Coming out of 2017 Chatbots have become a common next level marketing tactic…  If you are anything like me you may have included it in your “outside the box” strategy pitched in 2018 planning decks, encouraging clients and executives to start thinking about how these can be leveraged to engage customers and better target.  We’re not alone…  Freedman International and ClickZ survey of 500 marketers from the US and UK reported only 7% of marketers are currently using Chatbots and 27% plan to think about it in 2018.

While the term is becoming common, it seems our understanding of how they work and how to best use them to engage customers is lagging behind. In December 2017 a report from Conductor polled marketing executives worldwide where 34% cited AI as the marketing trend they felt most unprepared for in 2018.

What is a Chatbot?

In simple terms a Chatbot is a service that allows you to engage in a chat interface, IE (Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Text Messages, etc.).  The practice of using automated systems to start the conversation and help businesses be more efficient isn’t new. The folks over at Chatbots Magazine point out that many businesses already use automation strategies to increase efficiency…  Take the phonetree for example, while customers gets frustrated pressing 1 for services and 2 for sales , they get consumers where we need to be without having to speak to a real person.  Chatbots are similar, but better and faster. A chatbot puts the consumer in the driver seat.  Many even allowing us to provide the instruction as opposed to older automation strategies.  The best part of AI is that it can get smarter and learn to anticipate our needs.

Most Common Chatbots

Rule based bots, which are limited by only being able to function based on how it’s programmed.  These are the bots that we are most familiar with today.  The website chat that pops up to direct us towards the best possible content to make using a website an enjoyable experience.

Check our our “HanaBot” and chat service.

Next level bots use AI to understand language and learns from engagements. Beyond business use, there are lifestyle bots that deliver the daily weather, order groceries and provide companionship.  Meet XiaoIce…  A Chinese bot that currently over 20 million people talk to.

Image courtesy of China Daily

Why A Business Should Invest in A Chatbot

Consumers today are accustomed to getting want they want quickly, easily and seamlessly.   We no longer want to sift through web content, fill out a form to initiate conversation or leave our current app.  Adding to where we want it, how we want to consume content is evolving into something similar to a personal interaction, an in-store experience online.

In addition to making it easy to engage with consumers, you have to go where the consumers are gathering. In between Q1 and  Q3 2015 BI Intelligence reported the 4 big messaging apps surpassed monthly active users.  Going into 2018 they released an updated report showing Facebook messenger to have ~103 million active users.  More than double the amount of Snapchat.

One of my favorite companies of convenience, the personal style service Stitch Fix, has executed the use of a bot as a soft lead driver.  They engage users by inviting them to play along with a style shuffle.

The companies messenger bot serves up photos from their style closet.  In the example below, Stitch Fix serves up their  “Mad about Plaids” collection.  Style clients  get the option to view plaids or log in, at which point they are engaged in a game of “Would you wear this….” In the example below,  I rated the first one and then disengaged.  Later in the afternoon when I checked my phone I’d been sent another plaid to rate in my mobile messenger app.

The rule of thumb when it comes to bot creation is to create with purpose.  Think about your company and how it would benefit from a bot.  Is your goal to drive visitors to your site, gather lead data, assist with customer service to help customer retention rates.

Next Level Conversation About Bots

If this article hasn’t satisfied your interest in ChatBots head on over to the Hanapin PPC library and tune into Drive Insane Traffic to Your Chatbot with PPC, a previously recorded webinar alongside MobileMonkey’s Larry Kim.  In this webinar we walk through the process to create powerful chatbots and practical PPC strategies to lead your user to the landing page with your bot.