It's Time for Brands to Jump Headfirst Into the Conversational Marketing Sphere

Adults in the U.S. spend up to 11 minutes per day on messaging apps

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Brands have only scratched the surface of their marketing potential. Nearly 70 percent of digital sharing happens outside of social networks, out of sight of most marketers. I call this messaging area the conversational space. It encompasses all digital messaging and represents a huge opportunity for understanding consumers better than ever before.

Consumer conversations have moved to messaging, and brands must follow. While the concept of sharing within one-to-one conversations has existed since the first flip phone, the increasing number of modern messaging apps has now solidified the conversational space as the fastest growing means of communication. Brands using only a standard set of social channels are relying on making an impact in a space where customers spend a small fraction of their time.

Despite containing the most telling insights on consumer thoughts and behavior, the conversational space remains largely invisible to marketers—but no longer. The industry as a whole is moving toward a more targeted and reliable future with identity graphs and data aggregation eliminating customer friction. A new breed of digital technologies is revealing the relationships between content, words, places and people within messaging, creating a context web that helps marketers eliminate wasteful campaign efforts and capture this vast audience with relevant branded content. Following my time at SXSW this year, I am more convinced than ever that the industry is undergoing a major transformation, one that will allow brands to join the conversation where and when it is happening and ensure their message is useful and timely.

Early adopters have experienced unprecedented success. Take, for example, Kik, a messenger app that partnered with teen-targeted brands through its Promoted Chats and saw 15–20 times higher click-through rates when compared to mass marketing tactics on Facebook. By inserting themselves contextually in the right time and place in user conversations, companies not only achieve recognition but become a useful piece of content to consumers.

Here are three takeaways marketers must consider to participate in the new age of conversational marketing.

Contextual understanding is the future

The industry as a whole is moving toward a more targeted and reliable future with identity graphs and data aggregation eliminating customer friction.

To reach customers, businesses must show up in the space where they live: messaging. The time U.S. adults spend on mobile messaging apps continues to rise, increasing from eight minutes per day in 2016 to 11 minutes per day in 2018.

Understanding the connections between location, gender and even the time of day allows brands to create a general image of the underlying needs of their consumers and determine the optimal time to reach them with useful content, all without interrupting the natural flow of conversation.

Pictures speak louder than words

It’s not enough to target consumers where they live; brands must also speak the way consumers do. In 2017 alone, 2.8 trillion messages were sent with emojis, stickers and GIFs. As people increasingly reach for images over words to express their emotions, brands must create content that facilitates this means of discussion and serve it up when it’s needed.

Exceptional, visual content powered by predictive tech is poised to dominate modern marketing tactics. By leveraging natural language processing (NLP) algorithms, brands can understand select aspects of a conversation and predict needs. This understanding informs the design of content created and ensures brands are inserting engaging, branded images to the right users at the right time. 

Branded content is king

Brand affinity is key among consumers today. In fact, 50 percent of American consumers would select a branded emoji over a generic one in messaging when given the option (think, not just a soda but a Coke or Pepsi).

This represents huge potential for marketers. McDonald’s McCafé brand recently put this theory to the test, using predictive technology to identify relevant user conversations on “coffee” and serving up custom animated stickers in those moments. As a result, consumers were 70 percent more likely to share McCafé content over unbranded content during their morning routines discussing coffee. What began as a conversation about someone needing or wanting a cup of coffee became a conversation about McCafé.

Successful brand marketing is becoming more about creating personal connections and delivering content in a way that is salient to the conversations consumers are already having.