So let’s chat about chatbots.
- Some people believe they’re annoying: those little boxes zooming into view on websites, obscuring content and offering very little value and a lot of interruption.
- Some people love them as time savers for businesses, answering fairly basic consumer questions and forwarding the more in-depth queries to a human.
But as with any marketing tool, if they’re done right, chatbots can be amazing, helpful to both businesses and customers, and their potential is growing.
The Chatbot Advantage
Quicker than humans, chatbots are capable of giving data-related answers and taking requests for further contact. Artificial intelligence development strides in recent years have given chatbots personalities and the bots can be so convincing, customers don’t know they’re not speaking to a human being. In some cases, bots have even been propositioned for dates.
Another perk of employing (or deploying?) chatbots is efficiency, freeing up human workers to concentrate on work that more actively contributes to the bottom line. If consumers have questions related to product usage, warranty, assembly, or any number of details with static answers, chatbots can save human time by swooping in and taking over. The bonus is chatbots don’t sleep, so someone in a different time zone who doesn’t have to wait until morning can get what they need, giving them the sense the business they’re supporting is there for them in a blink.
Programmed with varying algorithms to analyze customer data, chatbots can also recognize which marketing leads are more likely to convert. As leads come in, the bot knows, based on keywords within the email or text, which leads are most promising and will route them to live humans to take over the sales process.
The advantage? Bots aren’t put off by unanswered email and non-responses.
They don’t forget to follow up, and with the right messaging, can be persistent without being pushy.
Need help with programmatic advertising? A chatbot can help from a B2B standpoint, improving ad buy efficiency with better targeting to audiences and putting company advertising spend to its best, most accurate use with “right place, right time, right message” implementation. The bots do this by anticipating which users will engage with which content based on browsing history, as well as by quickly submitting bids before the competition gets there.
Consumer Confidence in Chatbots is Growing
A great example of effective chatbot strategy is WeChat.
The Chinese version of Facebook is the dominant mobile messaging platform in China, with more than a billion monthly active users. WeChat has many facets, including shopping related activities such as ordering takeout, calling for a taxi, purchasing tickets, and buying necessities. All users have to do is message the business through WeChat, and the bot takes over, providing recommendations for personalized gifts during the holidays, answering questions about potential side effects of medications and supplements, giving detailed information about restaurants and travel destinations, and more. Patients can check out a doctor’s specialty and credentials, book appointments, and monitor their place in the waiting room queue. It’s pretty comprehensive.
As augmented reality becomes more pervasive—it’s not just for Pokemon GO anymore—brands large and small are taking notice. L’Oreal acquired Modiface, an AR beauty brand that revolutionized chatbot technology to help users pick products to enhance their appearance.
By using smartphone cameras, the bots helped consumers choose lipstick colors, hair colors, and more.
This try-before-you-buy option, especially for products people had a hard time testing online, like makeup and clothing, is growing. And with predictions that chatbots could save businesses $8 billion every year by 2022, it’s time business owners sit up and take notice.
The Downside of Chatbots
Unfortunately there are some drawbacks. The cost of implementing a life-like chatbot can be exorbitant, with packages starting at $3k a month. For large companies, the cost savings with personnel and the potential uptick in sales from better programmatic ads and more interactivity with consumers could make the expense worth it. For smaller businesses, this kind of technology may still be out of reach.
Then there’s the added pressure of the chatbot’s conversational skills keeping with the times.
Language evolves, and if your chatbot doesn’t speak with the same terminology as consumers, your clients could be left feeling cheated out of the essential human experience while spending their hard earned dollars. People want authenticity, and while chatbots provide fast, data-based service, the fact that they’re a bot in the first place can obliterate that feeling. So it’s key to determine exactly what customer interaction lanes your bot will stay within. The last thing you want to do is hinder information-seeking customers who aren’t yet sold on your products or services.
With a chatbot at the forefront of communication, simple inquiries are handled with speedy competence.
While for years, headlines have touted dire predictions that AI will take human jobs, the reality is chatbots create efficiencies within an entire organization, giving human workers more opportunity to make deals, develop products, and create—the vital operations that generate revenue. And that’s something we can all happily chat about.