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Messaging apps have significant potential as platforms for marketing communication, customer service and e-commerce. This week Facebook announced Messenger for Businesses and positioned it as a tool to provide all three functions for brands. Based on Facebook’s vision, online shoppers could opt to open a Messenger thread with retailers after completing an order and consolidate all purchase-related communication in that thread. These shoppers could also reorder items via Messenger, which now enables digital payments within the platform. Everlane and Zulily are partnering with Facebook for the service’s launch.

So far most brand experimentation with messaging tools has occurred in Asia, the home base of popular apps Kakao Talk, Line and WeChat. Brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Maybelline New York, Neutrogena and Huggies have integrated commerce on Chinese service WeChat, which offers a shopping function and a payment tool. As of last July, however, only a minority of L2 Index brands were leveraging WeChat’s customer service and e-commerce functionality.

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Uniqlo is a standout among brands experimenting with messaging apps in Asia. The retailer has close to 3.6 million Korean followers on KakaoTalk Plus Friend, a platform that enables KakaoTalk users to connect with brands by subscribing to updates, events and promotions via instant messages.

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The messaging opportunity is one that won’t be ignored for long. Combined, the 10 biggest messaging apps now claim more than 3 billion users. And users tend to be highly engaged: Chinese WeChat users now spend an estimated 1,100 minutes a month on average using the app.

For more on how brands in Japan and Korea are reaching customers using messaging apps, download our Japan & Korea Luxury report.

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