April 24, 2023

The Future of Marketing is Conversational

Over the last 20 years we have witnessed 2 major shifts in marketing. We are now on the precipice of a 3rd.

20 years ago a slew of amazing marketing platforms emerged. They centered on reaching people where they were - the email inbox. The technology has inched itself closer and closer to the truly one-to-one content. The personalization we dreamt of 20 years ago in now in your customer’s inboxes, even being personalized to the second the email is opened.

10 years ago we saw a second shift. In 2007 Apple released the iPhone and changed the world. We were still in our inboxes, but we were no longer tied to our computers. We took our inboxes with us everywhere, and our phones didn’t stop at email. Smartphones, combined with native apps, real time GPS and more, made channels like SMS, push and in-app messaging ubiquitous. The customer journey morphed into a  fragmented experience. Now brands had to find ways to communicate across smartphones, tablets, watches, and TVs, in addition to the traditional places like our computers. A new set of marketing platforms emerged to help brands meet customers where we now were - on our phones, and on-the-go.

Today, we are on the cusp of another shift. 80% of customers report that they want to talk to brands in a chat or social app. AI technology like Chat-GPT has captured our imaginations and spurred 1000’s of new companies that are testing the limits of what is possible. Brands are being challenged to have real conversations with their customers. They are being asked to send more than a highly personalized message. They are being asked to talk to customers in a genuine, authentic way.

But what does that even mean? What does it look like, or better yet…what could it look like?

Today, most conversations are simply support requests that have moved from email to web chat or SMS; tracking order status, checking product inventory, or technical support. By now we have all had this experience. And its great! I would guess most of us prefer it to waiting on hold and answering telephone prompts!

A service exchange with The Home Depot on Apple Business Chat

We love this experience. And we think this is just barely scratching the surface. A conversation is more than a transactional exchange - I send my order # and you send me a tracking link. A conversation is an opportunity to develop a genuine relationship. Each one is a chance to tell the other side who you are, what is important to you, and what you stand for.

A conversational progressive profiling experience for a new subscriber

So what could it look like instead? Imagine this. Your favorite shoe brand invites you to sign up for their newsletter. You scan a QR code on your phone, and WhatsApp opens with a pre-populated message. You hit send, and instantly get a response thanking you and asking you about yourself. Do you hike, run, walk or commute? You reply that you are a hiker and they ask you what kind of hiking you do. Within seconds you have a link to customer favorites that match your needs.

A conversational progressive profiling experience for a new subscriber

This is more than a promotion and it's more than a service exchange.

THIS is a true conversation. It's the future of marketing, and it's just the beginning. Stay tuned.