I know what you’re thinking – when will the world of marketing just stand still for a moment and let us all catch up?!?! No such luck, dear readers. No sooner have we all gotten to grips with the fact that we’re going to have to start building live video campaigns into our content marketing strategies, something else comes along that promises to be the next game-changer. And so here we are with the most recent marketing phenomenon – chatbots.
First thing’s first…
What are chatbots?
In simple terms, chatbots are basically semi-intelligent add-ons to existing messaging platforms that are programmed with the ability to autonomously provide answers to customer questions and furnish those customers with various other information.
The best chatbots are able to mimic a real human conversation, and of course engage with customers right around the clock even when all employees of the business in question are out of the office.
Indeed, this is one of the key benefits of chatbots – providing a 24/7/365 presence that can give prospects and customers access to information no matter when they need it. This, in turn, can result in cost-savings for companies that deploy chatbots, as they cut down on the labour-hours that would be required for staff to manage a direct messaging service every hour of the week.
Research produced in Business Insider indeed makes this point very clear. It estimates that 29% of customer service positions in the US could be automated through chatbots, which would result in $23 billion-worth of salary savings nationwide.
What’s causing the rise of the chatbots?
80% of the survey respondents in the above study stated that they are already using or are planning to use chatbots by 2020 – so it’s very clear that chatbots are indeed on the rise.
As to the cause – well, it comes down to the previous and ongoing rise of messaging apps.
Believe it or not, today, people are using messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Line more than they are social networks. As a separate article from Business Insider reports, the moment when messaging app usage surpassed social media usage was way back in 2015.
As more and more people are using these apps, then it’s only natural that the marketing world has responded. If we want to reach our customers where they are, then it’s across messaging apps that we must venture – and chatbots have the solution.
Indeed, Venture Beat recently published an article containing some revealing statistics as to why chatbots are proving so popular.
- 51% of people say a business needs to be available 24/7
- 4% of people would rather contact a business through messaging than phone
- 8% of people would rather contact a business via messaging than email
As a result, eMarketer predicts that 65% of the global population will be using messaging apps by 2019, and that this will increase the market for chatbots exponentially.
Facebook opened the floodgates
A significant step in the road to the rise of the chatbots of course came last year when Facebook announced that its Messenger app would start playing host to chatbots.
At the grand unveiling, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg used a chatbot from the online florist 1-800-Flowers during a live demo, in which he used Messenger to send Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus a bouquet of white roses.
“If you want to send flowers you won’t have to install a new app or enter your credit card details again,” Zuckerberg said. “You just send a message,” adding that the irony was that “now to order from 1-800-Flowers you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.”
Today, there are some 34,000 chatbots for Facebook Messenger alone.
True, some are better than others – check out these chatbot blunders, for instance. One from the weatherbot Poncho that’s supposed to tell users what the weather is like where they are…
Or this one highlighted on a site simply called chatbot.fail…
What seems to be the problem in both cases is the fact that the chatbot doesn’t recognize what the user is typing, and is thereby unable to respond.
Things like this, of course, lead to much frustration amongst users, and indeed, unless you can produce a chatbot that does what it’s supposed to, then it won’t lead to a successful marketing initiative.
What makes a good chatbot?
In a word – simplicity.
Chatbots that try and do too much will often fail. Brands that deploy chatbots need to set realistic user expectations about what the bot can and can’t do.
Ideally, if you decide to jump on the chatbot bandwagon, it’s far better to deploy a bot that can do one thing really well than half-a-dozen things with only a hit-and-miss success rate.
At the end of the day, chatbots are just programmes. Sure, some of the more sophisticated offerings have elements of machine-learning built into them – and the technology will of course improve over time.
But, if you’re using a chatbot to handle customer queries while you’re out of the office, make sure that it can do that, and that you’ve taken the time to ensure that your chatbot will recognise poor spelling, colloquialisms, complex phrasing, swear words, emojis, and everything else that users may end up typing in.
Today, as with so many things, it’s actually very simple to get a chatbot set-up and deployed for your business – either on your website or on a messaging app. What’s more, there are a number of platforms out there that enable you to build your own chatbots even if you have no coding experience whatsoever.
Check out these bot-builder websites, for instance:
All of these are extremely simple to use, and will have a chatbot built and deployed for you sometimes in a matter of minutes (Chatfuel boasts that you can make one on their platform in under 7-minutes – pretty impressive).
Chatbots are indeed on the rise. They are transforming marketing in their ability to automate previously manual tasks with increasing proficiency – so it’s time you checked them out.
Got any more examples of great chatbot marketing? What about some more chatbot blunders to give us all a giggle? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.