On the surface, conversational marketing may seem like a marketing buzz term. Look deeper, however, and you’ll see it’s an organic way to engage customers. It comes down to the simple fact that, as humans, we prefer to engage in conversation rather than have someone talk at us. And due to the limitations of marketing throughout the years, that’s predominantly been the only way advertisers could get their message across.
Now businesses and brands can actually communicate in real time with customers, be it helping to solve a product issue, facilitating a purchase, or simply making a recommendation.
Just look at social media. Currently, there are some 1.3 billion people using FB Messenger every month. To keep up with this trend, brands and businesses now have 300,000 messenger bots on the app all designed to facilitate communication. These bots help with everything from movie/TV show recommendations to finding cheap flights to ordering flowers.
But there’s a place for conversational marketing in the B2B world, too. Consider this tidbit: software developer/marketer HubSpot gained 20% more qualified leads simply by adding live chat to their communication channels. Moreover, tech companies across the globe are reducing lead times, increasing lead quality, and increasing new clients in the sales cycle with conversational marketing.
This is the power of a chat interface, and by extension, it’s the power of conversational marketing.
AI is the wellspring from which conversational marketing will grow
At the moment this is evidenced predominantly in the popularity of chatbots. Since their advent, we’ve seen just how effective machine learning can be at engaging people when they want and how they want. Chatbots eliminated many of the drawbacks that are common with human customer service representatives. Now you can communicate with your customers any time of day or night, whether it’s business hours or not.
Crucial stats bear this out. Consider that 80% of businesses are currently utilizing or plan on implementing chatbots by 2020. This supports the prediction that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their relationship with a brand or business without even speaking to a human.
AI supercharges business Information processes
By integrating conversational AI with the back-end data in your old CRM solutions, the sky is the limit as far as making that data actionable in real time. Consider how things used to be: a business would accumulate terabytes of useful info, and it would then be applied to inbound marketing initiatives like email and social media campaigns.
However, while effective, AI can now take that info and boost personalization, segmenting your target right down to the individual, not a group or demographic.
Advances in natural language processing
With chatbots streaming on ever more platforms, like Facebook messenger, there’s even more need for chatbots to evolve. Natural language processing (NLP), a subset of AI and machine learning, allows chatbots to evolve from script-reading tools to multi-dimensional digital conversationalists, and it will continue to do so into the future.
We’re already seeing real-world advances in NLP advances with digital assistants like Siri and Alexa. Expect to see a boost in this with APIs like Google’s Cloud Natural Language. Applications like this can derive insights from unstructured text. Machines are now analyzing ever greater volumes of data, which helps businesses to glean real-time insight into what is being said about them and how their product and service is being received.
Conversational data protection
At its core, conversational marketing is all about data. As mentioned above, being able to integrate information into your CRM is what allows for greater personalization. But with so much data floating around cyberspace, the potential to misuse information is greater than ever.
The most glaring examples of this in recent times has been the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal. Throw in the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) initiative into the mix and you have technology and information running headlong into regulatory forces trying to prevent it from spiraling out of control.
How this immediately affects the upward trend of conversational marketing is in the chatbot realm. Advances in AI will help marketers who want to implement chatbots to further comply with GDPR regulations in a number of ways. For example, greater machine learning will allow bots to:
Receive data and determine instantly if it is for the purposes of data processing or data controlling (this distinction matters in GDPR, as controllers, have to comply fully with GDPR regs)
Offering those who engage with chatbots clear opportunities to provide consent to receive their data and transfer it to a different format
Ensuring all data is safe, encrypted, and easily downloadable
There is one way AI is still limited where it concerns data protection. At the moment, GDPR’s article 22 specifically states that AI algorithms alone cannot be responsible for decisions that have a significant effect on users. In other words, there still needs to be human oversight regarding data control. So, for the moment the robots are still subservient to people.
We’ve reached an exciting inflection point where the rise of AI can facilitate and shape the trend of conversational marketing. Advances in AI will help this vital trend to evolve and reach more people, allow for greater personalization, and ultimately help marketers achieve what was once thought of as an impossible goal: to have a conversation with their target audience in real time, whenever and however they want.
Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services
From legacy Fortune 100 institutions to inventive start-ups, Ryan brings extensive experience with a wide range of B2B clients. He skillfully architects and manages the delivery of integrated marketing programs, and believes strongly in strategy, not just tactics, that effectively aligns sales and marketing teams within organizations.
Ryan is known for taking complex marketing and business challenges and developing solutions that simplify processes while driving customer outcomes and business value. He also thrives on guiding Elevation teams toward execution of strategies that help companies succeed in new verticals while staying true to core values and brand integrity.