Bring Your Brand to Life With Always-Present Customer Engagement

Opinion: Chat bots offer the opportunity to build and manage conversation marketing programs at scale

One-to-one communication with consumers represents the new competitive landscape Weedezign/iStock

While brand marketers agree that the marketing landscape must expand to include meaningful, two-way conversations, such an evolution begins with a shift of current mindset. The on-demand nature of conversation marketing via messaging requires that marketers be available and helpful, whenever and wherever their customers engage.

Given its global reach, brands and marketers are wise to begin shifting their attention and resources to Facebook Messenger and other messaging platforms. Messenger empowers marketers to engage consumers directly through all phases of the customer lifecycle, creating meaningful relationships that lead to increased conversions, brand loyalty and lifetime value.

Brands not prepared for this shift in thinking will miss out on the opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

Deeper, relationship-building conversations that scale

Enabled by messaging applications, intimate, convenient and emotionally connected conversations have the power to drive deeper, more meaningful relationships between brands and their customers throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Chat bots offer brand marketers the opportunity to build and manage conversation marketing programs at scale.

It’s important for marketers to expand beyond the traditional digital marketing mindset and practices of one-to-many communication. As Forrester Research suggests, marketers no longer need to train their objectives on ownership of the mobile experience. Instead, or at least in addition, marketers should begin borrowing mobile moments from the channels that satisfy the instant, on-demand preferences of consumers.

It’s essential to also recognize that, much like communication between friends, a conversation does not necessarily need to end in an action. Indeed, emotionally driven conversations that offer help, reassurance or just a place to be heard can be equally as important to building trust. This may prove to be most challenging for marketers that are accustomed to measuring how many actions are required of a prospect before a sale or other transaction is complete.

More tangibly, marketers and their organizations need to be prepared to respond to and interact with their customers in real-time or be doomed to fail.

In its mobile messaging report, Twilio concludes that only 2 percent of brands using Facebook Messenger responded within one minute during the course of the study, and just 6 percent within five minutes. One-half of the 200 brands studied provided no response at all.

Customer perceptions from early experiences (or lack thereof) of messaging app users may be difficult to overcome for brands that are unable to rapidly respond. “This is engagement at the speed of digital, and the customer expects a similar level of responsiveness across all experiences, regardless of whether the channel is physical or digital,” says Liz Miller, senior vice president of marketing for the CMO Council.

Lines blur between messaging apps and conversational interfaces

The opportunity to create deep, lasting relationships with customers continues to grow as messaging app technology advances. Forrester predicts that messaging apps, further enhanced by artificial intelligence, will bring about new conversation interfaces that compete with single point devices like Alexa or Siri to enable even deeper, emotionally connected relationships between brand and consumers.

While the keyboard and mouse—and later touch interfaces like the smartphone—have been intuitively useful innovations, Forrester notes that humans are “wired for language,” making voice conversation a natural next step for messaging apps.

While Amazon and Apple may fight to ensure a single conversation interface (i.e., the aforementioned Alexa and Siri), it’s not difficult to envision a world where brands, via messaging, enable their own voice-based agents to interact with their customers and drive even more meaningful relationships with consumers.

The accelerating impact of AI

In the nearer term, AI will likely improve the learning ability of messaging apps, more effectively turning learned customer habits and affinities into more relevant and highly contextualized product or service offerings. Eventual replacement of the traditional commerce transaction with the digital wallet will complement this ability to increase transactional opportunities in context and in real time.

One-to-one communication with consumers represents the new competitive landscape. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have opened the door for conversation marketing to take root, with messaging apps acting as the catalyst for new and dynamic growth of customer relationships. To be sure, the near-term goal is not to replace one-to-many platforms like social media, but rather to build on their effectiveness to more deeply engage consumers in a way that is convenient, helpful and emotionally imbued.

With today’s leading brands already exploring the possibilities afforded by this next wave of conversation marketing, the time is now for marketers to leverage the accelerating maturation of messaging apps and consider how they, too, can engage with customers in way that is meaningful yet scalable.

Jason Kapler is vice president of marketing at social customer experience platform LiveWorld. Connect with him on Twitter at @JasonKapler.