Whether it’s asking for a recommendation or a sample, most of us invariably wind up in a conversation with a retail assistant before making a purchase.
These marketing techniques may seem old-fashioned today, but in digital times, conversational marketing is having a renaissance. While one of the very first digital conversation channels — email — first emerged in the 1970s, digital marketing tactics in the 21st century have become dominated not by words but by numbers.
Today, “programmatic” advertising and dynamic customer relationship platforms combine datasets on audiences in order to precisely target individuals. It is a cold, data-driven strategy that has taken over the advertising wing of marketing.
But, while using these targeting techniques may bring people to your website, converting them into buyers is rarely solved by the simple act of targeting alone. I think marketers of yesteryear had the right idea. Selling to someone, nurturing the relationship and converting them into a customer needs a personable approach, and that demands a conversation.
Placing Emphasis On Conversation
In other words, the adage that people buy from people is just as true as it ever was. That is why we are now seeing a move towards “conversational marketing,” the marketing approach that puts humans back into the system. Conversational marketing revolves around listening to your customer and helping them achieve their goal by offering utility and advice through meaningful, real and genuine interactions.
But it isn’t just a nice-to-have. In the mobile era, I think conversational marketing is a baseline requirement for any company offering services or products online. After all, while voice calls may have become the smaller part of mobile usage, you need only look at the plethora of text messaging apps to see that mobile is an inherently conversational medium.
Your website visitors are not just IP addresses; they are people who have doubts, questions and problems. Today, those can best be addressed by making yourself available, through digital and mobile systems, to converse with those visitors.
If you think the modern consumer is content to converse just using email, think again. Today, the requests that can form the basis of purchase decisions demand swift answers, delivered with rich character and into the palm of customers’ hands. Time is of the essence.
Approach Conversation Without The Hard Sell
This also raises the question of who is best to respond to online visitors? By using other aspects of conversational marketing, such as a pool of experts who are independent of the brand, it adds another facet to the customer experience and journey. If businesses provide these experts online, available to chat with customers, it ensures that consumers receive authentic advice, which creates a more personal journey. This, in turn, creates a digital destination of choice, as the online experience becomes tailored to a customer rather than buying from an impersonal online marketplace.
But, while conversational marketing is not data-dependent and discourages the hard sell, that does not mean it does not deliver real, tangible uplift in sales.
For example, when we helped a client of ours in the airline industry add real-time customer chat tools to its website, we found that the average basket value of customers who used it was 35% higher than those who did not. Similarly, when an online fashion seller that we work with made a team of personal shoppers available to its website visitors through online chat, average basket value rose by 25%.
So, why does conversational marketing drive higher sales? Simple. Answering customers’ questions and directing them to the right products leads to happier outcomes.
How can modern businesses achieve great results? By beginning the conversation internally, and even outsourcing to independent experts who can also engage with their customer bases. Embracing the conversational marketing future will demand instant availability, the ubiquity of engagement channel, a seamless experience across screens and staffing with empathetic, caring people who can offer customers advice that does not necessarily have the hard sell set as the goal.
I believe everyone should — and can — adopt this approach. You just have to listen to your customer.