The Conversation Economy is Here-- And Brands Must Forge an Identity to Participate

Much of the early discourse surrounding the internet had to do with the concerning lack of human connection. We imagined a world in which everything was automated, and true communication was limited.

However, brands are now discovering that more customers than ever want to engage them in a conversation. These days, consumers can use digital methods to interact with companies-- exploring their options, making purchases, and even investigating medical issues.

Whether it’s in the form of instant messaging or voice-user interfaces, consumer-brand interaction is no longer limited to complaints. Rather, it’s an ever-present part of the entire experience chain. How will brands respond to this surge in demand for real-time engagement? And with artificial intelligence growing increasingly sophisticated, how do we build our brand’s personality and nature into that technology?

A variety of brands have already begun using digital conversational tools.

On many websites, a chatbox will now automatically appear in the lower left hand corner of the screen, inviting the visitor to chat with a named employee. Some companies have surpassed this development already, such as U.S. insurance provider Lemonade, which has built a chatbot platform allowing users to experience the process digitally from beginning to end and leave the chat with a policy that is tailored to their personal needs.

 

The technology is also presenting uses for medical practices, like Babylon Health in the UK.

They now work with an AI-enabled triage tool that answers patients’ questions and assesses the urgency of their situation before referring them to a doctor, taking some of the strain off of live healthcare providers.

But what does this mean for brand personality?

Maintaining an identity in the digital marketplace, especially within conversations with consumers, is a concept marketers will be exploring for a while yet. Part of this question involves the psychological phenomenon of “mirroring,” where we subconsciously match someone’s body language and speech cadence if we are trying to connect with them. Developments in technology mean that brands can perform a similar function; the amount of data companies can collect on their customers enables them to get to know our behaviors, our language patterns, and our tastes. Chatbots have the potential to use what they know about you in order to become more like you, in a bid to secure your patronage. This will likely become standard practice before too long, and brand will be able to differentiate themselves for each customer.

However, this method of rapport-building has pitfalls for certain areas of business. Banks, utility firms, insurance providers, and medical services can all benefit from speaking to each customer in a way that exactly suits their needs-- but what about those companies with strong and unique brand personalities? As CROWD has covered before, millennial consumers in particular are drawn to companies that have a distinct voice and “flavor.”

Quartz’s chat-messaging interface is a strong example of a brand maintaining its personality, thanks to their use of emojis, GIFs, charts, and quizzes. They are matched in these efforts by Slack, which uses multiple organizational bots like Workbot and Meekan, all while keeping up playful personalities. With AI in the mix, marketers will have to work hard to build interfaces whose digital personalities can withstand the trials of real-time interactions.

Voice engagement adds another layer of complexity to the problem of brand engagement. Voice personalities like Siri, Alexa, Google Home and Cortana have steadily gained popularity as a method of user interface, but choosing to use such an AI will mean that it becomes the ears and voice of your brand, further limiting expression.

Communicating brand personality through conversation can seem like an existential quandary. How are we as businesses to connect in real-time with our customers, without losing ourselves in the equation? Ultimately, it is the existence of compassionate and human interactions that underpins the entire question. Today’s customers crave real responses from real people, and businesses that retain a robotic approach to their patrons are likely to be left behind. As conversational engagement becomes an expected part of the customer journey, brands must focus first on making conversation possible-- then on what they wish to communicate. For more advice, inspiration, and tech news, visit CROWD. or send an email to hello@crowd.agency.

 
 
TRENDSZoë Jenkin