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Conversational Design

It is getting challenging for businesses to keep consumers engaged in an environment that is automated and where traditional advertising carries less clout than online customer reviews. According to Gartner, over 85% of all customer interactions will be automated by the end of 2020. Artificial intelligence, chatbots, voice assistants, machine learning, big data, and IoT are some of the leading trends that are reshaping the way companies interact and engage with their customers. In the connected economy, you need more than paid content to stand out from the crowd. You need a conversational design approach that serves people and encourages conversation.

If you are still using old techniques to connect and interact with your customers, you aren't even in the game. Not considering conversational design in your marketing efforts will leave your business far behind in the next few years.

What exactly is a conversational design and why you need to shift to it? Let’s find out.

What is Conversational Design?

It is a method that is used to model interactions with systems (e.g. chatbots) based on how humans communicate. In other words it is a way of creating  device-independent, human-centered systems. According to Google, conversation design is a design language that is based on human conversation. Conversational design is combination of multiple design disciplines encompassing voice user interface design, interaction design, visual design, motion design, audio design, and UX writing. a context-dependent social activity

Margaret Jabczynski, who is a Conversational Intelligence Manager at Twyla, explains conversational design in the following way:

Conversational design is derived from UX and copywriting. It lets us use software without interacting with it in traditional ways (e.g. GUI, mouse, keyboard, touch, etc.). The tool is used by language – by communicating and interacting with it. The interaction with the device in conversational design is via language or voice.

Google Assistant is a perfect example of a conversational design where you communicate with it naturally as you do with a human. The communication with the Google Assistant is all verbal. Android users can use their smartphone without even touching it. If you have ever used GoogleAssistant (or any other voice assistant), I'm sure you will know what it means to communicate with your device verbally as you'll do with a human being.

The same principle is used in marketing extensively to engage customers. Conversational marketing is focused on creating a conversation with your customers based on their feedback. The conversions should take place across all touch points and this is what your customers prefer. Conversational marketing improves customer experience, engagement, and revenue for all types of businesses irrespective of their industry.

I think these visuals from Erika Hall's, Conversational Design, say it best. Essentially, conversational design mirrors content-dependent human activity. It may be oral, visual, or text-based, but seeks to create a meaningful exchange.

Human-to-Human Conversation Diagram, Erika Hall's Conversational Design
Human-to-System Conversation Diagram, Erika Hall's Conversational Design

If you haven't read Erika's book, Conversational Design, I recommend it to anyone looking for a deep understanding on conversational design thinking. I enjoyed the read.

Reasons Why You Should Take a Human Approach to Design

Conversation is more powerful than authority. According to Gartner, conversational marketing will be a recognized channel for customer engagement by 2020 and will be used extensively in marketing and sales. We're already in 2020, and conversational marketing is pretty much everywhere.

A lot has changed in the past few years that changed consumer behavior, their expectations, and the way how businesses interact with their audience. The leading reasons why you should adopt a conversational marketing strategy to engage with your target audience include:

1. People Ignore Sponsored Ads

The number one reason why conversational positioning and conversation design principals are king is because consumers are savvy. They can tune-out and block ads. Think about how you go about making brand decisions. Do you want to be interrupted and sold, or do you prefer being engaged and informed? Human-centered, personalized design approaches involves creating cooperative exchanges that help people meet goals in a way that feels natural.

2. Natural Interfaces Are Here

Graphic User Interface (GUI) is the thing of the past. One of the most prominent achievements of the conversational design is a shift to NaturalUser Interface (NUI). A natural interface is an evolving and learning interface. It is direct and intuitive and works smoothly by interacting with the user. Infusing interfaces with the attributes of conversation is effective.

Interface progression

Google Assistant is an example of NUI that has shifted smartphone users from GUI to NUI. You can use your smartphone without touching it and this is what makes NUI direct and intuitive. Oral communication is the oldest interface in the world and people love it. In design, think about the most natural way for people to get information. According to Gartner, 30% of all search queries will be conducted without a screen by 2020. That's now!

3. Consumers Want Conversational Content

Conversational content is on the rise such as videos, podcasts, and chatbots. A survey of over 3000 consumers revealed that 53% of consumers want to see more video content in the future.

Among several others, chatbots are the most famous conversational content types that are used extensively by businesses. Statistics show that 67% of consumers worldwide have used a chatbot for customer support last year and 35%of consumers said that they want to see more companies using chatbots.

Conversational content is highly engaging and is, therefore, preferred by consumers. Don't forget that words are a material part of design and integral to interactions. Think about how humans use words. Conversational content is:

  • informal
  • give-and-take
  • immediate
  • collaborative
  • contextual
  • short

Today, even the most formal communicators are using language less formally in order to increase engagement. Brands are creating authority by creating collaborative brand cultures and inviting others to be a part of it. Consumers are part of the conversation and integral to the brand message. Conversational design is more that an interface and extends beyond chatbots. It is a way of thinking.

4. Human-Centered Websites Convert

Conversational websites have been used by businesses of all sizes for a few good years. These are highly interactive websites that have personalized content to improve engagement and conversions. Here is an example of howIntercom uses dynamic keywords to better communicate with the visitors:

Marketing-oriented websites are used to enhance customer experience which leads to an increase in conversion rate and engagement. Adrian Zumbrunnen who is a UX designer has created a conversational website

The Conversational Framework

Conversational positioning seems to be a great approach to implement but the problem with most of businesses is that they don’t follow a plan. A conversational framework, like one discussed below, is what your business needs to practically implement the conversational design.

The framework guides you with what you should do and not how to do it. The way how you do itmight be different than how your competitor will use it. The framework will guide your conversational design strategy.

1. Engage

The first step is to provide your ideal customers the opportunity to engage with your business on all the leading channels. Your target audience can choose to interact with your business anywhere. It could be a social network, a niche forum, a review website, or a search engine.

Your job is to ensure your presence across all available channels, so you don’t lose an opportunity to connect and engage with a potential customer.

How to identify the right channels to engage with your audience?

Use buyer personas.

A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It shows you what type of content they like, what channels they use to find businesses, what social networks they use, what websites they visit, and other information that you add.

Create buyer personas and keep them updated. Collect data from your ideal customers and identify channels they use to connect with your business. This will help you identify all the mediums where you want to have your business presence to connect and engage with potential customers.

Besides other channels, your website is the most crucial channel where you can engage with your target audience. Make your website user-friendly and conversational. The idea is to provide ideal customers with an experience that they expect, and this can be achieved by focusing on personalization.

Landbot isa perfect example of how to use the conversational website to engage with the visitors:

There are several ways to make your website conversational and personalized:

1.    Use live chat

2.   Use dynamic text

3.   Use IP address to redirect visitors to appropriate landing page

4.   Use multiple landing pages to make the experience personalized

2. Inform

Once you have engaged with the target audience, the nextstep is to understand them. Understanding your target audience will help you throughout the sales funnel.

What exactly does understanding your audience mean?

A one-word answer is the data.

Start collecting data right from day one. How a visitor landed on your website, what was the traffic source, what a visitor did on yourwebsite, how much time was spent, etc.

You have to use multiple tools to better understand your audience as well as customers:

1.    Tracking tool

2.    Analytics

3.    CRM

4.    Email marketing

5.    Click maps, heat maps, and scroll maps

6.    Visitor/customer feedback tool

Conversion should be your top priority as soon as a visitor engages with your brand. You need to collect the email address so you can contact visitors later and add their details to your CRM tool. It lets you segment visitors and track them on your website.

Don’t forget to collect feedback from the visitors when they complete a specific action on your website (e.g. adding a product in the cart). This feedback will help you identify issues that ruin customer experience.

Add all the data in the relevant buyer personas to make your website and marketing collateral conversational that your audience will love interacting with. The whole point of understanding your audience is to make your website and marketing campaigns conversational.

3. Transform

Finally, it’s time to recommend the right product to the right person at the right time on the right channel. People love getting personalized recommendations from brands. As much as 38%of consumers say that they won’t buy from a company that made poor product recommendations. Product recommendations, in general, boost engagement even if the consumers didn’t purchase:

Buyers that click a recommendation are 4.5x more likely to add product to cart and 4.5x more likely to complete the purchase:

And personalized product recommendations increase the average order value by 369%:

Interesting, right?

This is the output that you should expect at this stage.When you have engaged and understood your audience, you can send them personalized product recommendations that they can’t say NO to. This is the beauty of conversational positioning (marketing). You communicate with the customers at the individual level. You don’t send a single product to everyone, rather you send product information based on a visitor's interaction history with your company.

Here is an example from Belk that reminds its customers to restock their K-cups based on their purchase cycle:

It isn’t all about product recommendations rather you can recommend content based on the type of content they have read or liked in the past. Once you have the data and you know your customers individually, the sky is the limit.

Final Words

The way  you engage and interact with your ideal customers will define your company’s future. You have to understand that you are living in an era where personalization is the key to success. And delivering a personalized, memorable experience is at the heart of positioning conversationally.

It is time to follow a simple rule: Engage, inform, transform, and repeat.  Consider what set of words, inputs, outputs, and information bring people into a conversation with your brand.


Written By Michelle Hansen