The future of marketing is moving towards conversational marketing.
According to studies, messaging apps have surpassed social networks in popularity and usage with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger leading the pack with more than 900 million users each.
Efforts are on to turn regular marketing into a conversation with the consumers. Thanks to advances in machine learning and AI, we are now capable of making bots that can talk to consumers in natural language just like any other person in their contact list.
Chatbots are riding on the popularity of messaging apps which have a better retention of 68% as compared to 38% for other apps.
This opens up a lot of possibilities for marketing, which hitherto has been a monologue or at the best a delayed two-way clunky conversation.
Bots now open up the possibility of having a seamless conversation at every stage of the funnel.
While chatbots are still in development and testing phase, you wouldn’t want to miss out riding the wave of the future.
Currently, there are two types of chatbots – one found on messaging apps like the 1800-flower bot on Messenger (which helps users order flowers) and digital assistants like Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant.
While currently messaging app bots help consumers interact with a specific brand, digital assistants help them by providing variety of information and managing different tasks.
In this article, we will examine how chatbots can help you in your marketing efforts.
Chatbots and early stage funnel marketing
Every day we are in need of expertise to answer our problems and provide solutions. Currently, the only option for consumers is to trawl the internet for information, while marketers hope to widen their reach to attract consumers.
It is clunky and inefficient. Instead, it is far more convenient to automate and outsource this task to a bot which can serve as an ‘information butler’. Bots can have at their command a wide variety of information on brands and their products. They can simplify the consumer journey at the early stage of the funnel by matching consumer requirements with suitable brands.
Chatbots and personalization
Perhaps the greatest way to leverage chatbots is by having a personal conversation with the user.
Conversations are a better way to engage consumers turning them from passive recipients of your marketing message into active participants in a personalized consumer experience.
Take for example the beauty retailer Sephora.
The brand has introduced a chatbot in the messaging app Kik. It interacts with consumers (mostly from Generation Z) who are looking for fashion advice. The bot quizzes users in order to better understand their persona and preferences. It then uses this information to present the relevant beauty tips, tutorials and products.
The consumers can then shop without leaving the Kik app.
Thus, if the bot is tailored to a specific audience, you can reap the benefits of better personalization and consumer interaction – hooking new customers and retaining the old ones as well.
Chatbots and customer experience
Bots create a bridge between the digital and physical world in order to provide seamless experience to consumers.
Imagine sitting at a baseball game and you want a drink, but the lines are long and there’s no concession person in sight.
You could download the stadium app, install it, create an account, enter your seat number, enter your credit card, order and hope your drink shows up. Or you could open Facebook Messenger, scan a code on the seat in front of you which shows your location, order a drink and pay with your credit card which is already on Messenger and you’re done.
This is the level of convenience that you should aim at and bots will help you achieve exactly that.
Chatbots also help address consumer issues much faster than apps. Instead of confusing buttons and popups, the consumer can simply read, talk and tap, eliminating the hassles.
It is also a great way to integrate utility in the consumer experience by being a single point of contact for all kinds information, instead of the consumer going through the motions of opening, searching and closing the app.
However, bots also come with some caveats. If they are not programmed well they can cause damage to the brand due to current defects in machine learning.
And this has already happened.
Consider the case of the chatbot Tay released by Microsoft in early 2016.
The bot was designed to have conversation with Twitter users from age 18-24 and learn human speech patterns by mimicry. However, the bot ended up interacting with some people who taught it to send sexist and pro-Nazi tweets.
The plug was then pulled from the bot and Microsoft went into PR damage control mode.
When the bot was reinstated in the online world in a few days, it again spammed people and tweeted about drug usage.
From this episode, we can conclude that the rise of chatbots and their application is still in a nascent stage. While the benefits outweigh the negatives, it is still worthwhile waiting for new developments in machine learning and AI.
Should your brand choose to implement bots, as long as you take care of the technology, you will see a solid boost in your customer acquisition and retention.
What are your thoughts on this next wave of technology? Let us start a discussion.
Apart from helping businesses succeed online and writing about Internet Marketing, he spends time digging deep into the beautiful world of search engine algorithms. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.