Customer Messaging: The Ultimate Guide

Reviews of the best apps that let you leverage Facebook, WhatsApp, and iMessage to grow your business.
Hero illustration of a group of people and chat bubbles.

February 6, 2019

Written by Mason Mitchel

What we cover in this article

20 min read

  • An overview of messaging
  • The benefits of messaging for businesses
  • A comprehensive review of the best messaging products

Globally, 2.5 billion people use messaging apps on a daily basis. That’s one-third of the world population, and this number is projected to continue to rise. To connect with these audiences, businesses are rapidly embracing customer messaging, which allows them to easily reach new clients and nurture existing ones to grow revenues.

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of B2C (business to consumer) messaging and its functionalities, look at the main platforms available, as well as seven leading companies whose products can help your business maximize its messaging experience.

Illustration of a world map. On each continent there are illustrations of avatars and chat bubbles next to their heads. They are linked by lines, indicating that messaging is a global form of communication.

Customer Communications: Ripe for Change 

For over twenty years now, email has been a staple form of communication for marketers and customer care teams alike. In its heyday, email was a revolutionary new tool for businesses looking to broaden their appeal and reach customers more effectively. But, even the sharpest tool becomes dull after too much use.

For example, if you send out an email marketing blast, the chances of your email being opened and read depend on a lot of factors that are beyond your control. If your target audience happens to be checking their email out of boredom on the commute  home, then you might be in luck. However, if they’re sitting at their desk, rushing to meet a deadline, and receive five similar emails concurrently–then the chances of yours being opened are slim to none. There’s simply too much traffic.

In fact, according to recent data from mailchimp, the average email open rate across all industries is approximately 20%. That means 80% of the time your email marketing efforts are made in vain. It’s not hard to see that email as a channel is overcrowded and ineffective.

Illustration of a man with a megaphone. Behind him is a computer and several envelopes meant to represent emails.

As for customer service, it’s increasingly becoming obvious (if it hasn’t already been for quite some time) that the traditional methods of communication are outdated and tired. Fewer and fewer people–especially millennials–make actual phone calls, the response turnaround time for email is too sluggish, and live chat, while advantageous compared to the first two options, requires you to be tethered to a desktop computer.

Fortunately, the way that businesses and consumers communicate is being disrupted by a technology that many of us have already come to know and love–messaging. Also referred to as instant messaging or texting, messaging is an asynchronous form of digital communication that allows two or more parties to casually converse in a manner that is open and ongoing. Some popular messaging apps that you’re probably familiar with are iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Viber.

Graph showing the number of mobile users worldwide that use messaging apps. The figure is in the billions, which highlights the importance of customer messaging for businesses.

For approximately four years now, many companies have been conversing with their clients through Facebook Messenger for Business. And in March of 2018, Apple launched its own service–Business Chat–which allows customers to directly contact companies via iMessage. Recently, Facebook-owned WhatsApp entered the B2C messaging space with the launch of WhatsApp Business API.

There’s definitely a lot of momentum in the industry. Why is that? Let’s take a closer look.

Messaging Is The Way Forward 

One of the more obvious reasons that tech giants like Facebook and Apple are focusing their efforts on B2C messaging is actually pretty simple: there’s a huge audience. There are over 1.3 billion active users of Messenger, 1.5 billion of WhatsApp, and there are 1.3 billion iOS devices in circulation. Internet users, by and large, can be found dwelling in mobile messaging apps. Why not reach out to them where they’re active and make yourself accessible there, too?

Additionally, according to a study from Facebook, the majority of Americans who were surveyed say they feel more confident about a brand if they’re able to message with them. This can be attributed to the fact that messaging is infinitely easier than the traditional channels of communication.

Picture of world map and stats showing that in four major mobile markets the majority of people surveyed prefer messaging businesses. Important figures for companies considering customer messaging.
Data Source: Facebook

For instance, if someone is chatting with their friends on Messenger and they think of a question they’d like to ask a company, all they have to do is enter said company’s name in the search field, send their question, and then go back to chatting with their friends while waiting for a response.

At this point, we’ve established the fact that B2C messaging is valuable in terms of potential reach and customer preference, but there are other measurable benefits that need to be highlighted, as well.

Marketing and Customer Service Made Easy

One of the major perks of messaging is that it’s widely-used and much less formal than other means of communication. That’s certainly not the only advantage, however. From a marketing perspective*, here are some other great tasks you can accomplish with B2C messaging:

  • Drive customer acquisition
  • Foster lead generation
  • Streamline e-commerce
  • Incentivize sales with coupons and loyalty programs
  • Provide access to online inventory
  • Create content subscriptions to boost customer engagement
  • Upsell products and offer suggestions
  • Remind customers to finalize purchases in their shopping carts
  • Directly process transactions
  • Deliver tickets, and boarding passes

*Currently, Facebook is the only platform that allows for customer service and marketing use cases. For the time being, Apple and WhatsApp’s messaging products are solely customer service-focused.

As you can see, messaging isn’t only convenient, it’s multi-functional in a way that other channels aren’t. The same can be said for the customer service applications of messaging, which allow you to easily do the following:

  • Create a unified record of conversations with customers
  • Collaborate effectively with colleagues through a shared inbox
  • Automate responses to commonly asked questions
  • Seamlessly redirect complex questions to humans

By combining all of the aforementioned marketing and customer service functions on one platform, your organization can streamline its workflow and save money. In fact, messaging is 75% less expensive than other communication channels like phone and email and it boasts a tenfold return on investment.

Facebook Messenger 


Facebook started allowing customers interact with businesses through Messenger in March of 2015. In many ways this began the B2C industry shift towards messaging. To quickly recap: Facebook for Business allows customers to easily contact a company through their Facebook page via chat to inquire about common questions, resolve customer service issues, ask for personalized suggestions, and more.

What benefit does this pose to businesses? For one, enabling Messenger on your businesses’ Facebook page essentially provides your customers with the option to easily contact you for customer service at their convenience.

Infographic detailing the rise in total Facebook Messenger users globally since April 2014.

Also, it allows you to efficiently store records of conversations with current or prospective clients for future reference, and create automated responses (through automation) to frequently asked questions, thus allowing you and your team members to focus on more involved requests.

Furthermore, there are quite a few programs on the market, which we’ll examine later in this piece, that make it possible to create sophisticated marketing campaigns within Messenger.

Apple Business Chat

Hot on the heels of Facebook is Apple, which launched its B2C messaging service Business Chat in March of last year. Business Chat, which comes included in the latest iOS (11.3), will allow users to search for companies in Maps, Safari, and Search in order to directly communicate with them through iMessage. Customers will also be provided with the opportunity to place orders and make payments with Apple Pay, as well as schedule appointments. Apple’s iMessage uses end-to-end encryption, which makes it very secure.

Image source: MacRumors

Apple not only wants to provide businesses and their customers with the option to chat as a means to resolve basic problems–the company wants to leverage the technology to make customer service more personalized and meaningful. Here’s how a few enterprise companies are already using that to their advantage.

  • Lowe’s Home Improvement allows customers to chat with a live customer service representative and ask for advice and recommendations on home improvement projects. Customers also have the option to reschedule deliveries.
  • Those looking for a personalized bouquet arrangement can send 1-800-Flowers a snapshot of flowers they like and receive suggestions of local options from a representative.

The above mentioned businesses are just a few of several that are already using Apple’s Business Chat beta program. Other major companies include Discover, Marriott International, T-Mobile and more. A complete list can be found on Apple’s website.

It’s important to note that, at the moment, Apple Business chat does not allow for the integration of bot platforms to create automations or ad platforms to drive messaging growth. This means that the product is customer service centric and does not yet offer any outbound marketing capabilities.

WhatsApp Business API 


Facebook-owned WhatsApp has also recently thrown its hat into the B2C messaging ring with the launch of WhatsApp Business API. WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users, which makes it the most widely-used messaging app in the world. The the platform hasn’t been fully released, the potential benefit it will pose to businesses and their communications strategies is monumental.

WhatsApp Business API was designed to help large enterprises communicate with their customers at scale. Much like Apple’s Business Chat, WhatsApp Business API will also allow customers to direct customer service-related questions to businesses using WhatsApp. Businesses will be able to send users automated, personalized messages. However, the users must opt-in first.

Infographic with stats on how many people use WhatsApp on a daily basis around the world.

Users have long favored WhatsApp for its end-to-end encryption, which provides a private, non-intrusive messaging service. This will create a more user-friendly messaging experience for customers, as there will be restrictions on advertising and promotional content.

Additionally, this extra level of security will also allow companies to send customers sensitive documents like flight tickets, boarding passes, movie tickets, order confirmations, and more.

From a businesses perspective, WhatsApp Business API will no doubt be attractive to enterprise companies, as the API can easily be integrated to sync with existing programs like CRM and accessed by multiple teams. The platform will allow businesses to monitor metrics for campaigns like how many users have opted-in and how many messages were delivered or seen.

As a final note: WhatsApp Business API, like Apple Business Chat, is also currently only suited for customer service-based functions.

The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Chatbots

Now that you’re aware of the main channels of customer messaging, you’ll be happy to know that there are a handful of supplementary messaging products designed to help you manage your inbound and outbound communications even more effectively. Enter messenger chatbots.

Some of you may remember, not long after Facebook made Messenger available to businesses, the advent of messenger chatbots. These chatbots were programmed to possess a working knowledge of a business, chat with its customers via Messenger, and answer their questions. They were all the rage for a moment, but quickly fell out of fashion.

Illustration of two humans. One is holding a smartphone; the other a laptop computer. There are chat bubbles, each containing a chatbot, coming out of both electronic devices.

The reason being is that most chatbots are programmed to “converse” using what’s called decision-tree logic. They are trained to give a text output dependent on a keyword input. For example, if you’re on the Facebook page of a shoe retailer, strike up a chat with a bot and say, “I need help buying sneakers,” the response that is generated stems from one of the five words in the sentence you wrote.

This isn’t how humans naturally process language, which explains why chatbots, at first, weren’t well-received. However, AI is developing at breakneck speed and bots are becoming increasingly sophisticated thanks to what’s called Natural Language Processing (NLP).

Though chatbots didn’t meet initial expectations, the technology itself wasn’t entirely scrapped. Quite the opposite, in fact. Fast forward a few years and you’ll find that there are several companies competing in the chatbot market space. Some of them have done a really impressive job of fine-tuning chatbots, too.

Soon, we’ll take a look at a handful of companies that have successfully revived chatbots by seamlessly integrating them into existing workflows rather than relying on them to fully automate tasks.

First, we’ll need to define a few basic terms to provide you with a baseline knowledge of messenger chatbots, as well as pinpoint a few features that are essential when deciding which product is best for your company.

Bot Definitions and Necessary Features

These are some of the most common terms you’ll come across when reading the product reviews in this article. They might sound very technical and jargony, but with a little explanation, they’re quite easy to grasp.

  • Broadcasts: Messages you can send to all of your subscribers at once.
  • Broadcast Sequences: A series of messages which are sent automatically over time.
  • Tags/Filters: These allow you to segment your audience based on the actions they take inside your chatbot.
  • Custom Fields: A function within a messaging application that allows you to store arbitrary, but relevant details pertaining to customers.
  • API: A software tool that acts as a middleman between two applications or programs by receiving requests and sending responses.
  • Integrations: Combination of two programs or applications to achieve a function. For example, Airy Messenger offers an integration with Facebook Messenger.
  • CRM: Short for Customer Relationship Management, a CRM system helps companies manage conversational records with customers, as well as their data.
  • Channel: In terms of messaging, a channel refers to a messaging application like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
  • E-Commerce Payments: Ability to process payments directly in a messaging application without visiting an external website.
Illustration of a chatbot next to a computer and other office equipment.

These definitions should give you a basic understanding of the mechanics of chatbots, but that’s not all you need to know when comparing products. Virtually every messenger is marketed as being an innovative solution for communications. However, buyer beware: not every messenger is built the same. When shopping around, be sure to keep these very important features in mind.

Shared Inbox

One of the most attractive features of messenger chatbots is that they allow you to redirect messages to a separate inbox. This is a huge plus considering that the inbox for Facebook’s Business Manager begins to experience glitches after approximately 1,000 messages have been received. That’s a low threshold for businesses that rely on Facebook for their communications strategy.

However, this perk is best maximized with a collaborative inbox that allows your team to respond to messages in unison, assign conversations to one another, and prioritize customers with custom tags and filters. Having the option to access your inbox across multiple platforms–web, tablet, and mobile devices–is indispensable in this process.

Reliable Notifications

Fast response time is another great benefit of messaging. Incoming queries can usually be automated. In the event that they can’t be resolved by automation, they’ll seamlessly be passed on to a human agent. However, the appeal of quick turnaround times is lost if those messages aren’t seen in a timely manner.

Illustration of several types of electronic devices accompanied by chat bubbles/notifications.

Therefore, you’ll want to make sure that the product you choose notifies you of requests in real time. Once again, this is where having access to your inbox across multiple devices will prove to be instrumental, as it increases the chances that one of your team members won’t miss alerts.

Convincing Automations

Finally, it’s not enough to have the option to automate responses, they need to be effective, convincing, and mimic human conversation as much as possible.

Furthermore, be sure to get the most for your money by choosing a messenger with automations that can generate personalized content subscriptions and marketing campaigns.

The idea is to create the perfect balance between technology and humans–not to repeat the chatbot failures of 2016.

You’ll get a sense for the quality of each company’s automations through the product videos on their sites, online reviews, and by signing up for free subscription plans of trials when available.

Now let’s examine seven companies whose chatbot messengers should be on your shortlist.

Airy Messenger


Airy Messenger enables companies to redirect messages from Facebook Messenger to Airy’s platform, which is accessible via the web, iOS, and Android. Here users can manage all inbound and outbound conversations individually or collaborate with colleagues through a shared inbox.

From a customer service perspective, Airy Messenger boasts several advantages: Intelligent Automations that seamlessly know when to defer to a live agent, visually appealing interactive templates, saved replies, and the ability to easily spot high-priority customers with in-depth tagging, filters, and rating systems.

In terms of marketing, Airy Messenger brings a lot to the table, as well. Marketers can also make use of the product’s Intelligent Automations to send broadcasts and create personalized content subscriptions to bolster user engagement.

Airy also offers assistance with targeted Facebook ads to grow messaging volume and foster customer acquisition.

Currently, Airy Messenger offers an integration for Facebook Messenger and is able to provide brands with access to Apple Business Chat and WhatsApp.

Customers can choose from three subscription plans: FreeBasic, and Advanced.

Free: Includes Unified Messaging Inbox, Saved Replies & Templates, Customer Tags, Ratings & Filters

Basic: $49 per month and includes all features from free plan plus Basic Automations, Customer Feedback Templates, and Basic Analytics

Advanced: $199 per month and includes all features from basic plan plus Advanced Automations, Messaging Campaigns, and Advanced Analytics.

More information on pricing can be found here.

Airy Messenger Pros: Intelligent automations, feature-rich templates, broadcasts, customer tags and ratings, marketing automations, customer acquisition, dedicated iOS and Android apps, Facebook Marketing Partner

Airy Messenger Cons: Currently doesn’t offer e-commerce payment feature.


Chatfuel creates Facebook Messenger bots to assist with marketing, sales, and support. Registration is easy and with a few simple clicks of the mouse, users are redirected to the Chatfuel dashboard. Here users can manage all aspects of their bots, craft feature-rich templates, respond to inbound messages, schedule broadcasts, view analytics, create Facebook ad campaigns, and more.

One attractive feature of Chatfuel is the option to choose from several pre-made templates–both free and paid–that allow users to take advantage of the benefits of their chabot. For example, there are templates for specific verticals like dentists, realtors, and fitness clubs.

On the downside, Chatfuel users are limited to the web app since the company does not offer a mobile app.

Chatfuel offers three subscription plans: FreePro, and Premium.

Free: Up to 5,000 subscribers and essential tools to automate your Messenger inbox

Pro: Starts from $15 a month and offers unlimited subscribers, a full-featured and branding-free bot, assistance with Facebook ads, and priority support.

Premium: Starts from $300 a month and offers unlimited subscribers, a full-featured and branding-free bot, assistance with Facebook ads, VIP support, a dedicated account manager, and bot building help.

More information can be found here.

Chatfuel Pros: 30-day money back guarantee, ability to export data to Facebook Ads Manager to create targeted ads, e-commerce feature, several pre-existing templates to choose from, Facebook Marketing Partner

Chatfuel Cons: No dedicated app for iOS or Android, message notifications can easily be missed, unresponsive customer service.



Conversocial offers cloud-based social customer service solutions by integrating conversations from a variety of social media sites and messengers, including Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, Youtube, SMS, and Google+ on one platform.

Like the other products mentioned in this article, Conversocial’s platform makes use of AI to offer bot/human assisted service. This allows for intelligent routing and prioritization of conversations to ensure that clients receive the best possible customer care.

Conversocial allows companies to gain insight into customer satisfaction by gauging CSAT, NPS, and sentiment conversion. Another perk is that Conversocial can seamlessly be integrated with CRMs like Salesforce, Zendesk, Oracle service cloud, and Pega.

Unfortunately, Conversocial doesn’t offer a straightforward pricing plan on their website. Subscriptions are offered on a case-by-case basis. More information for can found here.

Conversocial Pros: Integration for several different messaging channels, dedicated app for iOS and Android, Facebook Marketing PartnerInstagram Partner.

Conversocial Cons: Quote-based pricing model.


Another company that enables businesses to integrate conversations from multiple channels is LivePerson which allows users to redirect inbound messages from Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Line, Google RCS, SMS, Google AdLingo, and Apple Business Chat to a unified inbox that’s accessible via LivePerson’s web and mobile apps.

Users can easily create and manage bots to automate responses to conversations using LivePerson’s BotStudio, which empowers employees that might not be technically savvy to build chatbots with ready-to-use templates.

LivePerson subscribers can leverage the company’s platform for marketing, sales, and customer service. Additionally, they offer tailor-made solutions for specific industries like retail, FinServ, travel, insurance, education, and automotive.

Similar to Conversocial, LivePerson doesn’t offer a clear cut pricing model on their website. Instead, one must request a quote that is determined on a case-by-case basis.

More information can be found here.

LivePerson Pros: 30 day free trial, integration for 8 different messaging channels, industry-specific solutions, commerce payment feature, dedicated apps for iOS and Android, Facebook Marketing Partner.

LivePerson Cons: Quote-based pricing model.


ManyChat's Logo

ManyChat allows companies with a Facebook page to easily create a chatbot in a matter of minutes. The chabot can then be programmed to greet users visiting the company’s page, answer a wide variety of questions, broadcast messages to subscribers, and pass off more complex inquiries to customer service agents.

All of these tasks can be managed through ManyChat’s web app, which is particularly advantageous because Facebook has been known to block high-volume inboxes. This pesky problem can be circumnavigated with products like ManyChat.

Additionally, users have access to basic analytics, the option to create Facebook ads in ManyChat, as well as a handful of industry-specific message templates to choose from.

The main downside to ManyChat is that users are limited to managing their account through a web app. Currently the company does not offer a mobile app for iOS or Android devices.

ManyChat offers two subscription plans: Free and Pro.

Free: Includes unlimited broadcasts, 2 broadcast sequences, 4 growth tools, 10 tags, and 3 custom fields.

Pro: Includes unlimited broadcasts, unlimited broadcast sequences, unlimited growth tools, unlimited tags, unlimited custom fields, advanced marketing automations, API & developer tools, integrations, and the ability to process payments via chatbot. Pro accounts begin at $10 and are based on the number of active subscribers.

More information on these plans can be found here.

ManyChat Pros: unlimited broadcasts in free version, ability to create Facebook ads, e-commerce payment feature, existing message templates, Facebook Marketing Partner

ManyChat Cons: No available app for iOS or Android devices, message notifications can easily go unnoticed, unresponsive customer service.


If you’re interested in leveraging several messaging apps in your customer service strategy, then you’ll definitely want to check out MessengerPeople. Their customer service platform allows companies to interact with their clients via WhatsApp, Telegram, Apple Business Chat, and Facebook Messenger.

All messages are consolidated in one unified inbox, thus allowing teams to neatly keep track of customer requests and streamline communications. Like ManyChat and Chatfuel, MessengerPeople also offers the option to integrate chatbots to assist with automated responses.

E-commerce companies will find MessengerPeople’s notifications and alerts especially useful. Businesses can send customers important information–like flight status updates or purchase confirmations–that reach them on their smartphone lock screen.

Those looking to boost their marketing efforts with MessengerPeople will be disappointed, however. Whereas the company once offered a marketing automation platform, this is no longer an option.

Messenger Communication Platform: Starting from 699€ per month and includes 10,000 chat answers, 5 agents/seats, and 1 channel. Additional chat answers cost 20€ / 1,000 answers, additional agents cost 49€ / per agent monthly, and additional channels cost 99€ /per channel monthly.

More information on subscriptions can be found here.

MessengerPeople Pros: Free 14-day trial, available in five languages, collaborative inbox, CRM integration, Apple Business Chat and WhatsApp integration, affiliate and partner programs, Facebook Marketing Partner.

MessengerPeople Cons: Marketing automation is no longer available; no dedicated app for iOS or Android.

Octane AI

Image of Octane AI's logo

Octane AI has developed a messenger chatbot specifically for companies that conduct their online business through Shopify. The company’s CEO, Matt Schlicht, describers their bot as a “concierge that your customers can talk to.”

The main USPs of Octane AI’s chatbot are its ability to automate customer service questions, increase abandoned shopping cart conversion, send receipts as well as post-purchase follow-up messages, and use AI to generate precise marketing campaigns based on customer demographics gathered from Facebook Messenger.

Another upside to Octane AI is that they allow businesses to easily track their campaigns, see how much revenue they’ve generated over time, and customize automated bot messages without any knowledge of coding or programming.

Additionally, marketing agencies have the opportunity to sign up for Octane AI’s Affiliate Program, which offers partners an additional revenue stream, new leads, educational resources, sales training, and more.

Octane AI offers two subscription plans: Basic and Pro. The price of both of these plans fluctuates depending on the total number of active users a company has.

Basic: From $9 a month, includes unlimited Facebook messages, unlimited admins and accounts, email and live chat support, abandoned cart campaigns, receipts and shipping notifications, auto-responses, welcome messages, broadcasts, analytics, demographic targeting and more.

Pro: From $209 a month, includes unlimited Facebook messages, unlimited admins and accounts, email and live chat support, abandoned cart campaigns, receipts and shipping notifications, auto-responses, welcome messages, broadcasts, analytics, advanced demographic targeting, and more.

Octane AI Pros: 30-day free trial, abandoned cart recovery, e-commerce feature, demographic targeting, Facebook Marketing Partner

Octane AI Cons: No dedicated app for iOS or Android devices, no free plan, only beneficial for Shopify users, inbox isn’t designed for non-automated conversations or collaborative work.

Product Overview and Feature Comparison


Logo Airy
Logo chat Fuel
Logo Conversocial
Logo LivePerson
Logo ManyChat
Logo Messenger People
Logo Octane AI
Octane AI
Available on iOS, Android & Web
Facebook Messenger
Apple Business Chat
WhatsApp Business API
Cross-Platform Notifications

Pricing & Support

Logo Airy
Logo chat Fuel
Logo Conversocial
Logo LivePerson
Logo ManyChat
Logo Messenger People
Logo Octane AI
Octane AI
Offers Free Plan
Unlimited Facebook Pages
Unlimited Users
Unlimited Convos
24/7 Support

Basic Features

Logo Airy
Logo chat Fuel
Logo Conversocial
Logo LivePerson
Logo ManyChat
Logo Messenger People
Logo Octane AI
Octane AI
Shared Inbox
Convo Status
Tags and Filters
Custom Fields
Saved Replies
Automated Replies

Advanced Features

Logo Airy
Logo chat Fuel
Logo Conversocial
Logo LivePerson
Logo ManyChat
Logo Messenger People
Logo Octane AI
Octane AI
Broadcast Messaging Campaigns
Targeted Messaging Campaigns
Customer Feedback Template
Customer Acquisition
In-App Payments


This brings The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide to Customer Messaging Apps to a close. By now, you should have a clear idea of the benefits of messaging, the types of products that are currently available, as well as a foundational understanding of how they can bolster your company’s communications and marketing strategies. Have any questions or concerns? We’re just a message away.

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