Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why publishers need to focus on conversations rather than clicks

Two-way dialogue and audience insight are more important than ever at a time of crisis, writes Dan Jones, Commercial Director, Cavai

Particularly at a time of crisis, it is important to move away from static brand monologues and to show your customers you are listening. 

Fortunately, during the pandemic, some brands managed to be helpful, answering questions and imparting useful information, thanks to conversational mechanics. For some, this helped to avoid customers waiting for hours on the phone as they sought information about products or services.

Conversational advertising provides a solution to other problems, too, and publishers are waking up to this. Because, in some quarters, it’s the same old story: Brands and audiences are tired of interruptive and ineffective advertising and advertisers today still have concerns around fraud, viewability, measurement and accidental clicks.

But fraud is negligible within the increasingly popular format of conversational advertising because, while bots are trained to click a banner once and then move on, they’re not able to navigate a conversation with multiple interaction points. When a user does click through, it’s after a meaningful engagement that points to an interest.

What’s more, with conversational mechanics, advertisers are still able to use audience targeting but can also start to move away from an over reliance on this. When you talk to someone for the first time you don’t know their interests; you learn them. Through dialogue, a brand does not need to rely on predefined segments. They can converse with individuals on their preferred topics at any given time, raising awareness, qualifying user interest and – hopefully – having a tangible effect on sales.

It’s important to note, however, that, generally, the advantage of conversational advertising isn’t the click rate. The value lies in the quality of the engagement and in the sharing of information. By engaging in a two-way interaction, on exactly the topic an individual is interested in, user dwell times increase and advertisers are able to gain valuable insights.

As a result, conversational advertising is a burgeoning channel. Cavai, for instance, recently announced its partnership with Telegraph Media Group (TMG) to launch Telegraph Engage. This move enables advertisers to engage users in a dialogue within the publisher’s range of display ad units.

Ultimately, conversational solutions are a bespoke and interactive solution which does not involve taking people away from where they want to be, unlike many other display formats. Meanwhile, delivering the right information is a game changer.  

The technology is developing rapidly, encompassing conversations across display and social ecosystems, incorporating dialogue and video, to create a full-service, conversational ‘cloud’. Meanwhile, adoption rates of smart speakers are still rocketing, making people comfortable with brand interactions that were previously thought impossible.

Yet conversational design is crucial in order to ensure success. If an audience doesn’t realise you want to talk then they’re not going to interact. It’s also important to make sure the invitation to converse is made clear and not to make it a one-sided deluge of information. 

It’s mainly in response to the needs of consumers that conversational advertising is growing. Consumers today demand near-instant forms of communication. Conversational ad formats can help to create a strong, emotional connection with customers at a time when this is needed more than ever. They are solving the engagement challenge by delivering personalised ad content based on customer data, building smarter conversational campaigns in a post-lockdown world.

And even as things return to some semblance of normality, people will continue to rely on technology-enabled conversations to get information and to transact, given the growing need for ‘contactless commerce’ across categories. What’s more, the integration of conversational AI with other technologies such as AR will elevate this experience, allowing brands to move on from interruptive formats and to focus on personalisation and true engagement at scale. 

After all, the pandemic has accelerated societal change perhaps more than any other time in living memory. Lockdowns around the world have altered the way we communicate. People have an inherent need to connect in this forced isolation. The conversation is back.