Chatbots have been a pretty big industry buzzword for a few years now. To recap, a chatbot is any computer program that can carry on conversation with humans in a natural, fluid way.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at why marketers use chatbots, what they can be used for, and most importantly, four tips for how to make them part of your marketing strategy.
Remember the olden days when we’d post a status to social media, walk away for a few hours, and then check back in hours later to see if anyone had noticed?
These days, social communication seems endless. With the rise of messenger apps, tales of “the way social media used to be” have become as hard to believe as the days of landlines with no caller ID.
Audiences spend much more time on messenger apps than ever before — so much so that they’ve quickly eclipsed other forms of communication.
Facebook Messenger alone now has more users than Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram combined.
And for marketers, communicating with consumers via messenger app is a smart way to make sure messaging gets seen. Users are 80% more likely to open communication from brands if it comes via messenger.
However, no one team can keep up with all that communication — which is where chatbots come in.
The Turing Test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, tests a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
Now, bots are easier to talk to (and implement into your marketing strategy) than ever before.
It’s no secret that chatbots are great in a customer service capacity.
According to Gartner, by 2020, customers may manage up to 85% of their interactions with a company without ever even speaking to a human.
But we would be mistaken to assume that customer service is all chatbots are used for. They can also be an important part of other aspects of your marketing strategy.
A well planned chatbot can serve as an engagement driver, lead generator, and can even help with market research.
Yinon Horwitz, Director of Business Development at StartApp, says:
“Today, chat isn’t yet being perceived as an engagement driver, but more of a customer service operation[…]” Horwitz writes for Chatbots Magazine. “Brands and marketers can start collecting data around the engagement and interaction of end users. Those that are successful could see higher brand recognition, turning user-level mobile moments into huge returns.”
Approaching chatbots as marketing tools, rather than virtual help desks, means better insights into customer behaviors, preferences, and pain points.
This, in turn, drives better engagement and could even lead to higher sales.
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According to content strategist Brian Barr, chatbots act as a salesperson long before a customer is ready to talk to an actual salesperson:
“The best thing about chatbots is that they give you an automated, cost-effective way to communicate with your customers in a way that is more direct and personal than ever before,” Barr writes.
And simply giving customers the option to speak with your brand via chatbot on messaging apps like Facebook Messenger could drive higher sales.
Right now, Facebook Messenger boasts 1.2 billion monthly users.
And in addition to chatting with family and friends through the app, audiences also increasingly use it to connect with brands.
According to research from Facebook, 69% of those who use Messenger to connect with brands say that being able to message a brand makes them feel more confident in their purchase.
However, taking ages (which, in the digital world, means hours) to answer simple questions about products and services leaves customers feeling ignored.
Again, chatbots can come in handy here. You can use chatbots on Messenger and on your company’s website to answer FAQs, give updates on shipping, and even to upsell based on customer preferences. All of that means more sales and happier customers.
A few years ago, it seemed like every industry source imaginable was pushing apps as a pivotal part of any digital marketing strategy.
Therein lies the problem: everyone created an app — and a lot of them were pretty useless.
Consumers got tired of downloading too many space-consuming, data-gobbling apps. Now, many of them sit unused or don’t get downloaded at all.
A recent study by ComScore found that 51% of smartphone users downloaded zero new apps in a given month.
Furthermore, only 37% of respondents ages 35-54 had any interest in new apps, according to the study.
We call this phenomenon app fatigue, wherein there are simply too many choices without any clear benefit.
Chatbots can offer round-the-clock, available information. Whether it’s on Facebook Messenger or a company’s own website, customers have access to quick and easy answers to their questions.
The best part? No expectation that people will jump through the additional hoop of downloading an app they probably won’t use more than once. Or an app they’ll most likely delete once they’ve gotten the answers they’re looking for.
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In “the app rush,” one big problem arose.
As so many companies scrambled to get apps out, they forgot to ask what function those apps might serve.
Introducing chatbots to your marketing strategy can provide a direct path from problem to solution.
Create chatbots with an eye toward utility.
Remember, a useful chatbot means a chatbot your customers will actually want to use.
How can you start to use chatbots into your marketing strategy, you ask? Get started with these four steps.
The most important step in designing your chatbot?
Create a clear goal by outlining objectives before you even get started.
“What will the bot do? Is it a customer service rep, a campaign aid, a lead generator? Each case will result in a very different chatbot,” Lauren McMenemy of Skyword writes. “You need to know who the chatbot is for and what problem it is solving. Like any marketing tactic, it needs a clear objective.”
For example, Australian vegan recipe database Veji wanted to help vegans find food no matter where they were in the country.
So they created a chatbot embedded into Facebook Messenger that would quickly and easily offer solutions to their audience.
Diners can access 2,000 vegan eateries by dropping a location pin or entering the name of a suburb. Veji recognized a problem: Its audience had a hard time locating vegan options. So they used a highly specific chatbot to solve that problem.
The result was a tool to drive that drives engagement while providing a useful service without the hassle of downloading a new app.
Looking for the most accessible and fun to use chatbots? According to Casey Phillips at Chatbots Magazine, do-it-yourself and visual-aided chatbots offer ease of use and entertainment.
DIY platform options include Facebook Messenger or Google Assistant. These platforms afford the advantage of lower costs and the freedom to write your own code.
Additionally, Facebook offers a plugin that allows businesses to integrate Messenger experiences right into company websites. Doing so provides the “same personalized, rich-media experience they get in Messenger.”
Visual-aided chatbots make for incredibly fun experiences. They invite engagement and can be a rich source of customer insights.
Most non-visual chatbots rely on customers to describe their problem in text. “I’d like a red wine to pair with steak, please.”
But visual-aided chatbots allow consumers to indicate their preferences through pictures, which is often much simpler than explaining.
Visual search engines continue to revolutionize the way we find answers.
Likewise, visual chatbots, like Levi’s Virtual Stylist can offer customers solutions without relying on lengthy (and often insufficient) text descriptions.
To create Virtual Stylist, Levi’s partnered with Mode.ai. They wanted to offer audiences myriad visual options as they answer questions like “How would you like the jeans to fit through the leg?”
Users can actually see those choices and click on the look that best fits their preference. The chatbot then offers in-stock product recommendations so customers can purchase the product that most specifically fits their needs.
Of course, visual chatbots aren’t for everyone.
As Phillips writes, “Don’t bring a bazooka to a water gun fight if you don’t have to.”
If offering visuals doesn’t make sense for your customer, then this type of chatbot could just be annoying.
Marketers spend countless hours trying to get the right tone for campaigns. You want something that both matches your brand and your message.
It’s no different for chatbots, which should have personalities that fit the function of the chatbot. Nobody wants their brand experience to feel robotic — even if customers are technically talking to robots.
Lego created a chatbot to help its customers narrow down their options for Christmas gifts. It went by the name of Ralph, a Facebook Messenger chatbot that offered suggestions along with cute, punny quips. “Oh my bolts, just imagine what you could build with that!”
Studies show that customers engage more with chatbots when they seem human.
According to Korn Ferry, 43% of consumers would rather speak to a human than a chatbot. 23% of those consumers report that they worry chatbots “won’t chat in a friendly manner.” Prove them wrong by making sure chatting with a bot is every bit as enjoyable as chatting with a salesperson!
You may have noticed that every website and landing page you’ve visited recently has a click to chat option. That’s because not only do customers love to live chat, those chats are a goldmine of data.
Recently Fran Conejos, co-founder & CMO of @Landbot_io, wanted to look into the ways his company’s chatbot could potentially be a source of lead generation.
But a bug in the system actually forced the chat feature into fullscreen mode every time a new user entered. The bug ended up being a happy accident. Conejos’s team quickly realized forcing users to chat actually led to four times higher customer conversion than providing a tiny, easily overlooked chatbot window in the corner of the screen.
It’s probably not a great idea to force customers to talk if they don’t want to. But this accident proves that not only are chatting customers happy customers, but also that chatbots are great resources for lead generation.
If you’re looking to add a chatbot to your landing page or webpage, one of the key things to remember is that you’re looking for insights that can help segment marketing campaigns, provide personalized product or service recommendations, and upsell, among other things.
You want to make sure to include questions about product preferences and zip codes for location-based offers, as well as push for reviews of past purchases. It’s also important to anticipate customer queries and make sure answers are not only forthcoming, but don’t sound too robotic.
Chatbots are absolutely amazing in a customer service capacity. NLP and AI are quickly on their way to making tedious calls to customer service a thing of the past. However, it’s a mistake to assume that’s all chatbots are capable of.
A well-planned, utility-centric chatbot, whether it’s on a messenger app, a website, or both, can be a wellspring of lead generating customer data, not to mention providing a useful, fun way to connect with audiences!
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