Conversational Marketing Just Got Personal
Personalized advertising is a fine line for marketers to walk. On one hand, customers are demanding more relevant and assistive ad experiences. But creating ads that resonate with each unique audience can prove challenging for any marketer.
That fact that discerning customers will engage with brands that can tailor ads to their interests and shopping habits is not hard to fathom. After all, it’s what we all want. Ideally ads don’t interrupt what we’re doing, they help us shop and make it easier to find what we want.
The challenge becomes how to deliver a truly customer-centric experience in an ad. How to be personalized without being intrusive? How do we have a conversation with our audience at scale?
The promise of 1:1 customer engagement is one of marketing’s most sought after goals. Especially when every customer journey is different and arguably more complex now than ever. We may be losing some of the ways we’ve targeted our audience in the past, but maybe that’s just the point.
What if the personalization happened through the ad experience itself instead of through audience targeting? What if consumers could say what they’re interested in and the ad responds? Here are a few approaches to personalization that are worth another look.
Conversational Digital Advertising
One of the ways to provide personalized recommendations in an ad is through conversational marketing. By this we mean anything that provides a two-way dialogue to engage potential customers. Chatbots are widely being used by brands and there have been some great uses of them. But are people ready to chat with an ad?
Our partners at AdLingo have seen success with their platform, incubated in Area 120 by Google, that enables marketers to extend conversational AI into the display advertising space. It’s a real-time form of personalization where the ad responds to how the user engages it.
One example of this is a recent campaign by Purple, a Direct-to-Consumer company that specializes in comfort, that used AdLingo to help people find the best mattress for them. The ad unit provided a guided conversational experience allowing users to discover the mattress best adapted to their sleep preferences, learn more about the brand and easily buy the recommended product online.
AdLingo’s conversational design elements provides a “path” where the user can choose from “suggestion chips” and product carousels to receive their personalized recommendation. They can also ask the ad questions of their own at any time which is powered by a conversational logic tool such as DialogFlow.
DialogFlow uses Google’s machine learning capabilities and is able to parse the many ways a consumer might ask a question and understand its intent in order to return the appropriate response. It actually “learns” from the questions it’s asked and gets smarter over time. So it makes sense to take a long-term approach to conversational AI to make the initial effort pay off.
AdLingo also provides specific metrics on the conversation, like the time spent or the number of interactions, beyond the usual display metrics. How the audience engages with the unit provides great high level insights for future campaigns so the conversation design can continue to be optimized — but the transcripts of the conversation are not stored.
The rise of smart speakers and voice assistants will continue to shift how users will want to engage with brands. With more than a quarter of U.S. adults owning smart speakers and interacting with brands via voice assistants regularly, it seems like voice-enabled ads would be a logical next step. Consumers are ready for a new type of engagement and advancements in speech-to-text technologies make this possible. So why aren’t we seeing more of it?
Voice-enabled ads deliver a whole new level of engagement and reduce friction. Spotify and Pandora have been quick to see the potential in the interactivity of voice ads and began testing the viability of them last year. Consumers saw the benefit of being able to interact hands-free when content was relevant and the creative allowed for a simple “yes.” With many people attempting “digital detoxes” and especially now when digital fatigue has become even more common, the opportunity to engage audiences without a device is timely. For this reason, they are also expanding their voice-enabled ads to smart speakers.
Not surprisingly Amazon Alexa decided to take a voice-activated approach with its own campaign, winning multiple awards. Audiences can query the ad with their voice based on a number of options to select from. The ad responds with a number of humorous scenes that demonstrate the Alexa features. While the experience is more call and response than conversational, the result is still a satisfying experience that resulted in customers spending more time with it than the norm.
One of the reasons the ad resonated with audiences was its user experience. It delivered a number of subtle and not so subtle cues to help the user feel comfortable speaking to an ad. It clearly stated in the beginning that you can control the ad with your voice — also offering a way to engage with the ad if the user “didn’t feel like talking.” If the user chose the voice-controlled option, it let them know what to do with a quick voice-over, but also indicated visually that the ad unit was “listening” for their response. When the user spoke, there was a visual cue for that too, as if the ad “heard” them. The results speak for themselves, among the users who chose to engage with the ad through voice rather than clicks resulted in an incredible 144% lift in purchase intent.
Right now we’re seeing voice ads limit the user response to specific options, but there’s no reason that the ads couldn’t hook into AI platforms like DialogFlow or other natural language processing (NLP) third parties for a more conversational approach.
Whether it be chatbots or voice-based assistants, now may be the perfect time to shift from brand monologues to two-way dialogues in your advertising. Consumers aren’t just mobile-first, they are connected, empowered and reshaping how brands interact with them every day.