Consumers are used to having a conversation with their device. They want to receive real-time updates and fast delivery of services, and most recently businesses have been using chatbots to meet this demand. As a consumer, you’ve most likely interacted with a chatbot in the last few months. In the last year, we saw several industries announce the use of chatbots to help meet their customer’s demands, serving them more efficiently. Although you wouldn’t know it if you were just reading the headlines, but chatbots have been around for a while. The way brands are using them now is backed by artificial intelligence, making them more helpful to marketers. With the rise in monthly active users for chat apps continuing to increase, more businesses are looking to invest in chatbots.

No need for a knee-jerk reaction — this doesn’t mean that every business needs to invest in some sort of chatbot right away, but it does mean marketers should keep an eye on this trend. The best place to start is by taking a look at what kind of chatbot your organization would use — how would it help you better serve your customers? How could you scale your customer service or sales efforts by incorporating chatbots?

Business Insider launched a report in September of last year tackling the answers to these questions, identifying how businesses are successfully using them and in which industries they are having the biggest impact. The report also tackles the possible revenue perks of using Facebook Messenger as a chatbot platform, versus the App Store or Google Play, concluding that “chatbots could be lucrative for messaging apps and the developers who build bots for these platforms, similar to how app stores have developed into moneymaking ecosystems.”

Take a peek at the current “chatbot ecosystem”, as defined by BI Intelligence’s latest report:

BI Intelligence

1. Deployment Channels: Go Where Your Customers Go, Don’t Force Them To Come To You

These deployment channels are a key focus for many companies, noticing the potential earnings from increased customer usage. In April 2016, Facebook announced its Messenger platform for bots at the Annual F8 Conference. Facebook Messenger became even more of a hot topic in chatbot news when pizza giants Pizza Hut and Dominos planned to use the platform for order placing.

The two companies were in an unofficial “chatbot-battle” (at least, that’s what I’m dubbing it) this summer, starting with Pizza Hut announcing in July its plan to launch a chatbot via Facebook Messenger and Twitter. Dominos beat them to the punch, launching their chatbot on Facebook Messenger first for customers to place their orders. Overall, reviews have been positive for both companies as far as the ordering process through their respective chatbots, mainly due to the “quick and easy” process.

So what can digital marketers can learn from chatbots? Take a look at how your customers are reacting to chatbots. Several thought leaders have concluded that customers prefer their bots as un-human as possible, and all they really care about is a faster, “quick and easy” experience. This makes sense, because the amount of technology that exists for consumers is crippling — it’s almost overwhelming. From what we’ve seen in the chatbot trend alone, consumers just want “computers” to tell them what to do.

2. Don’t Try To Do Too Much. Keep It Simple.

Contently recently shared comments on chatbots from Magnus Jern, who serves as president of mobile solutions company DMI. Jern stated that from their experience, “when chatbots try too hard to be natural, it diverts from the purpose of ‘conversational commerce’.” Jern was a part of the 2005 launch of IKEA’s Anna chatbot, and stated that “In the beginning, we tried to impersonate a person, and we found that there was no reason to do that,” he said.

I tested this strategy with one of my favorite brands, Sephora. Their chatbot channel is Facebook Messenger, and I started a conversation with their channel to book a makeover appointment. After Sephora’s core channel asked if I wanted to book an appointment, it immediately transferred me to their “Reservation Assistant”. From there, the booking process was simple and easy and took all of 45 seconds (see the workflow in the screenshots below).

The alternative option would have been for me to search for the nearest Sephora’s location, look up their phone number, call, probably be placed on hold by a representative, then go back and forth while we search for open times/dates. This saved me time as the customer, and it allowed the Sephora representatives to focus on their customers in the store, versus being stuck on the phone scheduling appointments.

3. Identify What Can Be Automated and Deliver Value

It’s also overwhelming from the digital marketer’s end to keep up with the growing channels their brand needs to maintain an active presence on. Keeping up with marketing campaigns across several channels is a difficult task. Chatbots Magazine shares how these bots have helped marketers streamline some aspects of their digital marketing, with the ability to quickly update several accounts through these chat/messaging apps like Slack, SMS, Facebook Messenger, and the like. This helps marketers “complete basic or nuanced tasks such as scheduling content, monitoring ads, or replying quickly to customers.”

Here’s the bottom line if you’re looking at chatbots from a digital marketing perspective: If your company is using a chatbot or thinking about using a chatbot, take a deep dive into how your customers engage with you. How you engage with and target your customers go hand-in-hand, and these levels of interactions help lay the foundation for your messaging and other strategic efforts. Kyle Lacy, Digital Marketing Keynote Speaker and Author, quotes in one of his recent presentations, “The marketing team of the future will control every aspect of the customer experience.” Marketing is evolving to blur the lines with customer service, and chatbots are a great example of marketing and customer service coming together to add immense value to your customers.

Featured image: Chatbots Magazine

Liz Prugh
Managing Editor | The New New Thing
Liz is a tech geek, geek in general, and always aspiring #fiercefemale. Liz is managing editor for The New New Thing and previously worked for ExactTarget and Salesforce in marketing and customer success. Liz is also the co-creator of pop culture site PureFandom.com and channels her inner-nerd by hosting and moderating comic cons across the country.
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