If you’ve used technology over the last week, chances are you’ve had a conversation with a robot. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a disruptive force that’s becoming more integrated into day-to-day digital life. Yet even as it becomes more prevalent, people are increasingly conscious of the security risks associated with oversharing their personal information—information that’s often used to enable AI interactions.

Privacy concerns have made many people more inclined to communicate via 1:1 or 1: several messaging apps, rather than public social networks. Business Insider reports that the amount of time spent in messaging apps increased by more than 15% between 2016 and 2017. What’s more, data collected by RadiumOne shows that 84% of digital content-sharing in the U.S. now happens outside of public social networks and away from marketers’ eyes. These are all signs that digital marketers must adapt their strategies to less public and more conversational interactions.

The good news is that AI can help. Here’s how:

AI 101:

At the heart of conversational marketing is the chatbot or “virtual assistant”— essentially, a digital employee that can interact with consumers through texts, instant messages or emails. Thanks to recent advances in Natural Language Processing (NPL) in AI, chatbots can display and communicate elements of a brand’s identity to consumers without any human oversight. Once a chatbot is programmed, it’s essentially on its own, drawing from cues provided by consumers to figure out how to respond. Knowing this, creating the right degree of personalization should be your primary concern when building a chatbot. It could mean the difference between winning over a consumer and pushing them far, far away.

The Ultimate Listener:

A conversation needs a balance of listening and talking, and you can think of AI as the ultimate listener. Chatbots and other AI vehicles have the ability to detect and act upon patterns and trends that humans can’t always see. For example, they could identify terms that perform well among a target demographic or increase traffic and responses to a site or campaign. Even the most basic interactions can yield valuable data, allowing marketers to reimagine the engagement process and consumer experience. However, the ability to collect new data comes with a responsibility to leverage it judiciously. Just think of the medical and legal industries with this technology fielding consumer interactions— Can you imagine chatbots providing diagnoses or legal advice, or the information they would need in order to do so?

A Cautionary Tale:

Take the cautionary tale of OfficeMax’s 2014 AI debacle. A long-time consumer received a branded email from the company that used accurate and very personal information to address him as, “Mike Seay, daughter killed in car crash.” That is just one possible mistake that could come from misusing AI. To avoid possible negative interactions between AI and their consumers, marketers must take care to use it with great caution and responsibility.

Preparing to use AI as a Conversational Marketing Tool:

To get the most value out of AI, you need to spend extensive time on your brand’s values, voice and image and make sure that each is clear enough that an AI vehicle could accurately communicate it to a user. Remember—chatbots are just the beginning. Gartner predicts that 30% of browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020, meaning that many buying decisions will be left to voice assistants or “voicebots.” Looking for an interesting branding exercise to work through with your team? Try to decide what an AI speaking in your brand voice would literally sound like. Consumers have to recognize your brand before considering loyalty to it. Create a voice that’s unique and aligned with your target market and brand identity. For example, if you’re an outdoor sports brand marketing to a west coast audience, take on their slang. Conversational marketing is about creating a personal connection while collecting and supplying information in a way that is natural to the conversations your consumers are already having.

Want to learn more? Reach out to us.

Looking for an interesting branding exercise to work through with your team? Try to decide what an AI speaking in your brand voice would sound like.

About the Author

Carly King

Storytelling Intern

Carly is a rising senior at the University of Denver, studying creative writing, jazz guitar and marketing. Her love for the outdoors is what brought her to Colorado, and what keeps her in the mountains most weekends. Her ideal night consists of her friends, a guitar and a delectable cheese plate.