Although robots are not poised to take control of the world as of yet, chatbots are now more than just a far-fetched idea from a science fiction movie. As a part of the larger Artificial Intelligence surge we have seen in recent years, chatbots are a shiny new tool ready to take your marketing strategy to new heights. Let’s look at what they are, what they offer, and how you can use them to improve your marketing success.
What are Chatbots
Chatbots, simply put, are programs designed to simulate conversation between humans. They can be programmed to deliver a variety of information, be it specific or, in more complex applications, varied like a real human conversation. The first chatbots were designed for text communication, with very few lines of code. Recorded conversation came next; in the past, you may have called an insurance company or bank, and were directed (by something that sounded human) by your responses to a particular department. Later, AOL Messenger provided users with access to news and weather, and the early stages of Natural Language Processing (NLP) emerged. In 2011, Watson amazed the world by winning on Jeopardy, showcasing both NLP and machine learning. Microsoft’s Cortana is one of the latest additions to the bot’s (arguably) most useful undertaking as a personal assistant.
Chatbots gather data from users (requests, questions, choices), and make suggestions (responses) based on patterns observed. Simple automated bots follow a particular set of commands, unable to provide information outside of what they have been programmed with. This information is used to personalize the customer experience, allowing sales and marketing to pinpoint with more accuracy the consumer needs, whether it be a specific product or service, or perhaps what part or repair was needed for a product. However, it is limited to the information about or provided by, the unique company for which it was developed.
Personal Assistant Chatbots
More advanced, personalized chatbots assist users with a larger variety of needs, with the addition of machine learning. Like Siri and Alexa, these bots can be charged with solving a large number of complicated tasks for their users. These platforms have ushered in a new wave of bot usage, and now with exploding popularity, marketers are seeing the value in using this technology to their benefit.
How You Can (and Why You Should) Use Chatbots
Marketing, at its core, is the process of gathering data, personalizing content, then engaging the consumer based on both of these actions. Chatbots are a tool in this process. The data collected and measured in the chatbots’ one-on-one communication with users creates a vast variety of patterns, which in turn help to create remarkable content specific to your customers’ needs. The engagement level a bot can provide is extreme since mobile messaging has taken hold of today’s consumers and allows you to engage your customer 24/7.
Chatbots can be personalized to suit your leads at any point in the marketing funnel, and support your other proven communication forms. Consumers want many options, and knowing that there is messaging, chat, and telephone support available strengthens their loyalty and trust in your company.
Since the use of chatbots in e-commerce is still relatively new, this is a great time to jump in. You can be a “trailblazer,” gaining a marked advantage over retailers who may sit back and take a “we will see” attitude towards their implementation.
- You get data for segmenting immediately; be prepared with personalized content for your diverse group.
- Your email automation tools fit right in here; this simply expands on what you are already using.
- Engagement is high; everyone wants to know about this and “clicks” away.
- Using Messenger means you do not need email addresses for reaching out; take advantage of the Facebook platform for contacting prospects.
Before you jump right in and invest in chatbots, you need to be sure that you are ready for the responsibilities and requirements for using them.
- Security: Encryption is critical to protect customers and their data. If you are using a public platform, you will need to be sure of their security capabilities.
- Hacking: Hackers could mimic the chatbot conversations, and later lure the consumer to malicious sites.
- Support: Bots require care and your company’s IT department may not be prepared for the maintenance involved.
- Managing Analytics: Chatbots gather a lot of information. Therefore, they must be integrated with the existing system so data can be analyzed and used effectively.
Chatbots are here to stay, and will undoubtedly improve and grow in use in the near future. Why not add an assistant to your marketing team? The ability to create patterns from user responses, and appealing to your customers (or potential customers) with personalized content and in mobile applications, and 24/7 availability means your marketing team has time to focus on engaging them and building long-term relationships. Let chatbots do the some of work, while you maintain the human relationship.