What Can Conversational Advertising do for Brands?
Conversational advertising is, at its core, based on the idea that you can provide a unique, one-of-a-kind experience to each consumer from the very beginning of your funnel. Traditional mass media messaging is generally one-way, and while digital advertising allows for greater personalization and granularity, neither offer the degree of relevance to a consumer that can be provided by conversational advertising. With the popularity of messaging and the advent of new AI technology, advertising itself has taken steps to achieve the one-to-one connections that marketers have been trying to achieve for a long time.
Most people would go so far as to say that advertising today sucks. Even among brands who rely on it, opinions are often down on how engaging an ad can truly be when consumers aren’t even asking to see them. Therein lies another reason why conversational advertising is the future of digital advertising – instead of limiting the message you provide to the one you assume has the best chance to work, you can draw consumers in and tease out the messages that really matter. Using AI, brands can do this at scale, providing meaningful one-to-one engagements, surpassing traditional measures of performance and standing out in new measurable ways with multi-minute interactions that initiate a powerful influence on consumer behaviour through your funnel – from ad to cart.
How to Create 1-to-1 Interactions Now and What Part Conversational Advertising Can Play
One-to-one experiences are often pursued through advanced targeting and inferred personalization, but the concept of one-to-one marketing is as old as the consumer internet itself. The reason conversational experiences are different is that they offer instant, real-time engagement that allow brands to precisely tailor the assistance they offer to consumers at any given moment.
Up until now, brands and consumers have been able to converse with customers implicitly through social posts, feedback, emails, sales and service interactions. Customer experience management has been the primary method by which brands and enterprises have brought forth the concept of engaging in two-way interactions at scale. Instead of simultaneous one-way interactions with consumers, brands practicing things like CX see themselves in two-way interactions that involve ongoing back and forth engagements which, over time, improve a customer’s view of a brand. All of this, however progressive it is, rarely incorporates the engagements that advertising provides to consumers.
This means customer experience practice alone can’t solve for creating one-to-one experiences at every touchpoint. Creating one-to-one experiences is a compelling goal, but practices that only involve mapping your customer journey and responding to feedback as it emerges can only infer the kinds of experiences consumers have – they can’t influence them on a continuous basis. These practices, without the right technology, also don’t take place in real-time and require consumers to proactively volunteer much of their feedback. Conversational experiences and conversational AI in particular can help brands achieve more real-time “experience management” that includes advertising and other touchpoints, better reflecting a consumer’s entire experience of a brand.
Attempts at one-to-one experience without a conversational element can also feel formulaic. Many attempts at personalization end up feeling this way, whether it’s automated emails based on the website page a consumer visits or service automation solutions that reduce cost but ultimately increase the burden on consumers. These may increase the probability a conversion or save costs, but they also may be turning consumers off.
Conversational AI is already used by many brands for customer support, but its most novel uses – and where brands can see even more differentiated benefits – remain in the fields of advertising, marketing and commerce. These applications make up the best possible ways for brands to engage in one-to-one personalization from the very start of a customer relationship, and help make customer experiences more truly one-to-one.
How does Conversational Advertising Move the Needle for Brands?
To get the best out of conversational advertising, brands need to understand what its distinct benefits are.
To put this in perspective, brands measure advertising by a few different means: impact on brand awareness, click-through rates, cost-per-click, total views, viewability and an endless coterie of KPIs that indicate how engaging, informative and effective their campaigns are at converting consumers and improving revenue.
All advertising is evaluated and compared on the basis of its cost effectiveness – whether that’s in impact on first-time sales, customer lifetime value, or even in the value of consumers across multiple lifetimes, as in the case of families who remain loyal to automotive brands or particular household products across multiple generations.
While these scales of measurement are ambitious, they can often be difficult to dissect. For example, relating the click-through rate of a display ad to the likelihood that someone’s grandchild will buy a particular brand of car is no easy feat. In place of making evaluations and measuring thresholds like that, we often opt for proxies like engagement, brand awareness and tools like Net Promoter Score to measure and gauge the depth of our relationships with consumers.
But these measures are not immediately related to many of the interactions consumers actually have with a brand. Not only is measurement based on memory and recall notoriously unreliable, but in light of the well-known fact that consumers are subjected to as many as 4,000 brand messages per day, consumers in these cases could be telling brands what they want to hear without the brand actually having the first-party data to back it up.
For these unreliable measures, it could be said that “something may always be better than nothing”. That “something”, however, can’t be considered good enough when there are alternatives that improve upon a brands real objective. Conversational advertising – no matter how it is deployed in the future – can establish a basis for more measurable results on the impression and impact a brand’s advertising is leaving.
This takes some of the guesswork out of understanding the individual effectiveness of campaigns, while also setting the stage for brands to continue those conversations throughout their customer experience. With this, brands can achieve more reliable feedback and first-party data, and better master their customer experience.
Conversational display advertising takes this one step further, allowing brands to offer these same conversational experiences across ads on billions of websites, transforming how consumers engage with brand messages from the very start of their relationship. By opening doors to conversations across the web, this is but one example of how brands can use conversational advertising to build more impactful experiences for consumers.
What do “Minutes of Engagement” Really Mean?
When you start a conversation with someone, you aren’t just registering a click and a passive web session, you’re offering an interactive experience that requires more of their attention – something they read, react to and evaluate as they are presented with content and respond. This adds up to minutes of engagement that weren’t frequent enough before to even measured. With conversational advertising, these minutes become a meaningful element of your consumer’s experience.
We’ve already seen this kind of result emerge in our own conversational display advertising integration with AdLingo. Each clickthrough messages with a conversational ad for up to 2 minutes on average. This ad format can also pull consumers into engagements on brand websites and social media channels, through voice assistants or messaging applications like Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and iMessage all transform the customer experience a brand can offer. One-to-one, two-way messaging is now finally possible at every stage of the customer journey, and user feedback indicates that this is generally a highly satisfying experience:
“You had me in awe with this concept. It was captivating and amazing. I really like the communication and appearance without taking me away from the page I was on. I give it two thumbs up.”
“…it was very interesting and something I would love to see other companies doing.”
“I liked the concept of an ad that kept you on a page.”
With advertising that genuinely accommodates a consumer’s existing experience, brands can do no better than to “get conversational”.
Conversational Advertising Can Also Generate More Real-Time, First-Party Data
When you engage in a conversation with somebody, you implicitly agree to exchange varying degrees of information about yourself, your context and the world. Good conversations are never a monologue (at least in polite company). While traditional advertising sometimes makes brands seem like that guy at the party who “can’t get their words out fast enough”, conversational advertising allows consumers to actually share information with you as they receive brand messages, giving you previously unparalleled degrees of insight into the perceptions a consumer has of your brand as they form them.
How is this deployed can vary between channels. Fundamentally, conversations could function as the call to action on a Display, Search, Facebook, Instagram or other digital ad, and have even been discreetly included as a call-to-action at the end of television ads. There are no effective limitations to where they can be positioned, and major advertising providers have even begun to integrate these experiences directly into the content of the ads themselves (as in the case of conversational display ads mentioned above).
While data and tracking capabilities may vary according to circumstances, conversational experiences allow you to actually tease out information far more effectively than traditional ads, not in the least because they actually allow consumers to provide instant responses, and further receive the same instant feedback as well. As consumers gravitate to these experiences because of the satisfaction they produce, brands will defer to them more often, and gradually they will become even more precise in their ability to interact with consumers. At fully realized scale, conversational advertising will offer a new magnitude of data and engagement for brands all their own, and promise to both become core to performance as well as performance measurement – a source of truth about the health of their relationships with consumers.
Conversational Advertising and its Connection to Conversational AI
Conversational AI has slowly been moving beyond a foothold across many major marketing, commerce and support channels, but conversational advertising as a practice and technology is fundamentally connected to the overall progress of conversational AI. When a technology produces multi-minute engagements, multiple consumer insights per interaction, significant sales lift and outstanding customer satisfaction, brands need to take notice on which channels to start their efforts in, and how to conceive of a global strategy to address the conversational future.
All the doldrums mentioned above make conversational advertising for display a perfect way to not just spice things up, but transform practices in total. It’s no longer about simply getting a click, leveraging a landing page, pushing a product, segmenting a funnel – it’s about creating a real conversation with a consumer that, up until a few years ago, you couldn’t afford to do with people, and wasn’t technically possible with machines.
Conversational AI is beginning to eat up more and more digital initiatives as brands seek to future-proof themselves against the next wave of digital transformation. Brand marketers are often faced with too many choices to really decide on “best bets”, but conversational advertising needs to be a priority for any brand that has a focus on innovation, or just providing a quality experience.
Still have questions? We’re fired up to help as many brands as possible to raise the bar of user and customer experience in eCommerce. If you need help implementing website engagement tools for your brand or want to talk further about any of the tactics in this article, we should talk ASAP!