Google and Bing both released in-SERP messaging functionality this week. The functionality allows searchers to send chat messages to businesses directly from the search results; businesses can then directly engage and respond to enquiries.
Google is inviting select businesses to participate in the initial pilot program and is providing set up instructions only to those on the pilot.
Once on board, the businesses’ Google My Business profiles will have an additional clickable icon that allows searchers to message them directly.
Bing seems to have had a much wider rollout and is giving businesses the option to choose whichever messaging option they want: SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and so on, whereas Google is restricting businesses participating in the pilot to SMS and Google Allo.
After clicking on the link to “chat online” with a representative, you are then connected with the business via their chat program of choice. There’s nothing Bing-specific about this new feature, considering it relies on third party messaging tools — which could be anything from native chat functionality to Facebook Messenger. This feature appears only to be available in the US at the moment.
Engaging with consumers with online chat and messaging services is a great way to increase conversion rates and connect with a potential customer you may have otherwise missed out on.
There are dangers with this, however: if you do get an invitation to participate, consider your ability to engage and quickly respond to enquiries. Google even warns that if your response times are too slow they will terminate your trial. More importantly, consumers will be expecting a quick response and failing to provide one will damage your brand’s reputation.
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