What to Expect from Conversational Marketing in 2022: 5 Research-Backed Predictions
By Katie Foote, Chief Marketing Officer, Drift
For B2B companies, COVID-19 was a wake-up call to digitize, and the move to ramp up the quality of digital experiences to meet the demand is accelerating. According to McKinsey, 70–80% of buyers now prefer remote or digital interactions over in-person. In this new normal, B2B companies need to reevaluate their pandemic quick fixes. For many, that means diving into Conversational Marketing.
New research from Drift featured in its 2021 State of Conversational Marketing report found that 58% of B2B professionals adopted a Conversational Marketing solution in response to COVID. Armed with these solutions, sellers engage in real-time conversations to deliver the quick, personalized experience that buyers now crave.
Even so, the report also found that buyers grew frustrated with buying digitally — and that poses a huge threat to the customer pipeline. Your digital experience needs to keep your buyers hooked and, for that, you’re going to need a sneak peek into the future.
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Based on insights from the report, here are a few of our biggest predictions for Conversational Marketing in 2022.
1. The Upheaval of B2B Communication Channels Will Continue
While B2B has gone digital, it certainly hasn’t become artificial. People still crave live interactions with other people. There’s nothing that beats the sense of empathy and efficiency you get from speaking to a real human in real-time.
Email is no longer the cornerstone of B2B communications. Between 2020 and 2021, preference for email as a communication channel fell by 26%.
Live chat and phone/video calls have left email in the dust. That’s not surprising: the preference for live chat has increased by 35.5% year-over-year. All of this suggests that B2B buyers will increasingly expect communication to occur through live digital channels rather than static ones.
This is a good opportunity to innovate your inbound and outbound channels. Try your hand at hybrid events, customized demos or even personalization through artificial intelligence (AI).
2. Priority for Marketing Will Be to Remove Friction from the Buyer’s Journey
Considering how buyers grew more frustrated with the B2B digital experience all around, the top priority for marketers in 2022 will likely be removing friction from the buying process. Companies that don’t prioritize a frictionless buying journey will be at major risk of losing customers to competitors who do.
Nowadays, B2B buyers are less likely to tolerate confusing web pages, repetitive qualification forms or generic services. In fact, since 2020, buyers’ expectations for quick, personalized experiences have grown by 26%. Conversational Marketing solutions haven’t been exempt from these frustrations. Compared to 2020, positive user experiences with Conversational Marketing have gone down by 10%.
To reap the most success from your digital marketing efforts, focus on identifying friction points. You can use a combination of user testing, customer and employee feedback and website analytics to find and resolve these issues.
3. The Demand for Immediate Responses Will Rise
What buyers really want out of chatbots, emails and forms alike is an immediate response. In most two-way communication channels, we saw a 64% increase in buyers’ demand for immediate and accurate responses.
To exceed expectations, catch your buyers when they’re actively engaging with your site — not hours or days later. You can do this with Conversational Marketing: 48.8% of respondents saw better lead engagement with a Conversational Marketing solution.
Even if you already have Conversational Marketing in place, you can always refine. Create more customized chatbots for specific web pages, campaigns or personas. For example, if your site visitor is looking at your security standards, acknowledge that in your greeting.
4. As Companies Optimize Their Conversational Marketing Solutions, User Satisfaction Will Grow
While COVID pushed many B2B companies into adopting Conversational Marketing solutions, rushed onboarding and rollouts led to a 10% drop in user satisfaction. On the flip side, that means marketers have tons of room to grow.
Most marketers will have barely scratched the surface of what Conversational Marketing can do. If you’re a new user, you may be relying on a universal chat prompt. But, you can actually craft dozens of customized chatbot sequences, use routing to connect buyers with their main contact, A/B test to optimize your chat’s language and turn your forms into conversation starters, among other things.
As new users get the hang of Conversational Marketing, we expect user satisfaction to go up — from 31% in 2021, back to their 2020 levels (44%). And, once that initial struggle is over, new users will see that Conversational Marketing delivers big results.
5. There Will Be Even More Demand for Accessible, Relevant Information
61% of B2B professionals who saw increased engagement with their Conversational Marketing solution attribute that result to fast response times. That’s because site visitors, prospects and customers see chatbots as an invaluable resource.
With the demand for fast and accurate information at an all-time high, more and more marketers will turn towards AI. AI chatbots can take in language outside of pre-programmed commands and automatically respond to buyers’ needs. The use of AI solutions has grown 45% year-over-year, and that will likely continue as B2B buying becomes fully digital.
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The Future of Conversational Marketing is in the Buyer’s Hands
The digital era of B2B buying has only just begun. As the B2B landscape continues to shift, Conversational Marketing solutions will improve and grow to meet buyer demands.
At the end of the day, the buyer is at the center of everything we do. In 2022 (and even beyond), it will be the buyers who decide and will shape what B2B buying looks like in the digital world — and what the future of Conversational Marketing will have in store for us.