To say things will change in the post lockdown world is stating the obvious. The new normal is already old and the only thing we do know, you don’t know what you don’t know. Not the best starting point when one is trying to write about building smarter conversational campaigns in the post lockdown world.
Let’s take a step back. So what do we know?
The lockdown has altered the way we communicate. You don’t need yet another barrage of statistics to tell you that. Think about the numbers of voice and video calls you were on before reading this article. The many that are still on your to do list, and the odd call that is going to interrupt you in the next four minutes.
Conversations have always enabled human connections, they are the sinew of engagement.
Today, technology offers multiple options to the traditional conversation. Email exchanges, WhatsApp chats and messenger apps are just as effective. For many, like the author of this article, these alternatives were a preferred way to connect.
The pandemic has changed that, across the world we are seeing trends that indicate we are making voice calls more frequently and for much longer.
In India, that number is 70% longer, according Ericsson’s APAC CTO, Dr. Magnus Ewerbring. We are witnessing similar trends in Europe and North America. The world is talking and people across marketing disciplines are listening in. The second coming of video conferencing has already been in the global spotlight. The rise and fall and rise of Zoom is already urban legend. According to behavioural psychologists studying communication trends, people have an inherent need to connect in this forced isolation. Voice and video create a much stronger connection when compared to text exchanges. The good old conversation is back in vogue.
It is no surprise that this change in behaviour is also altering how brands connect with consumers. Conversational advertising isn’t a recent phenomenon, the idea of providing unique, bespoke experiences to each consumer from the very beginning of the marketing funnel has been around for a while. It all began with the intent of creating a customer first experience powered by AI. Today the more sophisticated conversational interfaces use a combination of machine learning and natural language processing to understand the context and provide the most relevant responses. We have all engaged with conversational advertising in the form of chatbots while searching for an insurance policy or while researching our next automobile purchase or figuring out details on a lipid profile test.
The pandemic has created a “technology moment”, a moment in which a crisis accelerates societal change much faster than we would otherwise expect. I believe that conversational campaigns will play an increasingly important role in the post lockdown world.
During the pandemic we have already seen multiple campaigns where brands across the world have used the power of AI and conversational campaigns to help manage information and education. During the current crisis, governments, healthcare companies and insurance organizations are relying on conversational AI applications to manage the upswell of customer demand for information. The success of conversational AI is not limited to healthcare and related sectors. Across the board we have seen a great engagement with conversational campaigns and the willingness of consumers to participate in exchanges that matter.
Even as things return to normal, I believe people continue to rely on technology enabled conversations to inform, educate, communicate and even transact. I see conversational campaigns become an integral part of the evolution to “contactless commerce’ across categories, online and offline.
As customers grow to rely more on conversational campaigns, the campaigns themselves will need to evolve. When you start a conversation you aren’t just registering a click or a passive web session, you are initiating an interactive experience. AI will lead the evolution in ensuring that the experience continues to be as unique as possible while remaining frictionless so it remains a customer first experience. At the same time we will need to elevate the experience for people. Brands can do no better than to “get conversational”, if the engagement genuinely accommodates the consumer’s existing experience.
Elevating this experience will be the integration of conversational AI with other technologies, like voice and AR. One of my pet peeves is the use of AR and VR together in an attempt to over simplify the technologies. For the purpose of this piece we will not delve into why it bothers me so much and instead just focus on AR.
In 2019 Augmented Reality took centre-stage in the world of marketing with brands like Samsung, Volvo and IKEA making large marketing bets on AR technology. More recently, One Plus continued to push the AR envelop with the launch of its latest device, the One Plus Nord. The BCG Marketing Executive Benchmarking Study says that 90% of large consumer advertisers in the US use or plan to use AR in their campaigns. According to Nielsen’s Superdata report, 61% of users share AR ads which they see on the Internet. 35% of them do it to their social media followers and 26% to close friends and family.
Consider the norms of a post lockdown world. Social distancing, contactless commerce, conversational inputs to replace touch, an upsurge in the need for information and the desire to stay connected. Conversational campaigns will need to be reimagined as experiential opportunities with the right choice of technology to create elevated experiences.
So, much like a great conversation they stay with us long after the conversation is over.
- Ranjit Raina is CEO at Geometry Encompass
View the article at Brand Equity.
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