’t have to fit predetermined templates, helps remove friction. In fact, 74% of consumers believe that using conversational messaging would make the purchase process simpler.


Bringing in added context through zero- and first-party data can help brands further personalize their engagement across all stages of the buying journey. Information like purchase history, demographics, and preferences allow agents to understand customers better, provide targeted recommendations, and have more contextual, productive conversations. There’s good evidence that productive conversations lead to spending, as 67% say they have actually completed a purchase after contacting a brand through a conversational messaging channel.

Finally, 58% of consumers say they would want the option to make purchases directly through conversational messaging channels, if available. Clearly, conversational messaging is not a niche interest — it’s rapidly becoming a preferred and common experience for consumers.

Build better relationships through conversations, not clicks

As e-commerce sites and apps proliferate, consumers have ample opportunity to buy goods and services without ever interacting with another person. They can pick up food without placing an order at the counter, try clothes on virtually in the privacy of their home, and do all their banking from their phone.


They’re also increasingly interrupted by promotional emails and pinged with nonurgent app notifications. The average consumer receives push notifications from six different brands. These impersonal messages arrive according to the business’s schedule, not when the consumer is looking for them, leading to 61% of consumers sometimes, often, or always disabling push notifications.


In a marketplace where self-service and digital transactions have become commonplace, live exchanges have the advantage of novelty and warmth. 

of consumers sometimes, often, or always disable push notifications

When a long, frustrating search of FAQs and help centers doesn’t yield the information you need, it’s a relief to be able to explain exactly what you need and receive help quickly. Rather than prioritizing clicks to static landing pages or your app, focus on providing value to customers and creating meaningful interactions. Give customers the ability to start a conversation with you anytime, anywhere. There’s significant room for improvement on this front — only about 1 in 3 consumers find it very or moderately easy to contact brands through their preferred messaging channel today. So, just making it easier for consumers to talk with you will already differentiate your business.

Only 1 in 3 consumers find it very or moderately easy to contact brands through their preferred messaging channels

Two-way communication is a critical element of relationship-building. The back-and-forth of an exchange helps create connection and fosters confidence in a brand’s commitment to service. Whether they’re interested, uncertain, or stuck on a problem they can’t figure out, consumers want to feel heard, so removing their ability to reply frustrates them.


In our research, 75% of consumers say they are sometimes, to very often, frustrated when they can’t respond directly to a brand’s message. Stand-alone, one-way communication without the ability to handle replies can make consumers feel that their engagement isn’t wanted. It’s like walking around a store, looking for someone to answer a question, and leaving because no one is there to help. 


In Brazil and Singapore, the numbers were even higher: 84% of Brazilian consumers reported being sometimes, to very often, frustrated by the inability to respond directly to a brand’s message, and 77% of consumers in Singapore said the same. 


And we know that frustrating customers is bad for business. In the Twilio State of Customer Engagement Report 2022, 56% of consumers said that they would stop doing business with a company after frustrating customer experiences.

75% of consumers are frustrated when they can’t respond directly to a brand’s message

These results show that two-way communication is no longer a nice-to-have — it’s essential to acquiring and retaining customers, especially in the digital space, where competitors are right there and ready to talk. Offering experiences that consumers want is especially important when economic uncertainty and inflation are top of mind, because consumers are more mindful of where and how they spend their money.

Give your customers the engagement they’re looking for by letting them start and sustain the conversation with you, wherever they are — whether that’s their favorite messaging app, search engine, or social network. 


The request for convenient interactions is loud and clear: 80% of consumers would like brands to offer conversational messaging for whatever needs they may have. With features like quick replies and buttons, messaging makes it easy to sustain two-way conversations and get customers the information they need faster.

And in some parts of the world, the demand for convenient, conversational interactions is even higher than the global average.


Consumers in Indonesia, India, Brazil, Mexico, and Singapore are more likely to want businesses to offer conversational messaging (ranging from 85% in Singapore to 96% in Indonesia).


WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and texting are the most preferred conversational messaging channels when communicating with brands, but preferences differ by region.

Messaging channel preference by region

“[Customers] actually just care, number one, if they try to talk to you, are you there listening? And number two, is it a coherent conversation? Is it completely destroyed across a bunch of different phone numbers and shortcodes, all sorts of software, or does it make sense?"



Earn trust by giving consumers more control

Consumers have greater trust in brands that make it easy to reach out directly and that respond quickly. Trust grows out of promises kept, so being available for customers to make those requests and then following through right away builds a track record of reliability.


Again, we can see that the connection between trust and openness to dialogue is distinct, as an overwhelming 95% of consumers say they would trust a brand more if it was easy for them to initiate a conversation with the brand. Generation X and Baby Boomer consumers trust brands slightly more if they make it easy to initiate a conversation (96%).

of consumers would trust a brand more if it was easy to initiate a conversation

of consumers would be more likely to purchase from a brand if they were able to message them in real-time

And responding is just as important as listening, since 95% of consumers also say they would trust a brand more if they responded quickly to questions.


How quickly? In the moment. A large majority of consumers (88%) say they would be more likely to purchase from a brand online if they were able to message with them in real-time.


Real-time interaction is an important differentiator when consumers demand quick responses. In hours- or days-long gaps between asking for information and getting a reply, your business can fall off a customer’s radar while they move on to a more accommodating business.


Taking a regional view, we see even higher purchasing intent with conversational messaging in a number of countries. More than 9 in 10 consumers in Indonesia, Brazil, India, Mexico, and Singapore are more likely to purchase from a brand online if they’re able to message with them in real-time.

More than 9 in 10 consumers in Indonesia, Brazil, India, Mexico and Singapore are more likely to purchase from a brand if they’re able to message them in real-time

Personalization goes further, unlocking deeper trust as brands not only deliver on the promise of service but also tune that service to the unique consumer’s preferences.


Local businesses can provide this personalization naturally, as staff see and get to know regular customers. The manager at the e-bike store knows which model you bought and checks in on your battery performance. The financial advisor who oversees your education investment account remembers to ask about your kids.


But conversations don’t have to happen face to face to generate this personalization. Messaging interactions enable the same kind of tailored engagement that consumers get at local businesses.


At the same time, the information learned about customers through conversations (zero-party data) can be used to continue personalizing their experiences. This cycle of listening, remembering, and customizing leads to better relationships: 98% of B2C companies say that personalization increases customer loyalty, and 83% of consumers agree (State of Customer Engagement Report, 2022).

Building loyalty then leads to increased spending with your business. Consumers say they would spend 20% more money on average with a brand that offers conversational messaging. This effect is even more pronounced among younger consumers, with 23% of Gen Z and Millennials saying they would spend more on a brand that offers conversational messaging versus one that doesn’t.

Consumers would spend an average of 20% more with brands that offer conversational messaging

Predictions and tips for success

Prediction #1:

In order to scale conversational messaging and build customer trust, businesses will continue to invest in chatbot improvements.

Distributed storefronts today offer personalization and accessibility, but in order for a business to widely implement conversational messaging, it has to strike the right balance between chatbots and real-time agents. And although consumers use chatbots often (on average, consumers had three conversations via chatbot with brands in the past month), they often don’t complete the entire task. More than half of consumers (51%) still needed to speak with an agent after using a chatbot.


Make sure your agents have the context from the chatbot conversation. Ensure that the handoff from bot to agent is as seamless as possible for the customer so they can quickly get more help if they need it. And continue to optimize your workflow by surveying customers and analyzing their interactions with your bot and agents.

of consumers likely to message a brand through an advertisement

Prediction #2:

New entry points like click-to-message ads in social and search will gain popularity as businesses discover them as a faster way to connect with consumers on mobile and improve conversion rates.


Sixty-four percent of all consumers say they are likely to message a brand directly through an advertisement, with Millennials and Gen Z having the strongest likelihood (68%). Consumers in Indonesia, India, Brazil, Mexico, and Singapore have the highest likelihood of engaging with click-to-message ads (70%).


Similarly, 54% of consumers say they’re likely to message brands directly through search results or a social media ad.


Consider the demographics of your audience and where they spend their time when investing in new advertising opportunities. Click-to-message ads are available within channels like Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and were recently announced on Google. Nearly half of consumers turn to Google to search for products, so being available for instant conversations in search opens you up to new potential customers

Prediction #3:

Shopping experiences will continue evolving.


Brick-and-mortar stores have reopened across the globe, but consumers have grown used to the convenience of digital experiences. On top of that, high inflation is forcing consumers to be more thoughtful about the purchases they make. In response, we predict that more businesses will invest in meeting consumers where they are and delivering the real-time answers they need to feel confident about progressing and completing purchases. 


Your customers may be more anxious about spending right now — give them the 1:1 support they need to inspire confidence, grow loyalty, and make informed purchasing decisions. And make the most of your advertising budget by investing in alternative ways to get customers into your database, like click-to-message ads.


Prediction #4:

As businesses scramble to understand their customers in a cookieless world, conversations will present a valuable opportunity to collect zero-party data.


Conversations give businesses an opportunity to learn more about their customers and collect information beyond what would be submitted in a lead-gen form. As third-party cookies disappear, collecting this kind of data directly from customers will be more important than ever.


Consider how you can use conversations to learn more about your customers and synthesize that data to deliver more personalized experiences across every touchpoint.


Prediction #5:

Demand for conversational messaging will continue to grow as Gen Z’s spending power rises.


Gen Z has $360 billion in disposable income, but as the generation of digital natives, they’re more resistant to traditional ads. To connect with Gen Z, brands have to invest in the channels these customers prefer. As our research reveals, Gen Z customers are more likely to want to make purchases through messaging channels and are likely to spend more with brands that offer those channels.


If your click-through rates on traditional digital ads are low for your Gen Z audience, try testing click-to-message ads against your display ads and compare your conversion rates. A customer data platform (CDP) can help you synthesize your data and run more effective targeted campaigns.


The evolution of conversational messaging is here

Consumer preferences for the storefront experience have shifted toward conversational messaging. Whether they’re researching options, getting support, or placing an order, many shoppers want to talk to a person as easily as they can click a button.


This definitive shift in favor of two-way interactions has created opportunities for progressive businesses to meet people’s needs across the customer journey and to develop methods of personalizing experiences based on each customer’s needs, interests, and history. As distributed storefronts open new lines of communication in the same windows where people are chatting with friends and family, businesses can show up with welcome, timely, and helpful exchanges.


Doing so will build consumer trust in the business and its offerings, foster brand loyalty, and drive revenue.


Looking for a conversational solution to support modern sales? Talk to our sales team to learn how Twilio can help you choose the right conversational tool for your business.


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This research was conducted with a 10-minute online survey using Full Circle’s consumer panel, fielded from April 14, 2022 to May 11, 2022. Respondents did not know that Twilio was the sponsor. Lawless Research designed and analyzed the survey, which had 3,900 respondents (between 300 to 1,000 each in Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Singapore, United Kingdom, and the United States).


All respondents met the following criteria:

  • 18-75 years old.

  • Own a smartphone or mobile phone and used it within the past week.

  • Shopped for a product or service online, or using their smartphone, mobile phone, or tablet in the past month.

  • Received a communication from a business or brand by email, text message, messaging app, social media, phone, or a company’s mobile app in the past month.