Robots won’t be taking over the world anytime soon, but their distant relatives could soon find themselves well-employed by brand marketers. Chatbots are quickly entering the mainstream of marketing tools that can offer tangible value to brands. Some industry observers believe they are positioned for rapid adoption in the coming years. In fact, The Economist believes the rise of chatbots will be part of a larger trend toward text-based services.
These services aren’t new to the internet, and neither are chatbots, but the technology powering them has improved dramatically over the past few years. Whereas 10 years ago a chatbot could be instantly identified through its unnatural language and poor communication, a modern-day chatbot is empowered with artificial intelligence and natural language capabilities, making them almost as good as the real thing—and the advantages don’t end there.
Brands should be very interested in leveraging chatbots as marketing technology. When deployed correctly, chatbots can bring a range of advantages that affect all aspects of a marketing department’s operations, and make a clear, positive impact on a brand’s overall reputation. Here are five key benefits every marketer should understand.
Chatbots are commonly designed to be used as stand-in customer service representatives. When consumers contact a company through an online customer service portal, such as an online chat platform, chatbots can be the first line of assistance, addressing simpler queries on their own while passing tougher problems on to the humans behind them. They can also be great tools for driving engagement with your brand—case in point: Sephora’s use of Kik, which even goes as far as to use a short quiz, in combination with its collection of multimedia resources, to create an experience that is at once personal, authentic, and automated.
It’s not too much of a stretch, given their ever-evolving capabilities, to predict that chatbots could soon handle the majority of a typical organization’s customer service queries. The result? A dramatically reduced workload for customer service staff, and drastic savings in time, money, and other resources for the company as a whole.
Within a one-on-one interaction with a consumer, there is a treasure trove of data to be collected. Doing this as a human point of contact can be overwhelming when you’re also trying to provide good customer service. But chatbots can easily gather and monitor consumer data, including tracking behavior to drive smarter marketing strategies, according to AJ Agrawal for Forbes.
The insights gathered and analyzed by chatbots can help improve personalization efforts and expedite the resolution of certain customer struggles, such as difficulty finding a product or service to address a particular need. And that’s just scratching the service of how data can drive better brand experiences: marketers can continually use chatbot-gathered data to become smarter and more responsive to consumer desires.
Chatbots can provide service 24/7, and they aren’t affected by heavy customer service periods. Every consumer who connects with your brand via chatbot will receive a prompt response, no matter what the current volume of inquiries is or what time of day it is. That will ultimately benefit your brand’s reputation, fostering positive word-of-mouth among its customer base.
Chatbots are very versatile as marketing tools. Anywhere consumers seek to engage directly with a brand online, chatbots can theoretically be deployed. Not only is customer service an area where chatbots could eventually take over the majority of the current workload, but they can be deployed at various spots in the sales funnel to try and advance consumers closer to a purchase. Whether during the information-gathering stages or at the precipice of making a conversion, chatbots can use their own behavioral data to determine the best approach when communicating with a consumer.
Meanwhile, chatbots can be connected to external outlets where text-based communication is needed. Social media platforms are the perfect example: Facebook Messenger and Twitter’s direct messaging can both be handled by chatbots, which can then respond to customer inquiries quickly and efficiently.
And in all of these interactions, the engagement doesn’t have to be purely consumer driven. Chatbots can use consumer data to deliver upsells and other promotional content, creating new opportunities to increase ROI.
Chatbots are powered by innovative artificial technology, which will undoubtedly continue improving over time. These cognitive solutions use machine learning, a process through which the chatbots are able to analyze interactions with consumers and become more lifelike and effective over time.
Machine learning is basically the robot version of how a human brain learns through its experiences. While this process isn’t perfect, it still stands to reason that a chatbot’s performance will improve as it compiles data, learns from its mistakes, and interacts with more consumers.
As Business 2 Community points out, a well-designed chatbox is already virtually impossible to identify as an AI solution, as long as it’s programmed to align with your brand voice. “Bots can actually deliver a really seamless, natural human experience when written correctly. …It really depends on what your brand’s voice is, though. If you’re a more informal brand, using slang and casual language (‘like,’ ‘love,’ etc.) and referring to your brand as ‘we’ or ‘I’ will work well. If you’re a more formal brand, referring to yourself in third person and dropping the slang is probably a better bet.” And it’s safe to say that as we learn more about human behavior and as AI technology improves, chatbots will only continue to trend upward—both in popularity and in their ability to provide authentic experiences to users.
The specific value of a chatbot depends on each organization’s current communication volume with consumers, and the possible channels through which text-based services can be deployed. But even if chatbots are a bridge too far for your company right now, prepare yourself: odds are, you’ll be deploying these bots in the not-too-distant future.