What Is Conversational Marketing, and How Can It Benefit Your Business?

Sometimes the best uses of technology are not about creating something completely new but modernizing an idea that has stood the test of time. Conversational marketing is one such example. It uses the latest in chatbots, automation, and other tools to provide the online version of being accompanied by a knowledgeable, friendly assistant through a store.

Illustration of a contact center agent at their computer. Above the monitor are floating four icons representing different modes of conversations: phone, chatbot, texting, and email.

What Is Conversational Marketing?

Also known as conversational commerce, this kind of marketing is about engaging consumers during their buying journeys using the channels they love. By talking to customers when they want, how they want, and about what they want — even if they aren't necessarily sure what they want to talk about — you can provide a personalized approach. And it gives you every opportunity to learn more about them.

You might be thinking that you already talk with your customers across social media and other channels and use customer profiles. Is that conversational marketing? Almost — but not quite. Let's consider some of the core elements:

  • Conversations happen when the customer wants. Not only should you be available 24/7, but customers should be able to stop a conversation and restart it at their convenience without needing to re-explain their situation.

  • Conversations happen where the customer wants. While marketing with conversations is mostly done via live chat tools, you should be available on whatever channel the customer wants to use. And a step beyond that: You should be able to seamlessly transition if the customer wants to move to another channel.

  • Conversations are for engaging one-on-one with your customers, not speaking at them. Conversational marketing happens in real-time with a focus on prompt responses and quick problem resolution. Personal engagement may even lead to creative solutions you had not considered before.

How Can It Work for Businesses?

It's a growing trend for consumers to want and expect a better, more personalized customer experience. Consider these statistics, which show how this approach eases frustration and boosts revenue and loyalty:

According to a study from Harvard Business Review, companies need to respond within five minutes of initial contact to have the best chance of qualifying a lead. Wait any longer, and your odds decrease by 400%.

image depicts a conversational commerce transaction Vonage article
What Is Conversational Commerce in 2022?
Savvy businesses are using the intersection of their ecommerce and social channels to engage consumers and complete sales, as consumers initiate and complete transactions from their smartphones. Learn more as we review the benefits, examples, and how-to’s for all things conversational commerce for 2022.

What's Involved in Conversational Marketing?

Often, a conversation is a one-on-one affair. Conversational marketing — which centers around live chat, chatbots, and messaging apps — is no different … except that the business part of the one-on-one may be human- or AI-derived.

Obviously, the human touch can make for a great personalized experience. But AI-powered chatbots are easy to integrate within a website or app, and the responses can match a casual tone that's appropriate for chat.

In addition, chatbots can automate the process of gathering data, provide information about products and services, and help deliver qualified leads to your sales team.

While the specifics of any operation should be tailored to each business, there are some common elements that apply across the board: collecting customer data, engaging the customer, and analyzing the data.

Collecting Data

Marketing in this way successfully relies on fast and dependable access to a shared knowledge base that includes data like communication history and necessary customer information. It's important to be transparent about your data collection by getting your customers' consent through embeddable widgets, text keywords, in-context messages, and pop-ups.

  • What can be captured? Individual wants, buying trends, complaints, concerns, friction points — these are the types of strategic insights you can have at your fingertips. Your Social CRM will soon contain information about customer purchase and interaction history, customer profiling and segmentation, as well as any custom data fields and tags you want. Further, you will be able to unify the data across your channels.

  • How can this increase sales? With the stores of data you generate, you can dial in on upselling and cross-selling opportunities. And since you have conversational data at your disposal, advertising and marketing campaigns become easier to target (and retarget) and more effective. You can learn what your customers want and who is most likely to respond to your campaigns.

Engaging Customers

Marketing in this conversational way isn't all about data and analytics. There's a distinctly human element of engagement: You'll want to make sure you capture the customer's attention at the right time, in the right place, with the right message. Conversational marketing tools expand how your business acts upon certain triggers.

  • In-store shoppers. A customer steps into a well-known retailer and receives a push alert. A chatbot asks them what they're after. After a few quick questions, they're not only directed to the department they're looking for but are provided with suggestions based on what other people who bought that product purchased.

  • Campaigns and lifestyle prompts. You can take these tenets of trigger marketing a step further with a real-time conversation at just the right time. It's a way for you to push out messaging and achieve targeted goals.

  • Loyalty and education. These can be two sides of the same coin. Consider a follow-up campaign that makes sure customers are comfortable with their purchase and directs them to curated post-purchase resources. It's another way to build brand loyalty, provide education, and get information that feeds back to your sales and marketing efforts.

Analyzing Customer Data

A successful strategy will include a process for tracking performance, moments of confusion or customer drop-off, and new questions. It is important to always gather data and optimize the experience.

What Are the Benefits of Conversational Marketing?

In addition to the potential boost in customer satisfaction and loyalty, as well as capturing a lot of valuable data, this type of marketing has a couple of advantages that translate directly into greater sales revenue:

  • Reduce abandoned carts. A conversational approach is perhaps the single smartest way to turn a dumped cart into a fully-converted one. Instead of giving customers canned, one-way messages, you're giving them a chance to voice their concerns. Plus your brand gets the chance to respond in real-time and get the result you want.

  • Improve upsells and cross-sells. Show customers more of your offerings at a time and in a way that makes sense to them. Conversation data enriches your understanding of the customer and can provide more opportunities, such as targeted marketing, at later dates.

Developing a conversational marketing strategy may seem daunting. Vonage's AI-powered omnichannel experiences boost sales, increase customer satisfaction, and return buyer behavior intelligence. We can partner with you to turn conversations into conversions and drive sales, and loyalty, by giving your customers a buyer's experience that's personal, helpful, and responsive.

By Ryan Yee B2B Marketing Copywriter

Ryan Yee is a long-time copywriter with B2C and B2B experience across agriculture, biotech, finance, healthcare, technology, and more. He still fondly remembers (?) the papercuts from proofing film and sleep deprivation from late-night press checks. He’s a San Francisco native with love for his nieces and nephews, hometown Giants, and anything even remotely associated with food (utensils optional).

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