Before the pandemic, we were all accustomed to talking to actual humans while we researched — and purchased— products and services. As we browsed a brick-and-mortar store, a rep might have asked if we found what we were looking for, or even been so bold as to make a recommendation. We all knew the etiquette behind these kinds of exchanges — two people having a normal (if not contrived) conversation.
But even prior to 2020, a larger share of these conversations were happening online — and not with an actual human. Through channels like online chat or even text messaging, brands have made massive strides to scale their outreach and engagement methods with prospects, making it feel like that store rep who is "just trying to help."
According to Drift, one of the leaders in the conversational marketing space, the usage of chatbots rose by 92% in 2020, during the early phases of the pandemic. In 2021, eight out of ten of their survey respondents reported having a conversational marketing solution, with 74% of those who did not indicating their desire to add one.
All told, the conversational AI market is expected to grow to a whopping $32.6 billion by 2030.
The numbers and ubiquity of these types of platforms indicate that this is more than a trend. But, anecdotally, do any of us feel as though these solutions are fully mature and able to replace more traditional marketing efforts? Are we enthusiastic about chatting with a bot instead of a human? Or are we more likely to be left with an accidentally humorous transcript that demonstrates a lack of understanding and communication?
Drift reports that it's not all rosy, as positive user experiences with conversational marketing solutions dropped by 10% in 2021 compared to 2020. That's not to say that that number won't bounce back in the coming years, but this much is obvious: using AI to mimic a human is hard. The endless directions that a live conversation can go means that the AI must have the intuition and breadth of knowledge to cover that range of possibilities.
Another way into the conversation
While some more direct conversational marketing platforms are focused on equipping their channels (chatbots, most frequently) with that range of knowledge, at Yext, we focus first on building that knowledge base out on your business's backend. We didn't create the term Knowledge Graph (thanks, Google), but we've taken that concept of centralizing, organizing, and managing your information from one place. As marketers, content is king — but only if it's accessible. Those silos must be broken down, creating an open foundation of all of your brand's information and facts.
That's our critical first step, before we even try to have that conversation with a customer. From there, our usage of AI applies to our search platform, which can understand the nature of a question and offer up an answer based on the way the search is phrased and what's stored in that Knowledge Graph.
We know that every customer journey begins with a search. Many platforms that are squarely in the conversational marketing category are pushing their AI-powered channels to handhold the user along that linear journey.
Search is all about surfacing the right information, while giving the customer the autonomy to modify or continue inputting search queries. Maybe the customer's line of questioning isn't completely linear. Is this method as conversational as a chatbot asking for your name and business information? Probably not. But when those channels (be that your website, apps, and chat surfaces) have that robust Knowledge Graph to rely upon to retrieve and deliver relevant information, that conversation can be productive — even if not quite as charming as your favorite AI bot.
To learn more about how you can use a Knowledge Graph and AI-powered search platform to engage in conversations with your customers, click here.