The Gist

  • Flexible solutions. Conversational marketing employs chatbots, live chat and conversational AI for an adaptable and tailored customer experience.
  • Complementary methods. Integrating multiple approaches of conversational marketing enhances customer interactions and optimizes support resources.
  • Customer satisfaction. Employing various conversational marketing tools can lead to quicker responses, personalized assistance and a seamless experience for customers.

While it would be nice if we could provide every customer with their own personal concierge during the buying and post-purchase journey, for all but a handful of brands that simply isn’t possible. What’s more, not all customers even want that level of human interaction any more, with 41% of customers preferring live chat to telephone support (32%) or email (32%) in recent research by Tidio.

Instead, it is incumbent on brands to provide multiple ways to give customers the feeling of quick responses, tailored answers to their queries and an overall personalized experience. One of the tools in a marketer’s toolset that is growing in importance in this regard is what is called conversational marketing.

First, let’s make sure we define conversational marketing. As we all know, we marketers love our buzzwords as well as our acronyms, so let’s get on the same page here! There are a variety of tools that can be employed under the umbrella of conversational marketing. These include automated chatbots, more freeform conversational AI, as well as live chat solutions.

In this article, I’m going to discuss each of these approaches to conversational marketing, talk about the strengths and weaknesses of each and how they can work together. Let’s get started!

Chatbots: A Simple Interface

The first type we will discuss provides a relatively simple interface in order for customers to have a conversation with our brand. A chatbot provides a website or mobile app visitor with a chat interface in which, in most cases, multiple choice options are presented and which usually leads to a form to fill out, a link to more information, or sometimes contact information to a representative that can help with a more detailed request.

While I say this is a simple approach, in many cases looks can be deceiving! The branching of questions and answers can grow quite complex, and this is where some of the challenges with this method lie.

Chatbots are also widely used, with over two-thirds of consumers globally having used them within the last year. Their benefits are the immediacy of information they can provide in a more natural feeling interface.

The downsides of a chatbot are that, if you happen to be looking for something that falls outside of the preset choices and options, you may likely become frustrated. Think about your experience with phone support when the options to dial “X” for a particular set of services just didn’t fit your needs.

Because of this, chatbots can often solve a large percentage of customer challenges and questions quickly but to be successful brands need to allow an easy off-ramp to reach a real personal (or conversational AI which we will get to in a minute), or to have alternate methods of getting answers.

Related Article: 10 Top Chatbot Providers You Should Know About in 2023

Live Chat: Based on Traditional Phone Customer Service

In many ways, the operating models of many conversational marketing platforms are based on the more traditional telephone customer service approach. The next method we will discuss is the method that most closely resembles a more traditional customer support approach — live chat ...

The benefit from a customer perspective is that the communication is fully people-driven, so, assuming those people are well-trained and have complete access to the information that is available, customer issues can be addressed quickly with a human touch. 

The downside of live chat is that it requires hiring a team (whether internal or outsourced) to handle the incoming requests. There can be a lack of consistency in the end results from a customer perspective as well, depending a lot on the amount of training, access to information and individual expertise. Not to mention how change is handled when new products or services are introduced. All of this can add up to additional investments in order to maintain quality.

There are times when automated solutions are either difficult to implement because of the wide array of potential information sources, or simply that the potential questions can more effectively be answered by a person. In these cases and more, live chat can play an important role.

Related Article: Journey Through Time: How Chatbots Have Evolved Over the Decades

Learning Opportunities

Conversational AI: The Most Complex Method

Finally, we have the more technically complex of the three. While all these methods are often lumped under a platform that is considered conversational AI, what I would truly call conversational AI is …

There are several benefits of conversational AI, but perhaps the best way to think of it is as a balance between the scale of a chatbot with the personalization of live chat. Of course, for conversational AI to work well, it needs good training, great access and time to learn.

Is in a sense, conversational AI is a best of both worlds scenario because it allows customers to ask questions without being forced to choose from a select menu of options while providing brands with the ability to automate the responses, thus, reducing the amount of team members needed for support.

Marrying the ease of use of a free form live chat from a customer perspective with the scalability of a chatbot, conversational AI can provide that best case scenarios with time and training. As with chatbots, brands would do well to provide an off ramp to reach a real human or alternate methods to get information. Also, even though conversational AI can be deceptively human, I think being transparent that an individual is not dealing with a real person can go a long way if there are any challenges in the process.

Bringing Conversational Marketing Components Together

Now let’s talk about how these three methods of conversational marketing can work together to benefit your customers and your business.

Those that may have concerns about whether to use chatbots versus live support may be encouraged to know that 40% of customers don’t have a preference over one or the other.

The first scenario I’ll explore is what we will call “low hanging fruit.” This is a case where information a customer may be seeking is very commonly requested and easy to display. In this case, a chatbot alone may be enough to get a customer what they need, though in slightly more complex examples, a chatbot can get a customer most of the way there with conversational AI handling a few detailed and nuanced questions and answers. All in all, the customer gets what they need in a timely manner.

In a second hypothetical scenario, a brand can use either a chatbot or conversational AI as a first step to gather critical information about a potential or current customer, and then pass that to live chat where a real human can take the conversation the rest of the way. In this way, you save personnel time gathering basic information and utilize it strategically when it is most important to have a personal touch.

There are many other potential use cases, but you can see even from the two above that there is a lot of flexibility when you think about using the different types of conversational marketing together.

Final Thoughts on Conversational Marketing Tools

As you can see, there is no one right way to utilize real-time communications tools to help your customers get answers, find more information and walk away satisfied with their experience.

True success may come from adopting one, two or even all three methods in some combination, and integrating them into a seamless customer experience where you are able to be quick to respond while providing the information and answers that your prospects and loyal customers need, when and where they need them.

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