Brands, it’s Time to Negotiate Marketing Power With Customers

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While the rise of digital channels has transformed how we communicate with our friends and family, it has also enabled customers to demand more from interactions with their favorite brands and businesses. Customers want around-the-clock, immediate access to brands – and they don’t just want to be sold to; they want more control over the shopping experience. A recent report from Facebook & Boston Consulting found that during the 2020 holiday season, two out of three global consumers attempted to message a company regarding their products or services.

The demand from customers is there, but businesses are still lagging in adopting technology that allows them to respond to inbound messages from customers at scale. Many of these companies continue to rely on old school marketing: generic, high-frequency, one-way communications that provide customers with little to no control over their experience with a brand. This type of marketing strategy also often lacks personalization, churning out offers that aren’t always relevant to their customers. This is despite the fact that over 80% of consumers claim that they’re more likely to make a purchase when a brand offers a personalized experience.

In the digital age, sticking to old ways of marketing misses the mark. Fortunately for brands, conversational marketing serves as an ideal solution. Conversational marketing refers to the shift from “push” messaging towards encouraging customers to actively start a dialogue with a brand, wherever and whenever they’d like. This may sound like an overwhelming feat for a brand with a limited customer service team, but tools like omnichannel conversation APIs and chatbots allow companies of all sizes to accomplish conversational marketing at scale.

Less Control, More Trust
With conversational marketing, customers can easily understand their options from a particular business to make an informed purchase decision. This is a transformative shift in the world of marketing, but there’s one thing customers will still crave: control.

The ability to start true two-way dialogues with brands is certainly a start. However, the future of marketing will involve brands giving up even more control to their customers in an effort to increase loyalty and generate more sales. Customers should not only initiate conversations with brands, but enable them to customize their own offers and explore alternative products and services.

Consumers want deeper relationships with their favorite businesses, and may lose trust in a brand that doesn’t work to strengthen their relationships with existing customers. The stakes are high, so where do you begin?

First off, try to mimic the type of care a customer would get in a brick-and-mortar storefront — in other words, be human. Shifting the tone of your messages to align with a particular customer’s voice will transform their experience and make them feel like those messages were specially crafted just for them. Other ways to do this include calling a customer by their name, or incorporating their purchase behavior, preferences or other key insights to shape an offer or message. Brands that emphasize that single existing customers matter will forge deeper, trusting relationships with those customers.

Having an individual customer service agent type out dutifully personalized messages to customers might seem ideal, but that wouldn’t be a practical undertaking for most businesses. Let’s bring it back to conversational marketing. Low-code chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) are key in accomplishing personalized, conversational messaging at scale. These bots can be leveraged on any mobile channel to appear as a live agent, and can actually start conversations with customers rather than responding to their inquiries. For example, by starting a chat with a customer via Instagram DMs to ask them if they’re interested in a special offer, these bots can shift the power balance to the consumer in one short message. As a result, the customer can take control of the conversation and tailor the experience to their own interests (much like they would in-store), which gives the brand a much higher chance of converting the customer into a long-time buyer.

Leveraging Conversational Marketing
Conversational marketing is the new direct marketing. It boosts customer engagement and experience by fostering conversations between brands and consumers that otherwise might not have taken place. Rather than price or product, today’s consumers award their loyalty according to the experience they receive.

To reach this level of true conversational marketing, marketers need to throw away their preconceived notions of how to design a campaign and target customers, and focus more on personal preferences. To build trust with their customers, brands must let go of some control and allow customers to sit in the driver’s seat — leading to a quicker conversion from tailored offer/message to completed sale. A little bit of power goes a long way. Now is the time to invest in the marketing technology that exists to support this new standard of customer experience.

When customers feel empowered, brands are rewarded with their trust and loyalty. Conversational marketing approach enables brands to deliver great experiences and strengthen relationships with new and existing customers. As a result, businesses will stand apart from their competitors by measures of customer engagement and loyalty, positioning them for long-term success.

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