How Chatbots are Transforming Marketing
Our guest blogger, Ian Bailey, writes
Over the past 15 years, artificial intelligence has played an ever-increasing role in the Digital Marketing space. From SEO and SEM, to curated recommendations on e-commerce sites such as Amazon, artificial intelligence is increasingly becoming an important tool for marketing professionals. One of the most interesting of these tools, and one which will play an ever-increasing role in digital marketing, is the chatbot.
What Are Chatbots?
Chatbots are artificial-intelligence-based computer programs imbedded into websites, social media platforms, and messenger apps. They are designed to supplement the existing communications between you and your customers, and to help your customers engage with your brand, serving as an invaluable and unique touchpoint.
The past 5 years have seen a near exponential growth in the use of chatbots. In 2016, according to research conducted by Forrester, just 5% of companies worldwide reported that they made use of Chatbots. 20% reported that they were planning, and 32% planned to use them or test them in 2017. In 2018, there were 300,000 Chatbots on Facebook Messenger alone. According to smallbizgenius.net, by the end of 2020, 80% of companies will be using them.
What Does My Company Stand to Gain From Chatbots?
According to Vladimir Botsvadze, businesses should consider using a chatbot for three reasons:
Chatbots can interact with multiple customers at the same time, while providing a consistent quality of interaction.
Using a chatbot allows you to collect data about your customers’ needs. In turn, this will help you to provide better customer service.
A chatbot can filter qualified leads from unqualified ones, sending the qualified leads to your sales or marketing teams.
A chatbot gives the customer provides valuable insights to your products and provides them with familiarity and confidence for later interactions.
In the next section, we will go over three examples of situations where a chatbot could be invaluable to a company, looking at how the examples provided by Mr Botsvadze could manifest in every-day situations.
- Allowing Customers to Make Their Own Appointments
Let’s say you’re a professional who relies on your laptop for work. One night, long after most businesses have closed, your laptop breaks. You have a meeting tomorrow with someone important. You need your laptop. With your preferred technician’s office closed, your only hope is to go to their physical location early in the morning and hope that they are free.
But if your technician used a chatbot on their website or social media presence, all you’d need to do would be to open a chat window and see if you could schedule an appointment. Assuming you were successful, you now have peace of mind, and most likely feel much more confident about your technician and your important meeting. But even if you are unable to make an appointment, you will still be able to save time because you will know your technician, allowing you to try another technician. In both possibilities, you will more likely have a better impression of the technician because you were able to see if you could make an appointment ahead of time.
From this example, we can see that by using a chatbot to handle interaction, the technician was able to provide the customer a positive experience, even in an emergency. By doing so, the technician has gained a more engaged customer — one who is more likely to return and use their services in the future.
- Answering Frequently Asked Questions
As their name implies, the original use for chatbots was to communicate — to chat. As such, one of the most common uses of chatbots in the marketing space is in a customer service capacity. According to chatbotslife.com, an estimated 2.5 billion customer service hours will be saved by the end of 2023 because of chatbots and companies around the world are already using chatbots in this capacity. Luxury fashion house Burberry, for example, uses their chatbots to answer customer questions and give recommendations. By using chatbots in this way, companies have the opportunity to automate what has been, up until now, a large part of most customer service team’s workload: answering frequently asked questions.
For an example of a situation where a chatbot could be useful, imagine you’re traveling on an airplane. Let’s say you’re not exactly sure what you can take onboard. You could search the internet and look. Not only would this take more of your time, it would also mean that you are no longer interacting with your airline or airport. However, if your airport or airline had a chatbot as part of their web or social media presence, you could go to their website or social media page and simply ask the chatbot. Assuming such information programmed into the chatbot, you would have an answer almost immediately.
Here, the chatbot has provided invaluable guidance to the customer and made sure that they are further engaged with the company’s brand. Furthermore, from this response, the company could use it as feedback for future interactions – perhaps issuing a banned materials list with plane tickets/boarding passes. Once again, the customer is more engaged with the brand.
- Automating Part of the Sales Process
With chatbots, you’ll be able to automate the initial, data-gathering part of the sales process. Not only does this save everyone’s time, but it will also allow your sales team to customise their sales approach during the next stage of the sales process, to be more dynamic, and to know exactly how to treat the customer ahead of time.
For example, an insurance company could use a chatbot as the initial point of contact for their sales team. That chatbot could gather information about a potential customer — name, age, employment status, type of product they’re looking for, good times to get in touch with them etc — which would then be compiled for the sales team. That company’s sales team would then use that information during the next sales call with the customer. Because the customer has already provided a good time to get in touch with them, the sales team is less likely to call the customer at a bad time, and because the customer has already given the sales team relevant information, the sales team already has a good idea about what kind of insurance they could offer, and customise their sales approach appropriately.
Janak Sarda, Founder and CEO of Blue Logic Digital, speaking in this video interaction with Suhasini Kirloskar, says that this ability to customise the sales approach will be critical to gaining customers who are “engaged, a lot more responsive, and more likely to open his or her wallet” in the future. By offering a customised experience, the sales team stands out in a sea of generic responses, and the customer will feel more valued and be more engaged– thus more likely to return.
Using Chatbots as Part of Your Overall Marketing Strategy
While there are multiple advantages to using chatbots as part of your marketing strategy, it’s important to remember that chatbots are meant to complement human interaction, not replace it.
According to Xiaofeng Wang of Forrester, in 2017 Facebook reported that 70% of their chatbots failed. Most, she writes, fail because of these reasons:
- Undefined purpose
Companies set a scope for their chatbots which is too broad and generic. Chatbots need a focussed approach in order to succeed.
- Goals are too ambitious
Companies fail to understand that chatbots are still at an early stage of development and that today’s chatbots are more keyword-based than machine learning-based. As such, it’s important that any implementation of chatbots be in areas which are keyword based.
- Chatbots are launched before they’re ready
Many chatbots customers’ interactions with chatbots often leave the customer feeling as though the chatbots were unable to answer their questions. They make mistakes, don’t solve problems, or overcomplicate situations. This is because many chatbots haven’t been properly trained or programmed, often launching with only a few responses.
- The Human Factor
Furthermore, while the technology is far ahead of what it was, it’s clear that there are situations which still require human interaction . for example, during the previously mentioned 2nd sales call, or if your customer’s question is not one which the chatbot has been programmed to respond to. According to Wang, it is unlikely this human factor will ever disappear completely from the marketing process, even with massive improvements to AI. Just as digital media and marketing came to coexist with traditional media and marketing, she predicts that so too will chatbots and traditional means of marketing communication.
For more information about how chatbots are transforming the world of marketing, please watch our recent video interaction with Janak Sarda, CEO and Founder of Blue Logic Digital.