How to include conversational marketing in digital marketing mix?

#Conversational Marketing

8 min. read

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Aleksandra Đermanović

John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

To digital marketers… and we see this internally in our agency, change is the law of success because without continually adapting to digital innovations and new channels, we will not be able to address the ever-changing needs and habits of digital customers. In this blog post, we’ll try to:

  • provide a clear definition of what is conversational marketing or how it’s still usually regarded – instant messaging marketing
  • explain what conversational marketing entails and why it’s one of the key digital trends you need to consider when drafting your digital communication strategies
  • what is the current state of affairs and how the playground looks like
  • what opportunities exist there for brands, as well as pros and cons of instant messaging

The origins of conversational marketing… or how did it all start? 

As Impulse Creative nicely put it in their blog post, at the dawn of the marketing age, businesses reached potential customers first through local conversations with trusted people. Technology, like the printing press, further brought the ability to reach people with a new medium – brochures, fliers, and more. The technology changed again when radio waves began to reach ears across regions, bringing new voices to homes, and with it, commercials.

The internet brought the age of inbound marketing – consumers now had access to information that was once in the hands of sales teams and businesses. So now, instead of the traditional marketing model of interrupting our audience’s day, we become part of the conversation. So you see, with conversational marketing – we practically went back to square one but with all the benefits of modern society, digital channels, and social media!

How do we define conversational marketing?

Conversations and stories play an essential role in today’s world. But how do we define instant messaging marketing or conversational marketing?

Many definitions aim to provide a clear explanation of instant messaging marketing. They usually depend on what approach the brand or the conversational marketing agency has used in activation deployment – whether they focused on building a tribe on a specific chat platform. Maybe the agency decided to go with a sticker pack to create a visual brand expression. Or the brand deployed a chatbot connected to internal systems for data collection and analysis, or perhaps a full omnichannel approach was used. However, the definition I agree most with is the one from Himanshu Rauthan.

He states that “conversational marketing is the practice of meeting or conversing with potential buyers or people who have shown interest in your services intending to introduce them to your business, answering all their queries and finally closing the sales.” It depends on the brand how it defines sales. Often, sales are really of a financial, transactional nature. Still, sometimes it’s of changing someone’s behavior like it was for us in the conversational campaign we’ve launched for the Croatian Ministry of the Environment.

How did conversational marketing become one of the key digital trends? 

Conversational marketing went from an occasional usage of chat apps like Viber, Whatsapp, and Messenger to a full-fledged customer experience, which now frequently encompasses omnichannel marketing so customers can smoothly interact with the brand across all available platforms.

Even Gartner is now recognizing conversational marketing as its own category of software and services and deems that in 2020, customers might manage 85% of his or her relationship with a business without interacting with humans.

How did it come to the rise of conversational marketing? Well, continuing from what we’ve written above about the evolution of technology, social media became an even greater door-opener for conversational marketing. With social media starting to develop and further evolving over the past 10 years, many large social media platforms began adding instant messaging apps. Some of them are now getting bigger than social networks.

Some of them were even bought by social networks! While at the same time, traditional social media has become a “broadcast” form of communication, but with a significant more of data on users that when the dawn of advertising started.

In its fall 2016 report, The Future of Messaging Apps, Forrester named messaging apps “the fastest growing online behavior,” primarily inspired by WeChat, a Chinese based messaging app that users are completely hooked on.

WeChat provides much more than merely messaging, as it enables users to interact with the brands they love, pay a bill, hail a cab, or schedule a doctor’s appointment, wherever and whenever they are, without ever leaving the app.

This proves the premise that people find chat interactions — whether they are 1:1 or in small groups or communities — to be more engaging. This engagement functionality was chiefly driven by the rise of the emojis.   Emojis were primarily inspired by the rich Asian culture and were introduced by the Japanese chat app Line. The users went crazy for them! However, emojis, together with stickers, quickly penetrated Western markets as well, primarily through Viber, which uses them heavily as one of their central communication and expression tools.

Emojis and stickers, animated or sounded like (be sure to check the campaign for Narodni brand which utilized both animated and sounded stickers) demonstrate how visual content allows both users and brands to be more expressive and establish an emotional connection. In fact, forward-thinking brands are more and more designing their own visual language so their customers can “speak in their brand’s tone and voice.”

What are the current statistics for instant messaging apps around the world? 

Currently, there are over 2.52 billion instant messaging app users around the world, and by the end of Forrester’s forecast period in the year 2023., up to 3.12 billion people worldwide will use a chat app at least once per month, which represents 39.5% of the world’s population. Statistics show that

  • the average user sends about 67 messages per day and spends about 23 hours per week writing them
  • individual text messages are read in less than 5 seconds
  • women send 14% more messages than men
  • 80% of entrepreneurs use instant messaging apps for business purposes
  • 56% of people prefer to write messages than to contact the company by phone (so much for social media bringing us closer!)
  • over 2 billion messages are sent monthly through Messenger between companies and individuals

As the audience will further expand and grow, so will the time spent on the app, and we’ll experience a lot more of diversification of app functionalities. Some of those functionalities are slowly but surely penetrating Western markets (while on the Far East they’ve been present for a while now) like payments, taxi bookings, and other utility services. These functionalities drive a significant growth in time spent on instant messaging apps but also allow the consumers to have one app for all of their life needs.

How can companies and brands leverage conversational marketing opportunities? 

Sure, there are benefits to every digital channel your company or brand might be thinking of. At the moment, instant messaging apps are one of the most preferred methods of communication for consumers and definitely the fastest-growing channel for branded conversations. All are trying to jump on this ship. This represents a massive opportunity for forward-thinking brands to build meaningful and lasting customer relationships. From Mediacor’s experience, brands usually go into instant messaging and conversational marketing as a tryout – as a sort of a little test to see how it will go. And depending on whether they’ve liked it or not, they either quit or deep-dive right into it.

Needless to say, before you decide to go full in, together with your digital team, we go back to the basics by revisiting the simple questions. Those are the questions that we often forget when we, as digital marketing professionals, bury ourselves in data, strategies, KPI’s, deadlines, and deliverables. So, the first set of questions you might want to ask yourself and your internal team before deep-diving into conversational marketing are:

  1. What do you want to achieve with instant messaging? This question tends to be easy, and for the brands who have a clear vision and path for their products and services it is, but most of us are not in that position.
  2. The next thing brands should ask themselves is – what business issues I might be addressing with instant messaging that is important for my customers? As a list of subquestions to get you started, you might also think about – what do customers ask about the most? Or complain? Or praise? What information do they need the most?
  3. Thirdly, you should think about how instant messaging activities impact your activities on other digital channels, and how you can create a closed-loop with them, so you have a 360-approach.
  4. And one of the most crucial things – are we able to adapt the communication style of our brand to the instant messaging channel? Surely, you want to speak in the way people are already communicating on the platform. And if you stick to the same old routine you use for other channels – your content most likely won’t be shared or interacted with.

In the following blog post, we’re covering the top 11 recommendations you have to take into consideration when planning a conversational marketing campaign. If you’re interested in launching a conversational marketing campaign of just want to talk about the options and opportunities, instant messaging apps have to offer, contact us.