Digital marketing fatigue is real. Today’s consumers are constantly inundated with (mostly irrelevant) advertising, and they’re tuning out. Studies have estimated that the average person might see as many as 4,000 online ads per day!

Brands looking to find their niche in today’s environment must confront the marketing oversaturation problem head-on. Your customers want to feel heard and catered to on a 1:1 level. One-size-fits-all generic emails and SMS broadcasts don’t work anymore. Traditional marketing channels such as search, display, and social are incredibly competitive, and smaller brands find it difficult to fight the algorithms and make their USP stick.

In 2022, conversational messaging has emerged as the new paradigm for customer engagement for startups. Two-way conversations between brands and consumers, be it for marketing, commerce, sale or servicing, have become significant drivers of ROI for MSMEs and large enterprises alike. Given the ease and frequency of usage, proximity to the users and the familiarity of messaging channels like WhatsApp and Instagram, it is now a default expectation of consumers to be able to initiate conversations with their preferred brands on these messaging channels directly. Data from Meta validates this, a whopping 175 million people message a business on WhatsApp every day!

Instant messaging and voice-over platforms are not just helping startups with one of their key pain areas – customer acquisition but also making them incredibly accessible as a business through easy-to-initiate conversations using branded QR codes, any digital or physical touchpoint such as the website, billboard, or the product packaging. Once a conversation has been initiated, brands can then guide a prospect through the marketing funnel with a series of personalized conversational experiences.

Third-party solutions can help brands deploy AI-powered chatbots on WhatsApp, Instagram, or other messaging channels to automate lead nurturing and conversion process. Additionally, most of the popular and widely used messaging platforms can easily be integrated into existing CRMs or marketing automation systems to maximize the efficacy of their outreach.

Conversational marketing has become uniquely effective at helping startups in giving a boost to their bottom line by crafting bespoke customer journeys from discovery to purchase on their favorite messaging apps. A recent encounter that I impressively recall is with a young D2C apparel brand that has deployed a mobile storefront on WhatsApp, I was able to access the multi-product catalog, initiate a conversation regarding the product and complete the payment without leaving the chat window within a span of few minutes. One of the primary reasons why conversational messaging has been so effective for conversion is because it is able to mimic the mental journey that people go through while buying and intuitively guides them towards desired decisions.

Startups are now deploying virtual shopping assistants that help prospects with real-time responses, product comparisons and product recommendations. Such rich media capabilities of modern messaging apps allow brands to showcase their personality and a humanized side by creating quizzes, gratifying and gamifying interactions, and in the process gather meaningful data for lead generation and measuring campaign effectiveness.

Conversational messaging has enabled brands to offer a higher grade of customer experiences than ever before. Studies from Oracle have shown that around 86% of consumers are willing to pay more if it means they receive a superior customer experience. On the flip side, 89% of consumers will switch to a competitor if they receive a poor customer experience.

The always-online nature of messaging chatbots has paved the way for 24/7 support channels that can instantaneously handle incoming user queries. With automated AI-driven chat flows, a large volume of user queries can be resolved without ever needing to involve live agents, dramatically improving the efficacy of customer service departments. Interestingly, conversational solutions are helping businesses navigate seasonality as well, as they no longer need to plan for staff allotment around a customer support desk to deal with peaks and troughs in customer activity.

Since automation usually handles a lot of the common issues, live agents can be freed up to work on more complex and nuanced issues, leading to an overall reduction in query turnaround time and an increase in customer satisfaction.

Brands have been seen to use conversational messaging to offer their customers a robust post-sales experience. Whether they are buying a trip around the world or a dinner date reservation at a local restaurant, businesses are sending their customers, the booking confirmations, and invoices over chat windows where they are accessible at a moment’s notice. Shipping and delivery updates are being delivered instantaneously too. And to safeguard the user’s data and privacy, the end-to-end encryption on messaging platforms ensures that the confidentiality of sensitive customer information is maintained.

In an age where the barrage of traditional digital advertising is causing banner blindness en masse, brands that are offering the personal touch of a friendly conversational experience stand out noticeably. If you have been considering conversational messaging for your brand, now is the best time to hop off the fence and jump in with both feet.

The future of marketing is conversational.

Originally published in Exchange4Media on 05 August 2022.

Top use cases to help grab a larger share of festive shoppers this season

Building a digital journey for customers