Conversation. It plays a valuable part in our everyday lives. Yet the way that we converse is changing and at a remarkable pace.
As a consequence of the rise in social platforms that allow real-time, instantaneous communication — from Facebook and Whatsapp to Slack and Snapchat — digital conversations are now quickly becoming the new norm, with research suggesting that ‘real-life’ conversations have decreased by 15% over the last 5 years.
And it's not just our conversational habits that are shifting; our shopping habits have changed too, with ecommerce growth increasing by 145% in 2020 vs 2019.
Accelerated by the pandemic, these digital trends have kick-started a new era for conversational marketing — an opportunity for brands to meet consumers where they are — and now’s the time to talk about it.
What is conversational marketing?
Whether seeking product information or a dinner reservation, people interact with businesses for a range of reasons. Conversational marketing enables this two-way dialogue, across various points throughout the customer journey.
While this approach is commonly associated with online chat bots, its remit extends much further. It also covers Slack, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, email, SMS and many other channels that allow customers to spark a conversation with brands.
It’s all about convenience
Listening to music-on-hold during your lunch break, furiously staring into the face of your watch. It’s a customer service experience we’ve all been on before. It’s agonising. It’s tedious. And ultimately it harms your relationship with the brand. The beauty of conversational marketing is that it allows customers to communicate with brands when they want, where they want, and how they want.
And many brands have been quick to leverage this dynamic. After all, they benefit too. Take Domino’s for instance, one of the UK’s most popular pizza chains. It engages in its fair share of traditional marketing; you’ve probably seen its flyers crumpled up on your hallway floor on Friday afternoon, having been hastily posted through the letter box.
But conversational marketing is where Dominos has recently come into its own. Take its ‘anyware’ initiative for example, which allows customers to place an order simply by texting a pizza emoji through Slack, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Facebook Messenger and more.
This simplified path-to-purchase is a win-win; it offers customers incredible convenience, and in turn, has helped Dominos drive transactions across the board.
Delivering experiences through data
The death of third-party data is drawing ever nearer, yet 81% of brands are still completely or significantly reliant on this data as part of their marketing strategy. One solution here — and one which many brands are chasing — is to focus on first-party data and how best to obtain it. And again, conversational marketing may just play a part.
After all, it can reveal a lot about your customers; frequently asked questions, the product features and services that they’re most interested in, and what they expect from your brand. These data points are valuable, and can help you create customer profiles, serve personalised content (at scale), and form more meaningful relationships.
Conversational tools can teach you about your brand too, providing information across many fronts, such as pitfalls in your customer purchase journey, or growing trends and opportunities within your market. This intel can help you shape your products and services more collaboratively, and in line with the needs and wants of your customers.
Humanising your brand
Whether walking to work, browsing the internet, or refreshing our social feeds, we’re bombarded with thousands of marketing messages each day, and outside of locking yourself in an empty room (and throwing all tech out the window), it’s impossible to escape the noise.
The wider issue is this: many of these ads feel inauthentic and impersonal, speaking at us, rather than inviting us to engage in a dialogue.
Conversational marketing offers a real opportunity to reinvent this relationship. To bridge the gap between online and offline experiences. To humanise your brand and build trust with your audiences.
Consumers are crying out for this kind of personalisation and intimacy. And conversational marketing can pave the way.
Where the conversation falters
Meta states that more than two-thirds (67%) of buyers are planning to increase or maintain spending through conversational channels. But conversational marketing isn’t without its flaws, something which Meta found out the hard way, when its prototype AI publically threw shade at the platform and its founder.
If you’re planning to create a conversational marketing strategy, you need to understand that AI is an imperfect technology and could compromise your customer experience.
It’s also important to weigh-up if it’s right for your business. For example, brands that deal with complex or premium products may require more personalised interactions with customers, which might not yet be possible through conversational tools.
5 Quick tips to get the conversation started
If you’ve followed this far, you may now be considering how to get your conversational marketing strategy up and running. Here’s just a few key pointers:
- Define your goals: What are you aiming to achieve with your conversational marketing strategy? And how does this tie in with your wider marketing objectives? Perhaps you're looking to improve your digital experience. Or attempting to accelerate your sales pipeline. Either way, clearly defining your goals from the outset is the first step towards a successful strategy.
- Identify your audience: Who are you trying to reach with your comms? What are their challenges and pain points? Use your customer knowledge to shape your messaging and approach.
- Choose the right channels: From live chat to social media, there are a range of conversational channels you can use to engage with your customers. Make sure to meet your audience where they live.
- Make resources available: Introducing and maintaining a conversational marketing strategy can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. Plus you need to get it right. Dedicated staff should be assigned to manage it, and conversational interfaces, such as chatbot scripts, will need to be developed and regularly refined.
- Monitor and optimise: Monitor the performance of your conversational marketing efforts, including metrics such as conversion rates, response times and customer satisfaction levels. Use this information to optimise your strategy over time.
Looking to the future
As consumer expectations for digital continue to rise, conversational marketing looks set to become an even more integral part of the digital marketing landscape. Chatbots and other conversational tools are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and able to handle consumer interactions at scale. And consumers are calling out for more responsive and personalised dialogues with brands.
Our take is this: Conversational marketing may or may not be right for your business. But either way, it’s definitely a conversation worth having.
From conversational marketing to personalisation and more, we create digital experiences that help you get closer to your customers than ever before. Get in touch today to find out more about our digital marketing services.