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25 eCommerce Experts Share Why Conversational Marketing is The Next Big Thing in 2021

25 eCommerce Experts Share Why Conversational Marketing is The Next Big Thing in 2021
Table of Contents

Conversational marketing has been around for some time. Brands are now looking to create closer connections with their audience.

But how does it work?

Unlike marketing blasts which push out promotions and discount codes with no intention of offering personalized real value, conversational marketing focuses on engaging customers, and offering support, and getting real-time feedback. It’s an empathy-driven approach, which other mediums like email or push notifications can't offer.

This has a number of benefits, like reducing the number of support tickets, increasing customer retention, converting more abandoned carts and driving insane ROI. With almost 70% of carts ending up abandoned, many brands face issues converting them to a final sale. With conversational tools such as SMS or Live Chat your shoppers are guided and nurtured through every step of their journey.

We asked 25 eCommerce Experts 3 questions about Conversational Marketing:

  • How has technology influenced conversational marketing?
  • What do customers expect from brands nowadays?
  • How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

Let’s dive deeper into each expert’s answers and find out why Conversational Marketing is the future of consumer-brand interaction.

Erik Huberman, Founder & CEO @ Hawke Media

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

Technology in conversational marketing has allowed for more one to one communication at scale. You can automate a good portion of your conversations with your customers and potential customers so that one person can actually handle a lot more communication, allowing for this to actually be a profitable channel.

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

If you're looking to build on conversational marketing to create real connections, it is pretty straight forward. The more your audience feels like you are talking to them specifically, the more they trust you. The more they trust you, the higher the chance they buy from you and keep buying.  Allowing them to interact with you expounds on that even more.

I believe the largest shift in expectations from customers to brands is customers expect brands to have values. The look at not just what a brand provides or what problem it solves, but also how they act as a global citizen and where they stand on today's issues.

Listen to Eric's episode on The Growth Theory Podcast, where he shares his approach to building a holistic marketing strategy that turns shoppers into long-term brand advocates.

William Lynch, Partnerships Manager @ Underwaterpistol

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

The way people have shopped has been evolving since the start of commerce and it’s been moving towards a more frictionless transaction; from shopping in multiple shops, to doing one big shop in a supermarket. And eventually leading to shopping online from the comfort of your own home. With this evolution of shopping the conversational, human aspect of commerce has been lost and instead we’re faced with AI conversational robots and FAQ pages.

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

Brands that are able to harness conversational marketing bring back the human element of shopping while maintaining the frictionless shopping experience of ecommerce. This helps create a stronger connection between you and your customers and keeps them coming back.

My two big tips for Conversational Marketing would be to "be in the right place" and "be human".

If you’re offering omnichannel eCommerce and selling across multiple marketplaces, but only offering conversational marketing via a single channel, then it’s not true omnichannel. Use SMS, on-site live chat, Facebook messenger, and WhatsApp to be in the right place for your customer. It's so easy as marketers to write content that appeals to the masses, but conversational content needs to be exactly that - conversational. Use the conversations in the same way as if you were texting a friend or emailing a colleague and remember to talk to your customers, not at them.

Tom Crawshaw, CEO @ Email Alchemy

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

When it comes to building a brand, the relationship you have with your customers are super important. Gone are the days of churn and burn, when you try to sell as many products to as many people as possible with minimal customer service and non-existent communication. If you want to be successful in the long run with eCommerce you must place the relationship with your customers above all else. Just put yourself into the shoes of your customers. This shouldn’t be difficult because you’ve probably bought something from a brand online recently. So, as a customer, if you’re unsure about purchasing, you’d expect to get your questions answered within 24 hours, ideally through web-chat or email. You’d also expect things like a purchase notification, shipping notification with tracking number, more information about the brand story, recommendations for similar products that compliment your original purchase and engaging content that shows you don’t just care about the sale.

So how would you react if all you got after a purchase was a receipt? No thank you message, no shipping notification, no brand story, nothing! I don’t know about you, but I get a little skeptical about the brand and it’s usually easy to forget you even made a purchase in the first place. I want the brand to reinforce the idea that I have just made a great decision with an awesome brand who cares about me! This is why email, SMS and web chat are so important, and now with the development of software platforms like Cartloop or Klaviyo, we can now deliver an extremely personalised experience for every customer with things like advanced segmentation, behaviour-based flow automations and 2-way conversational SMS campaigns.

Lisa Popovici, Co-founder @ Cartloop

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

eCommerce growth was said to have hit a 10-year growth in just 3 months. Marketers and retailers now face the challenge of innovating new channels and messaging to reach their customers. Retailers and marketers must brainstorm how they can meet the consumer when they’re ready and showing them what action to take next. Channels such as SMS, live chat, and Social Media, are the perfect digital marketing channels to communicate with customers, build relationships, and drive ROI this 2021.

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

2021 is going to be a competitive year in eCommerce. Consumers are now smarter than ever. They want to buy from brands that have mastered the art of the human touch through digital interfaces. That means attention to detail, transparency, good deals, instant support, and seamless returns.

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

This ‘new normal’ era of online retail is about going beyond just meeting the product demands and preferences of the consumer. It’s about establishing a relationship and customer satisfaction through personalized conversations. So for companies and marketers looking to get ahead of the competition this year, it’s not going to be a comparison game but merely the next crucial steps forward. This is where conversational marketing comes in. You’re engaging shoppers in real-time, creating two-way conversations to capture, qualify, promote and convert leads. This offers shoppers the experience of having their own personal shopping assistant.

James Sowers, Marketing Director @ The Good

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

Technology has advanced conversational marketing through personalization and scale. First, it allowed us to replicate that consultative, in-store shopping experience that you’re used to getting from Macy’s or your local car dealer. You can get recommendations or answers to your questions right there, in the moment, from a vetted expert. Next, it allowed us to maintain that same level of personalization at scale, which means we can provide a rich, rewarding purchasing experience to any customer, at any time, from anywhere in the world. Taking that in-person experience and porting it over the web has unlocked billions of dollars of additional value.

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Customers expect brands to offer an outstanding product at a reasonable rate with fast, reliable shipping times and “always on” customer service. More and more, customers are expecting brands to have a mission beyond just “making money” or “building the best widget.” They want to see brands who are supporting a cause, creating a community of like-minded people, or giving back to those in need. The best performing brands are able to get customers to buy into their VISION, not just their product line. Customers come for the goods, but they stick around because of their rewarding experience with the brand.

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

Too many brands look at conversational marketing as yet another sales and marketing channel, but that is totally missing the point. You’ve been in a conversation where the other person only talked about themselves, their life, and their achievements. How did that feel? You probably wanted to find the quickest way out of that situation, right? The highest performing brands make sure that their marketing is a two-way conversation, where they not only learn about their customers and form stronger relationships, but they also make sure that information gets shared across their organization (Ex: customer success, marketing, sales, fulfilment) so it can inform marketing messages, streamline their operations, and improve their customer experience.

One-Way Communication vs Two-Way Communication

This all boils down to the fact that one-way communication is like shouting into the void. You’re like a person standing in front of a mattress store twirling their “Labor Day Sale” sign around in the air. Conversational marketing, on the other hand, is more intimate. It’s a one-to-one connection with your prospects that allows you to learn more about their needs and desires and use that information to personalize their experience with your brand. There is no better feedback loop for improving your products, your marketing messages, your website, and your sales efforts. If you listen closely, you’ll learn everything you need to know to rapidly accelerate your business growth, but it’s not a “set it and forget it” strategy. You have to stay involved.

Ben Zettler, Digital Marketing & Ecommerce Consultant @ Ben Zettler Digital Media

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

Advancements in technology have completely changed the way that brands need to be thinking about interacting with customers. One-to-many conversations, while still important to be a part of a brand's strategy, are just a piece of the puzzle now more than ever. With SMS and Messenger capabilities, highly-segmented email automations, and connectivity with individual customers via social media possible at the snap of a finger, brands must be prepared to diversify their outreach.

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Customers expect a lot. But, that can be misleading. Customers don't necessarily expect a large quantity of communications, but they absolutely do expect quality. The "a lot" is more thought and effort going into each piece of content that a customer may receive from a brand. Not only can it be bothersome for a customer to receive a piece of messaging that they may not be interested in, but that irrelevant messaging can have ripple effects on how a customer may engage with a brand in the future. The advancement of technology has broken the barriers to entry for any brand to reach a consumer, but with that competition is fierce. With too much noise in the marketplace, "turning off" a customer can be detrimental. It can be very easy after that for a brand's messaging to get lost.

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

Segment. Segment. Segment. Personalize. Personalize. Personalize. The name of the game is relevancy. Marketers need to use the data at their finger tips--purchase history, interests, etc. to tailor content to customers that they are more likely to engage with. With one-to-one messaging capabilities now being possible at scale, make communications less formal. Have a conversation. As the brand, be something for the customer beyond just an entity they buy goods or services from.

One-Way Communication vs Two-Way Communication

There are certain things that customers expect. When it comes time for a major sale, promotion, or product release, the tried-and-true method of sending out a mass message to a brand's subscriber base is expected. But, one-way communication of that nature can very quickly "fall on deaf ears" if it is not properly balanced with communications that are meant to engage with customers as opposed to purely sell customers. Marketers have to put themselves in the shoes of their customers; think from their perspective. Ask what the best way would be for a customer to receive the message being sold. It is not going to be the same answer for everyone.

Kirpal Bharaj, Co-founder @ Stay Sixty

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

The effect of Covid-19 clearly has a huge impact on the way we shop - having a huge impact on the demand for DTC eCommerce brands. It gives brands a pretty incredible digital opportunity, but we really need to make the most of this potential for increased impressions, traffic and ultimately sales.

You’ll need to stand for something, have uniqueness and have something that really resonates with your target market to make the most of the opportunity. Just creating a ‘me-too’ brand to try and take advantage is highly likely to fail.

Consumers are just too savvy for that. Higher levels of personalisation and conversational marketing will help extend your brand tone-of-voice, extending uniqueness and bring potential consumers into your world. This obviously helps with trust but also with the overall shopping experience that consumers may miss from shopping in physical stores.

Listen to Kirpal's episode on The Growth Theory Podcast, where he talked to us about how they managed to market StaySixty on a budget and the inspiration behind the brand.

Timur Khudaiberdiev, Partnerships @ Growave

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

First, we should understand what conversational marketing does best: it helps decrease the lead funnel cycle and treat people on an individual level. You should understand that authentic experience with your audience doesn’t come easy, especially with generation Z, where it is important for them to build relationships with brands that bring value since they are passionate about making a change in this world and fight for those values.

Personalization doesn’t only come by being open and helpful to the specific customer, now you need to understand their character and try to be on the same wave with the crowd.

If you are a brand looking to build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience, please be cautious when applying some strategies to your business that you read on the internet. Not all strategies may work for your region or niche. My main advice is to keep it like you are in a real time market, where you try to understand customer needs, suggest what is available on your shelves, always have some ideas to start a small talk, and keep it easy.

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

We understand that everything is going online, but the main reasons people love bazaars and malls haven’t gone anywhere. Messengers are very useful to start, whether it is SMS or email, just don’t make it hard for your customers to contact you and force them to jump through endless hoops before a conversation can ever take place. How to stand out from the crowd and not be the brand that only provides quality product or service, but brings value to shoppers is the key to earn customers’ loyalty.

Ryan McGuire, VP CRM & Email @ Tinuiti

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Customers expect more and more from the brands they engage with than ever before. Gone are the days where customers will readily share their personal information (name, physical address, email address, mobile number) without expecting much in return. As data privacy rules continually change and evolve, there's become an increasingly heightened level of expectation that if a customer shares data with a brand(s), the brand will use this data to benefit the actual customer experience. Customers expect they'll benefit from more targeted and relevant communications, based on the customer data they've shared (gender, purchase behavior) vs. a one size fits all approach to communications. Ultimately, customers expect brands to keep moving towards more personalized offers, while they get smarter and smarter over time, utilizing data.

Listen to Ryan's episode on The Growth Theory Podcast, where he explains why — and how high-growth brands and retailers approach email and SMS, as part of a holistic marketing strategy.

Adam Kitchen, Founder @ Magnet Monster

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Customers expect empathy. They want to feel understood, treated like humans, and not looked upon solely as ATMs.

Conversational marketing presents an opportunity to deepen alignment with the customer and strengthen brand affinity. It should be looked upon as an opportunity to strengthen CLV, not as an additional cost to customer service.

Adena Merabi, Strategic Partnerships @ MuteSix

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

In the age of Amazon Prime and Live Shopping, consumers are seeking convenience more than ever before and have high expectations when it comes to a seamless shopping experience. To take it a step further, people are investing in brands they feel are authentic and that demonstrate values they align with -- this is especially true of Gen Z and Millennials. With spending power in the trillions and growing, young buyers expect companies to give back to communities in tangible ways and support causes like human rights, racial justice, and the environment.

Bayo Dele, Marketing Consultant @ Deep 3 Media

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

Mobile messaging is bringing the conversational aspect of physical retail into the online world. Today, people shop asynchronously and on-the-go, and as marketers it's our job to meet them there. Conversational marketing allows us to meet the consumer with a level of personalization and intimacy that was previously impossible. It not only adds to their experience but enables brands to leverage these new channels for driving key KPIs in their business. Getting conversational with customers is a win-win. Consumers have come to expect it, and brands that use it are poised for building more direct relationships that their competitors cannot.

Scott Kramer, VP of Growth Revenue @ Common Thread Co

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

Technology has made it even easier for brands to connect with their customers and this is something that consumers are becoming more accustomed to and will continue to expect in the future. We are at an inflection point where people don't want to be stuck talking to an ill-equipped bot and they also don't want to wait to talk with a live person. Consumers are used to an immediate response, so brands need to be prepared to respond in such away. Up until now, automated bots have only been able to get consumers so far and for some instances, it will suffice. But there is still a need to have a live person on the other need to show some compassion or more authentic details to help a person complete a purchase or resolve an issue. Only time will tell what the future holds and if AI will ever become versed enough to outsource all of our customer service needs.

Will Laurenson, Marketing Consultant @ Monkey Blocks

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Customers want a much more engaged relationship with brands these days. Far more people care about the values a brand has, and are more likely to engage with one that shares their own values whether that’s around sustainability & the environment, animals, or medical research.

By using a conversational strategy you’ll build better relationships with customers, leading to better lifetime values, higher rates of referrals, word of mouth, and reviews, while also generating hugely valuable feedback from people who feel almost part of the business, rather than just a customer receiving weekly promo emails.

Customers value a good experience, good products, and good customer service, but brands that take it to the next level and make it a relationship instead of just functional perform far better financially than those who don’t.

Lisa Oberst, Director of Email Marketing @ Fuel Made

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

Conversational marketing can be as simple as inviting your email recipients to answer your message. We see exceptional results when sending highly humanized abandoned cart emails letting customers know that someone is available to answer any questions they might have.

For example, Braxley Bands used to send two basic abandoned cart emails that recaptured 8.45% of abandoned carts.

We were able to boost that recovery rate to 20% in large part thanks to the plain-text emails sent from different Braxley Bands team members. These friendly emails invite readers to "hit reply" if they have any questions. This is a great way to understand what questions customers might have, to facilitate their checking out, and to create a human connection.

Kaleigh Moore, Writer & Subject Matter Expert for eCommerce

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

I think we're going to see a lot more of this in the coming years, but it'll be important for brands to use it wisely and in limited capacity. Overused, it can erode consumer trust and come across as "spammy". Especially SMS marketing. Use it sparingly, and use it wisely.

Make sure there's an ongoing feedback loop so that it can be fine-tuned along the way. it's not a one and done!

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Personalization (so, no mass-messaging.) They want tailored offers that come at relevant moments in the customer journey.

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

It's certainly provided more options. And it's where the eyeballs are--especially smartphones.

David Hoos, Marketing Director @ Conversmart

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Customers expect brands that relate to them—from vocalizing values that they hold to being personal and approachable online. In a lot of ways, it's a return to the expectations and values of small town shopping.

One-Way Communication vs Two-Way Communication

Two-way conversational marketing allows brands to behave far more like physical locations. You can walk in, ask some questions about the products, narrow your choices, and then purchase. As conversational marketing continues to improve, it will de-risk online shopping even further for consumers as it begins to resemble brick and mortar more and more.

Julien Normand, Email Marketing Manager @ PilotHouse

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

With people easier to reach than ever on their mobile devices and data tracking evolving to new levels, conversational marketing has become essential in today's e-commerce verticals. It is now essential to have some form of instant communication with your prospective and existing clients. They expect timely and informative answers on product specifications and usage, limiting factors of the product/service based on individual needs or wants, and they do NOT want to wait for it. If they can't get the answers they want exactly when they want them, they will move on and your brands value will be diminished from their perspective.

Andrada Vonhaz, Marketing Specialist @ Omniconvert

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

Television, radio and speeches have always been around, right? We get the information we need and then leave. But what if we have more questions? This is what customers might be thinking when they browse through an eCommerce website and just can't find what they're looking for because they have unanswered questions that a simple FAQ cannot solve.

Customers are the heart of your business, so how can you not be there for them along their journey throughout buying and experiencing their desired product? By analyzing your customers' behavior, you can easily determine what they want and what they actually need. By using conversational marketing techniques like a well-optimized chatbot, you help your customers feel safe and satisfied to have someone available for them.

Conversational marketing is a gold mine for eCommerce, thinking about all the new implementations you can make to improve your customers' journey by simply listening and answering their questions.

Darren Foong, Growth Manager @ ReferralCandy

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

Tech has made chatbots commonplace and regular. In Singapore, there's a chatbot on every government website (to help with paperwork and tasks). My telco has a chatbot too! It's likely that conversational marketing tech will allow companies to serve more customer queries at greater scale, and become an expected part of the customer interface.

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Customers today expect the same as customers a hundred years ago: I want my questions answered, and I want it now. They want their answers solved - or at least to know someone will be along to solve it for them. If you're considering conversational marketing, you'll want to ensure you avoid making customers feel like they're having to wait for someone to attend to them and they're being fobbed off on a bot.

Felix Suellwold, Head of Partnerships @ PushOwl

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Customers want to be reached out on channels that they are familiar with rather than pick from the limited options they are provided by the eCommerce store they are browsing. It’s crucial for merchants to adopt a multi-channel approach to their marketing, enabling newer marketing channels like web push and Facebook Messenger so that you can easily cater to these customers and reach them better.

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

Referencing the recent online shopping experience is one of the easiest but also meaningful ways to start a conversation with your potential customers. However, it is important that merchants don’t blindly focus on traditional sales techniques such as generic discounts or reminders. Instead, the conversations should circle around the customer’s interest and the benefits they would gain from taking action.

Mindaugas Juozapaitis, Co-founder @ Blazer Agency

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

Technology has influenced conversational marketing by speeding up processes and helping with faster decision making in many fields.

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Customers' expectations have also changed. They expect brands to listen and adapt to their needs, they expect a personalized experience and, most importantly, they expect superb customer service without any hassle.

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

In order to make this happen, brands need to start interacting with customers, ask questions and dive deep into their problems before offering personalized solutions to their problems.

This makes it clear that when it comes to marketing, conversational is always better. It converts easier, and nowadays even a warm, personalized text from a founder converts multiple times better than a cold email or some randomly assigned gifs.

Dorian Reeves, Co-founder @ SH1FT

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

When you think of technology relating to marketing, there's plenty that comes to mind. Chatbots have made it a lot easier to auto-manage hundreds of personalized conversations, to some extent. I still think technology is not fully there yet and that humans have to take over the conversation to really have conversational marketing be efficient.

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

This is also because nowadays, people expect customer service to be absolutely top notch. It's what makes or break the relation between brands and customers, and it's the difference maker between repeat customers and getting one order.

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

If you want to build on conversational marketing to create connections with your audience, be transparent. and keep in constant contact. Keep them in the loop with their order, follow up after they purchase, ask them if everything went smoothly... Make sure you delight them post purchase, and make sure you segment people who haven't bought yet to talk to them more personally.

This is all about a two-way stream rather than one-way communications. While one-way can be good for impulse buy or benefitting special offers, conversational marketing ensures you also build your brand image and trustworthiness in the process. It might take more effort, but you'll build a long-lasting customer base.

Alan van Toai, Founder @ CrewFire

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

Technology has given every individual a platform and a voice - making word-of-mouth, referrals, and user-generated content more powerful and important than ever before. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube have made it so any individual can share their experiences, products, and brands in ways that were only available to publishers, media outlets, and advertisers in the past.

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Customers expect transparency, great products, great experiences, and great support. Technology has leveled the playing field with regards to the information customers now have access to before making a purchase decision - and they're relying on information and referrals from friends and other everyday folks more than before - so brands who don't exhibit the values of transparency, great products, great experiences, and great support will be quickly exposed and filtered out.

Michael Melen, Co-Founder @ SmartSites

When you boil it down, marketing has always been about having conversations. For too long, marketing has mainly been one-way communication. That's getting left behind. Conversational marketing blends marketing, sales, and data. Looking at 2021 and beyond, we'll be seeing a significant shift to conversational marketing.

Bonus: Jeremy Horowitz, Host of the Messenger Mastermind Podcast

How has technology influenced conversational marketing?

Technology has made conversational marketing manageable for brands at scale. The ability to bring a personalized experience to thousands of customers (or hundreds of thousands) wouldn't be possible without great tools to allow our lean teams to manage these types of programs.

What do customers expect from brands nowadays?

Customers expect a brand to have their data and know all of the relevant information about what they need at the moment they reach out. They're looking for quick simple next steps that don't require work on their part or a lot of back and forth. They don't want to share context on their relationship with the brand, they expect the brand to be able to know what they want and simply deliver it to them.

How can brands build on conversational marketing to create connections with their audience?

The best part about Conversational Marketing is that it directly builds relationships with customers and potential customers. At the end of the day, people want to buy from other people they know, like, and trust. By creating Marketing programs where you can talk with many customers at once you build that relationship in each response.

One-Way Communication vs Two-Way Communication

Over the past hundred years we've been moving more from one-way, mass blast advertising to conversational marketing. The goal at the end of the day is establish as many close connections with customers as possible. With new tools like Cartloop entering the space we've recently been able to make our marketing more personal and conversational because it's become more efficient. The more personal and 1:1 we can make our Marketing the better long-term brands we'll be able to build.

Wrapping Up

Kudos to you if you’ve made it this far! This means you are caught up on all the latest eCommerce trends regarding conversational marketing. Hopefully, you could take out useful tips from eCommerce experts and start your 2021 with an unfair advantage.

Let us know in the comments section below what's one advice from the experts that you relate with the most!

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Lisa Popovici

Co-founder at Cartloop. Med School graduate turned to tech. When she's not working on growing Cartloop, you'll probably find Lisa working out or preparing an avocado toast for a late brunch.

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