Beyond Chatbots: How Conversational Ads Help Consumers And Brands

Kevin van der Straat, Director, Global Solutions & Innovation

AI-powered conversational display media give brand marketers a new and powerful way to attract and engage consumers, gather new data, shorten sales cycles, and drive real productive outcomes.

The messages combine the best of display advertising — fast insertions and targeted reach through preferred programmatic channels and vendors — with interactivity that engages consumers well beyond the initial impression.

Marketers have noticed that today’s always-on consumers, especially those in the millennial and younger age ranges, are turning to AI-driven applications for research, shopping, and other information. They are increasing investments in chatbots through messaging services like Facebook and WhatsApp, and voice applications on smart speakers, in cars, and on the mobile devices consumers carry with them wherever they go.

Conversational display advertising combines the best of those implementations while simplifying the interactions. It’s an easily available, on-demand technology that lets consumers take the initiative and converse simply and naturally with brands about their products and services. Consumers don’t need to open a chat app, visit another website, or trigger a smart speaker to ask questions and get more information.

How Conversational Display Works

On its face, conversational display advertising is easy to understand. It enhances traditional display placements by making them interactive and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to make them conversational from within their creative elements.

Picture a more traditional display ad about a new car. The unit places a carefully crafted message in front of a targeted consumer in the hope that it will stick enough to create brand recall, brand lift, and maybe even inspire a click-through for more information.

The conversational display ad will instead give the consumer the chance from within the ad unit to choose from among pre-defined  buttons or type in questions about the car, such as: “What is this model’s price range?”, “How much luggage can it hold?”, or “What safety features does it have?” The ad will then give the answers to the questions, using the same types of artificial intelligence and linguistic science as chatbots. It might also offer further enticements, such as a newsletter sign-up or the chance to schedule a test drive.

The unit can also offer the consumer a tailored link to a web page such as the model configurator for the car in which the consumer has expressed interest. The linked page — whatever it is — will nearly always be more directly relevant to the consumer’s professed interests than the more generic ones linked from traditional display ads, which usually require still more clicks to receive the desired info.

Conversational Advertising Enables New Insights and Innovative Pricing

By using the best available technologies, conversational display ads deepen customers’ relationships with brands. From the first touchpoint, a customer enjoys personalized interactions and can exert a measure of control — a factor increasingly important to today’s shoppers.

And, if customers are deeper in their consideration cycle, having previously shown interest, they can guide the ad unit to give them more detailed and incisive information. If they’re already customers who have purchased from the brand, the creative can help them access customer service or support and thus engage further. It’s the user who has the privilege of initiating and framing a discussion upon which the brand can then build.

The ads also benefit brand marketers and their colleagues. Marketers and media traders glean information they can use to optimize campaigns, learning which channels and placements generate the most valuable interactions. They also reap qualitative data about customers’ needs and desires that they can use to further tailor campaigns and even pass the information on to product-development teams.

In the background, meanwhile, AI drives efficiencies, ingesting and analyzing data about which insertions most deserve more concentrated spending. With machine learning, the AI helps optimize the conversations as more people engage with the ads.

“Artificial Intelligence enables marketers to understand sales cycles better, correlating their strategies and spending to sales results,” Louis Columbus, principal at software company IQMS, wrote recently in Forbes. “AI-driven insights are also helping to break down data silos so marketing and sales can collaborate more on deals.”

The interactive ads allow for another big benefit: flexible billing models. They facilitate innovative pricing based on cost-per-engagement and conversion metrics from the softer types like click-outs and PDF downloads to the harder conversions of orders and sales.

Investment is Increasing

Conversational display advertising makes a mass ad format more personalized, channeling a large group of prospects into the channels most likely to engage them further. It provides marketers a flexible mix of creative story-telling and data-driven conversational applications at scale. The technology prequalifies consumers while cutting down waste.

By using conversational display advertising, brands have a growing opportunity to combine the best of interactive advertising, natural language conversation, and optimization via big data and AI. Brand marketers can use it to personalize advertising at massive scale, driving the business outcomes that matter most.

For decades, marketers have talked about using technology to build personalized relationships with consumers. Conversational display media allow brands to finally make the promise real.

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