In 2011, Gartner suggested that by 2020, 85% of engagement with businesses will be done without interacting with another human. Back in 2016, Facebook allowed chatbots on messenger for the first time. This decision opened the floodgates for a technology that had long lay dormant, but which is now fast realizing its potential.
Chatbots offer several key advantages when it comes to customer service, and this is why, according to a 2016 Oracle survey, 80% of businesses said they currently use or are planning to use chatbots by 2020. We are still awaiting reliable data on whether that has come to pass. However, one thing is clear: chatbots can also be extremely effective when it comes to improving the efficacy of your marketing campaigns. This article will take a look at why that is
One of the most important ways in which chatbots can improve your conversational marketing strategy is by making the process of generating and nurturing leads faster and much more efficient. This is, in fact, the primary use of chatbots in marketing strategies today, and the reason why research showed that between 2017 and 2019, companies using automation for mission-critical processes rose from 16% up to 50%.
Chatbots improve lead generation and nurturing in two key ways. The first, and most obvious, is that chatbots allow you to interact with a far greater proportion of your website visitors, or at least at a much lower cost, than having a huge human team doing the communicating. A chatbot can easily be programmed to engage with your website visitors as soon as they navigate to your page, and to ask them some basic and initial questions. These will include a request for contact information, which can then be used to profile potential leads.
This functionality is most easily implemented on social media platforms. On Facebook, for instance, it’s possible to use chatbots to automatically respond to users who comment on your posts, and to add these users to your database of potential leads. Just make sure, if you are collecting information in this way, that you are aware of the requirements of responsible data retention, and the ways in which these data must be protected and stored.
Taking this approach a little further, brands are then able to use chatbots to profile their potential leads. Once you have a social media account for your contacts, for instance, your chatbot can scan the accounts for further information, which can then be used to send personalized marketing content to customers or to segment your lead base into key groups for follow up.
Customer retention remains one of the most challenging tasks in marketing, potentially because many marketing courses don't teach the basic techniques required to keep customers loyal. There is still, in other words, an undue focus on conversion rates, while the value of relationships is underplayed. This is why 71 percent of hiring managers struggled to find marketing professionals skilled enough to fill their job openings
Chatbots can improve customer retention in several important ways. The first is a direct consequence of the kind of chatbot-driven data retention we’ve mentioned above. By collecting information on customers, companies can train chatbots to respond to them in highly personalized ways. Not only does this make it clear to your customers that you value them as individuals, but it also has direct consequences on how you sell to them.
This is because, armed with data collected via your chatbots, these same AI-driven tools can then be used to pitch products and services to customers based on their personal preferences. If a customer bought a particular type of product previously or even just mentioned a product on their Facebook page, chatbots can be used to draw their attention to your own version of this product. This is a highly effective way to boost your conversion rates.
Chatbots are also useful in a slightly less obvious way: they can be used to improve the level of engagement you have with your customers. Most website visitors, when asked to fill out a feedback form, will quickly click away. They are much more likely, however, to engage with the same form if a chatbot asks them to fill it out. Not only does this improve the level of customer feedback generates, but it also makes it clear to your customers that you value their opinion—a great way to improve brand loyalty, and ensure that you retain your customers.
A more holistic look at the impact of chatbots on marketing efficiency will also reveal a number of knock-on effects that make your marketing efforts more effective. Specifically, by making marketing processes more efficient, the deployment of chatbots free up your staff to focus on what’s really important—building trusting relationships with your customers—rather than repetitive tasks that a computer can perform more easily.
One of the primary ways in which this is visible is when it comes to customer support. At the moment, many brands still rely on phone and email communication to provide customer service support. This means that email systems, in particular, can quickly become overwhelmed with support requests, simply because many customers will not know how to submit help tickets.
In turn, this reduces the efficacy of email as a conversational marketing tool, an area in which it excels. In fact, some studies have shown that email campaigns are seven times 7X more effective at generating sales than Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn combined. By using chatbots as the primary point of contact for customer service inquiries, you can dramatically improve the speed at which these requests are resolved.
The purpose of a chatbot is to save your marketing team time, and ultimately allow them to focus on more what they do best—communicating with customers.
There is a reason why 6 of the top 10 most used apps are messaging apps. Clear, effective communication remains the most important element of any marketing campaign, conversational or not, and chatbots are there to support that goal.
Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed among other intriguing things to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.