Consumer engagement is a challenge for every brand. Consumers are inundated with marketing messages, and brands often have the tendency to advertise beyond the point at which consumers can continue to care. While many forms of advertising come relatively cheap (on a CPM basis at least), engagement is critical to making the most of advertising time as its purchased.
Instead of filling up on ads, forward-thinking brands are considering different ways to make more of the time they get with consumers. Conversational advertising and other solutions are one of the select ways in which brands are choosing to put aside traditional campaign approaches and put consumer engagement front and center. By generating conversations, multi-turn exchanges and multiple minutes of interaction per engagement, brands can help consumers define choices based on their own wants and needs, empowering them to more often convert to sale.
Maximizing engagement from any amount of traffic is critical to getting the best marketing outcomes, but it’s even more important as more marketing channels have passed their respective points of diminishing returns. Consumers have more choices than ever before. Brands can only continue to improve on sustainable, repeatable growth models by deepening their relationships with consumers. As you’ll see, below, minutes of engagement offer a new category and approach within which brands can hope to outstrip traditional marketing returns, and do so all at scale.
Why Do Consumers Waver and Waffle?
Simply put, consumers have too many options for any one brand to benefit. If Consumer Packaged Goods are any indicator, consumers have nearly 40,000 more products to choose from in their local supermarkets than they did 30 years ago – a 550% increase. What’s more, North America alone has more than 1.3 million ecommerce brands to choose from. Every one of those brands and products competes for consumer attention, but it’s the brands who make choices easier for the consumer that ultimately win out.
Some brands already offer consumers the ability to get the guidance, recommendations and instant, personalized responses that help them make decisions faster. Where brands offer this, they also empower consumers to make better decisions and ultimately buy more by limiting the barriers they have to making any given purchase.
Consumers have reviews, ratings, marketplace sites like Amazon and of course friends and family influencing much of their path to purchase. Among these resources, however, they are only able to access opinions and also receive consultation and personalization with little to no brand involvement (if they’re not piecing together their choices themselves).
While brands have no issue gaining exposure through advertising, brands are fundamentally underrepresented in the ways consumers make decisions. Only in rare cases do they have sales staff, promotional representatives or other brand agents present and able to influence a consumer’s decision.
These efforts are rare in part because they are expensive, unpredictable and difficult to scale. Consumers are thus left to their own devices for most of their experience with a brand. It should be no wonder that they hesitate to convert or are otherwise indecisive about the choices they have. This is why brands need to consider using engagement as an opportunity to surface their consumer’s best choices – and encourage them to actually make those choices!
Today’s Most Repeatable Engagements for Brands
Content-based interactions, services, quizzes and calculators are all useful tools for brands to help consumers make better purchase decisions and ultimately purchase more products. In many cases, however, they are also predefined, linear experiences that don’t respond to the nuances in an individual consumer’s thoughts, speech or actions.
Conversations are one way to overcome this. Whether it’s through messaging, voice assistants or in-person, conversations are the most natural way in which human beings exchange ideas, and naturally lead to the insights upon which we make many of our decisions.
In the context of a brand, live chat or in-store representatives are one way of offering conversational capabilities to help consumers make choices, but these are – again – expensive, unpredictable and difficult to scale. That’s where new solutions like conversational AI can step in, fill the gap, and help consumers make the best choices for them.
Conversations, whether started in an advertisement, on a website, on a social media channel, via a QR code or through a voice assistant allow brands and consumers to take turns in getting to know each other. Conversations are a more natural interface for surfacing wants and needs than a traditional website or other user experiences. They don’t require you to interpret dozens of options – you can simply speak as you would to a friend and, if the right intelligence is “under the hood”, assistance can be provided and you can be understood.
This doesn’t mean that ecommerce experiences as they are need to be relegated to the dustbin of history, but with all the choices that consumers have, nudging them towards simpler and more straightforward experiences are likely to have an outsized payoff.
Measuring Minutes of Engagement
When engaging consumers in conversations at scale, time finally becomes a meaningful factor in how brands determine and act on a consumer’s interest. Interactive experiences or great content often get consumers to engage for a few minutes at a time, but these experiences are still passive and rarely thought-provoking.
Conversations require people to actually think about what they want, but not so much that it pushes them away. This is finally where brands can measure meaningful minutes of engagement – time where a consumer is responsive, interested and interacting with an experience – and trace the content of that engagement directly to a purchase decision. Brands don’t have to define minutes of engagement as time spent on a page, but can look at them as continuous and uninterrupted minutes of focused interaction between a brand and a consumer, in which information is exchanged, questions are answered and recommendations are proposed and evaluated.
Today’s measure of Consumer Engagement: continuous and uninterrupted minutes of focused interaction between a brand and a consumer, in which information is exchanged, questions are answered and recommendations are proposed and evaluated.
Measuring this is as simple as having a running clock alongside a consumer’s interaction with a brand, whether with human representatives or conversational AI. Beneath minutes themselves, there are a variety of other measures that better qualify engagements in order to understanding whether a brand is improving or needs further work on its engagement efforts. These include:
- Ratio of engagements to impressions or website visitors
- Sales lift from engagements
- # of turns per conversation or engagement
- Email collection, diagnostic completion or survey completion rates
- Customer Satisfaction or NPS scores
- Exits from conversations
Though total measures of engagement can be correlated with revenue and ROI, using more incremental measures of engagement (for example, 6 or more minutes of average chat time per interaction) can serve as a leading indicator for the value of a given experience, as well as its effect on the health of a brand. Without engagement at the core of a brand strategy and without finding measurably better ways to engage, brands are simply leaving consumer time, interest, attention and dollars on the table – all of which other brands can then collect on.
Adding New Dimensions to Brand Marketing
Consumers don’t always know what’s best for them, but they should be trusted to recognize it. Unconsciously forcing choices on people almost never works, because ultimately the costs of dissatisfaction are far greater than the benefits of getting things right. We are risk-averse, downside-avoidant and conservative decision-makers by nature. Most brands need to consider the extent to which consumers value and watch their dollars, taking their time through various forms of engagement in order to find the right choices for them.
This can seem like a challenge all its own, but embarking on the path to generating this kind of engagement is far more critical to brands than continuing to do “business as usual”. Brands need to be default-on for new ways to stand out from their competition and deepen their relationships with consumers. Today, it is harder than ever to stand out, but it’s also easier than ever to challenge the assumptions consumers have and the evaluations they make.
Amidst all the information consumers have, they are less certain than ever – perfect timing for the right brand voice to guide their way. Consumer engagement can finally be measured in minutes first of all, and meaningfully so, with the guidance, recommendations and personalized responses those minutes offer leading to increased sales and value for brands as a result.
Automat builds Conversational AI for Brands that leads to more engagement, consumer insights and sales lift by offering consumers guidance, recommendations and instant, personalized responses to the questions they have throughout their customer journey. Contact Automat to learn more about making the most of your marketing.