Nearly 80% of marketers said customer communications must include a two-way dialogue between brands and consumers that "more deeply engages customers, address[es] customer questions, resolves issues, influences purchase decisions, improves loyalty and increases transactions," according to a study by LiveWorld emailed to Retail Dive.
Despite enthusiasm for brand-consumer conversations, the study found that less than half (48%) of marketers thought current two-way communications platforms could meet those needs, including social media, messaging apps and chatbots.
Of those who do use messaging apps, the majority (55%) of marketers use them for customer service, followed by marketing (43%), customer experience (27%) and sales (14%), according to the study.
Marketers are still relatively new to the messaging and chatbot scene — and shoppers, too, have been slow to embrace the new tech, with only 22% of consumers ever interacting with a chatbot. In fact, 23% of consumers don’t even know what chatbots are. But according to LiveWorld’s study, some marketers simply aren’t putting enough resources into developing the technology.
When asked what kept them from using messaging apps more frequently, 58% of marketers said it simply wasn’t enough of a priority, while 56% cited lack of expertise or bandwidth, 43% said they lacked a strategy and best practices for the tech and 32% cited budget constraints. A full 60% of marketers said they haven’t used chatbots to interact with customers at all, and only 5% of said they used chatbots frequently.
Still, the tech has promise for customer engagement, especially when it comes to things like basic customer service, which would free up store associates and staff to deal with other concerns. Retailers have also begun using the tech for unique customer interactions, like Levi’s Virtual Stylist, which helps jean buyers find the right fit and style for their body.
"Conversational marketing is disrupting the brand playbook as consumers spend more time in messaging apps," Peter Friedman, chairman and CEO of LiveWorld said in a statement. "Marketers must employ two-way dialogue tactics to boost consumer engagement, be in the moment, and foster lasting customer relationships."
No matter what marketers should be doing, though, many aren’t looking to increase their use of chatbots. Only 53% of marketers expect their use of messaging apps to increase and 40% expect their chatbot usage to increase, compared to a whopping 81% who plan to increase their use of social media platforms and 86% of CMO’s who plan to invest in AI and machine learning. Surprisingly, older marketers have been the most willing to experiment with the new technology, despite the generally young audience targeted by messaging apps.
"The study indicates that the more experienced marketers, perhaps understanding the opportunity to be gained (or lost), are consistently among the first to expand their use of social media to include messaging apps," the study stated.
It’s still to be determined whether more marketers will follow suit or the use of chatbots will fall off entirely, as both marketers and consumers struggle to embrace the platform.