Digital marketers are slowly and carefully starting to implement AI techniques in their marketing efforts. The power of self-learning machines that process and integrate huge amounts of data is more than obvious, as well as their potential value for marketers and businesses.
One of the forms AI takes in attracting and dealing with customers is chatbots. This is one of the most evident shapes AI takes since you’re literally dealing with a machine trained to talk to customers and prospects in a human-like way. So how can these particular machines (or, rather, particular software) help marketers achieve their goals?
First, we’ll try to answer the question of why chatbots have become a hot topic in digital marketing over the last few years. Apart from AI technology finally getting close enough to the level where it can actually have basic conversations with people, there’s one additional reason. It’s the constant development of messaging apps and growth of messaging traffic that’s not going to stop any time soon.
Namely, messaging apps have surpassed social media in terms of the number of users, which has reached 5 billion on a monthly level. In general, people are using texts more and more, which is making actual phone calls almost obsolete. In addition, due to shorter attention spans, users are expecting instantaneous answers from businesses they contact. These are perfect conditions for chatbots to finally make a breakthrough.
Most articles claiming chatbots are going to change the marketing industry seem to put emphasis on their role in customer support rather than dealing with actual marketing benefits. And there’s no doubt these self-learning machines have a great potential to provide top-class customer experience (CX) in the future. But although these two are in fact becoming more intertwined every year, we wouldn’t go as far to claim that customer support “is the new marketing”.
The fact that 37 percent of users are willing to use chatbots to make a purchase does tell us something about their value for customers, but this doesn’t have much to do with marketing. Thus, we’ll try to focus on how chatbots can influence marketing in the narrow sense. So are they really going to radically change the industry and, if so, how? There seems to be at least four ways they could do it.
Chatbots could help businesses with creating quality leads and nurturing them. You can use them to fully automate this process, and they could engage your prospects without you having to send annoying emails and bother people on social media. They can also be helpful with selecting the right leads, as they can quickly obtain and process important customer and prospect information. A great example is RapidMiner, a company that replaced all their lead capture forms with chatbots. The result? More than 4,000 leads generated and a substantial increase in revenue, as these leads accounted for 10 % of all new sales
Personalization has definitely become one of the buzzwords in digital marketing lately. And chatbots seem to be able to engage your customers in a way that suits each buyer best. This is especially useful in the post-sale process, as chatbots can immediately recommend new offers and products based on the customer’s purchase history. And with an algorithm advanced enough, these won’t be just wild guesses but recommendations that would actually feel as if they’re designed exactly for the particular user in question.
The amount of data chatbots acquire is vast, and will only continue to widen. You could use this information to improve your marketing efforts across multiple channels. Apart from personalizing ads and suggestions on your website for every particular visitor, you’ll be able to employ this intelligence for advertising on other channels and to improve your overall marketing strategy, as well. And with the help of some of the best web companies out there, you could integrate all this info into your favorite CRM software and take your marketing to a whole new level.
There are at least two ways chatbots can help you with your branding efforts. Firstly, this is still a rather exclusive technology companies are still discovering. By making use of chatbots, you can present yourself as a business that cares about being innovative and original.
Secondly, you can literally make your chatbot the voice of your company. This will take a lot of work, but if you make your bot more than just a generic customer service representative and instead try to put a little heart and soul in it, you can adjust its tone and language to represent your brand in the best possible way. For the successful application of this idea, see how CoverGirl used its customized chatbot to generate 14 times more conversations than an average influencer post.
One of the biggest possible downsides of utilizing chatbots in digital marketing as well as customer service is the fact that this technology has still not reached the desired level to achieve full effect. In fact, it could even be counter-productive if carelessly used. The problem with AI behind chatbots is that it still has some troubles with fully understanding the context of the conversation, which is of huge importance if you want to engage someone the right way.
If you don’t succeed in this, chatbots can turn out to be annoying and disturbing, which will certainly chase away a chunk of your users and potential customers. Big brands have realized this. Just last year, Facebook decided to scale down on chatbot use since they couldn’t fulfill 70 percent of user requests independently. And 73 percent of users said if a chatbot provides a bad experience during their first encounter with a product, they won’t be using it again.
Moreover, the fact that chatbots can obtain and store huge amounts of (sometimes sensitive) customer and payment information is also worrying. We’ve seen a serious breach that happened earlier this year thanks to a hacked chatbot service, and it affected more than 100,000 consumers. Thus making them safer and encrypting the data they’re holding should be top priority.
This is a question that will be definitely answered in the years to come. But right now, although chatbots will bring new and exciting things to the marketing world, they don’t really seem like game-changers. One of the issues is they bring new solutions to problems that have already had pretty good solutions or were never actually problems in the first place.
However, with AI technology rapidly evolving, we might see some new applications of chatbots we can’t even imagine right now. It’s an unpredictable and ever-changing industry, so marketers will have to keep their eyes open at all times and take full advantage of potential new developments in this field.
What have your experiences been with chatbots so far? Share your most memorable below!
Daniel Bishop started off as a business consultant for small SEO and web design companies. Eventually, he got more and more involved in the actual management and editing of the websites that he used to consult, and now he works as a junior editor for Design Rush. Always searching for new opportunities, he often writes as a guest on websites that fit his style.