When it comes to ecommerce sales and marketing, there's more competition than ever for people's attention and wallets. The days are over when clever marketing campaigns were all you needed to bring shoppers in and build their trust.
But in an age of digital everything, people crave genuine connection. Connection drives revenue: according to Salesforce, 80 percent of customers say the experience a company provides to them is as important as the company's products and services.(1)
And there's no better driver for human connection than conversations,
What is conversational marketing?
Like its name suggests, conversational marketing is a dialogue-driven marketing strategy to deliver the best customer experience by creating personalized, timely, and engaging conversations. Conversational marketing differs from one-way broadcasts, advertisements, or other generic outbound tactics because it relies on two-way dialogue to build relationships and convert leads into buyers. Conversational marketing is fast becoming the norm because it epitomizes the personalization and immediacy consumers desire.
Conversational marketing has at its core the assumption that we will spend more attention — and money — with brands that feel "human": brands that make us feel a sense of familiarity, rapport, and trust. The higher the product's price point, the more consumers want that sense of trust and connection. We typically develop these feelings through conversations, which in turn build long-lasting customer relationships.
Without the benefit of face-to-face interactions with consumers, many businesses find it especially challenging to humanize their ecommerce customer experiences. This is what makes a successful conversational marketing strategy so important: One size does NOT fit all, and the more personalized the conversations, the more likely customers are to return again and again.
Conversational marketing is often associated with chatbots, but in reality, any type of campaign that uses conversations can be called conversational marketing. The most successful conversational strategy is one that creates timely, engaging, and meaningful conversation between a brand and its shoppers. Strong customer interactions increase website visitors, drive conversions, and build loyalty.
The benefits of conversational marketing with SMS
Given all the time we spend with our mobile devices (two-thirds of Americans say they spend at least four hours day on their phones), it's no surprise that messaging apps are where the meaningful conversations happen. Why wouldn't you want to meet shoppers where they already spend their time? This is what makes SMS the prime medium for conversational marketing. Text messaging, in mimicking face-to-face chatting, already feels easy, fast, and familiar.
SMS technology is hardly new, but its potential as an effective conversational marketing channel has yet to be fully realized. Software review website G2 calls text marketing a "best-kept secret", since only about 40% of marketing and sales teams are using it regularly. Two-way SMS conversations are especially important, since one-way text blasts can feel as spammy and generic. Research from Twilio found that 90% of consumers want to use texts to communicate with businesses. Yet most consumers who have tried to text a business never received a response.(2)
Inbound marketing strategy has to evolve constantly to retain its effectiveness. But over the last two decades, many marketers simply brought the techniques that had been successful in traditional channels — like direct mail, cold calling, email, and static ads — into SMS. That meant consumers got bombarded through text messages with the same marketing material they already saw everywhere else. Even as marketing communication strategies evolved to be more adaptive and personalized, SMS marketing has been slow to catch up — which is a shame, because one of the key benefits of text messaging is that it can build meaningful, long-lasting relationships with consumers.
How conversational SMS marketing works
When you have genuine conversations with your customers, you build an affinity between them and your brand. Using SMS for conversational marketing allows you to fill in the communication gaps that are often present in email marketing — which is the primary marketing channel for most ecommerce brands. Even when used as part of a marketing automation strategy, SMS lets you better communicate empathy to your consumers and respond to their needs on a more personal level.
Strategic SMS marketing should take a conversational approach and allow for two-way communication. The messaging style should be engaging and friendly, and only subtly or casually promotional. The goal is to build rapport, just as you would face-to-face with someone you'd just met, before engaging in a sales conversation.
Let's explore some of the tactics you can implement today in your marketing strategy to start engaging in more conversations with your customers, and building loyalty that’ll take your business to the next level.
5 Ways to Increase Customer Loyalty Through Conversational Marketing
There are lots of ways to improve customer loyalty and retention. But let's focus on how you can use conversational marketing and text messaging to acquire customers, speed up the sales process, improve the customer journey, and increase loyalty. It’s the combination of these two that makes conversational marketing so powerful.
1. Focus on Customer Experience, Not Just Pricing
Customers have access to more information than ever before. Which also means they can find your competitors more easily than before. With so many options available, products and services tend to blur together in the eye of the consumer, especially if the only difference is a few bucks here and there.
Instead of constantly trying to compete on price and promotions, you can focus on building a more enjoyable buying experience for your customers. If it's easy, stress-free, and faster to buy from you, you'll entice customers to come back again.
A clear example of this approach is Apple. They're definitely not the cheapest option on the market, but by creating a unique customer experience, they've built a loyal customer base that associates Apple's products with high quality and ROI, and that will keep buying their products for years to come.
A quick way to improve the customer journey is by identifying your existing customers' preferred communication channels, and then enabling customers to ask questions and get answers quickly. If you’re diligent with information and assistance, buyers will return again and again. (Check our guide on how to build better relationships with your customers through SMS.)
2. Meet Users Where They Are
There’s nothing worse than finding a fantastic product on Instagram, asking for more information in the comments, and getting a DM five hours later with a generic "thanks for getting in touch" message that doesn’t answer your question.
Per above, find out where your customers spend their time online and where they prefer to engage with you, and use these channels to start conversations. When a customer asks for more information through a chat or a tweet, respond as soon as possible so you can provide a great interaction. Speed is of the essence. It shows potential customers that you’re engaged and responsive.
There’s one channel all customers have access to and use: SMS. Text messages have a 98% open rate, and most text messages receive a response within 90 seconds. And 75% of consumers surveyed said they'd be happy to receive an offer via SMS, according to Campaign Monitor.(3)
SMS is a highly personal form of one-on-one communication, and it's fast and convenient. This means shoppers pay closer attention to text messages than email, which means higher conversion rates for your brand.
3. Use SMS Conversational Marketing to Connect Customers with Solutions
With more than two-thirds of online traffic coming from mobile phones, embedded site-based solutions like chatbots might not be the best way to engage with the average consumer. In fact research from G2 Crowd found that 74% of consumers still prefer to get help from a human rather than interacting solely with a chatbot.(4)
Instead, you can use conversational SMS platforms to automate human conversations through a channel all shoppers have access to all the time. Creating personalized two-way SMS conversations lets you make conversation flows as simple or as complex as you need, and provides a real-time experience without compromising productivity or resources.
Automated flows are perfect for setting expectations and providing quick solutions, but when it comes to customer loyalty, emotions are what really matter. Giving your customers the option to talk to your brand will provide them with a better experience than any bot can.
It’s crucial for a great customer experience that users can communicate with your brand when they need to. Conversational marketing is all about human connection, and there’s no better channel than SMS, where friction is low, and responses are quick. An SMS conversation flow can bridge that gap easily, while human conversations will build the customer relationship.
4. Use Win-back Campaigns to Re-engage with Your Customers
When potential customers are searching for products or services, they can get easily distracted. Sending targeted messages to remind them of what they've wishlisted, browsed, or abandoned in a shopping cart is a great way to win back their business. They’ve already shown interest in a specific product or service; you can use SMS to help them over the finish line. These types of campaigns grab shoppers' attention in the moment, re-direct their attention to your website, and encourage them complete their purchase.
5. Personalize and Optimize Conversations for Higher Retention
Conversational marketing is an art and a science. Because there’s no "one-size-fits-all" for effective communication, you'll want to use the data collected from each interaction to improve your SMS flows and playbooks. You want every message to feel unique and, most importantly, relevant to your shopper's intent.
Personalization and optimization go beyond just including the subscriber's name in the text message. Demographic and psychographic information are helpful in building out segments and flows, as are data points like past purchases and browsing history.
When creating an SMS conversational marketing flow, think about the shopper's intention and where they're coming from. If they've recently visited your pricing page, their intention will be different than if they just read a blog post.
Conversational Marketing Examples
Let's take a look at a few examples of how conversational marketing can drive more sales and improve customer loyalty.
Bikini Crush Swimwear
After a huge growth in demand, Bikini Crush Swimwear was overwhelmed by the number of communications they were receiving in social media, their primary communications channel. The problem was that they couldn’t respond in a timely way, making it difficult to scale engagement.
With conversational marketing via SMS, they created flows to engage in real-time with their best customers. Unlike email, SMS responses are usually immediate, so there were no lost connections or delays between the customer and the brand.
Bikini Crush Swimwear was able to generate genuine conversations, which helped build the rapport they needed to grow their business and drive $126,000 in sales within six months.
Time is of the essence. But Split Nutrition didn’t have to invest in email, with its long sales cycle. It wanted a faster route to conversions and revenue.
After switching to SMS as their primary communication channel and integrating a conversational marketing strategy, Split Nutrition saw a 34% increase in their conversation rate and a massive boost in customer engagement.
Eat Well Nashville
Although Eat Well Nashville already had an impressive email subscriber list, their customers weren’t reading their emails. Or by the time they did, it was too late to place an order. This translated into lost revenue. What’s the point of sending a reminder to take action if it’s too late by the time the recipient receives it?
After changing their weekly email outreach to conversational marketing text campaigns, Eat Well Nashville noticed that their customers read, responded to, and bought almost immediately after their texts went out. The result of switching to a text-driven conversational marketing strategy was an increase of $500,000 in sales.
Drive Loyalty with Conversational Marketing
Conversational marketing is all about creating better consumer experiences and more authentic customer relationships. SMS is just a part of a successful conversational marketing strategy: you should plan to employ multiple channels and marketing activities if you want to engage people and improve your conversion rate.
Conversational marketing builds relationships, and relationships are the foundation of customer loyalty. Loyalty is the direct result of shoppers' interactions with you, the value they receive from your product or service, and their feelings about you and your representatives.
Customer loyalty is critical for sustained growth. A loyal customer prefers to buy from you over your competitors, and it’s pretty hard to get them to switch. Loyal customers are also more likely to recommend your brand to others, and word-of-mouth is the most trusted marketing asset you can have.
If you want to test out how conversational marketing with SMS drives customer loyalty, using a platform that guarantees you at least a 5X ROI, we’re ready to help you get started. Get a free demo today.