“Businesses are beginning to see the benefits of using chatbots for their consumer-facing products, according to a survey by Oracle. When asked which emerging technologies they are already using and which they intended to implement, 80% of respondents said they already used or planned to use chatbots by 2020.” (Business Insider)
Does your digital marketing plan currently include chatbots? If not, it probably should, especially if you hope to reach the desirable millennial market – a demographic that spends the majority of their time glued to their smartphones and are heavy users of messaging apps. In fact, the numbers suggest that it’s not just one generation who are texting with friends and favorite retailers alike. 1.4 billion people currently use messaging apps (Medium.com).
What is a chatbot and what can it do for my brand?
“Chatbots have the ability to dig through huge amounts of data to pick out the best nugget for a customer, whether it is a troubleshooting solution or a recommendation for a new product to try.” (Forbes)
A chatbot is a computer program designed to encourage conversation with human users. Chatbots live on messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik, WeChat, and others, and can have a virtual “conversation” with customers via their app.
Businesses who once clamored to reach customers on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are expanding their reach even further by establishing a presence on the most popular messaging apps. Chatbots are a surefire way to meet customers where they are now and in a way that is more personalized.
“The exploding popularity of messaging creates an opportunity for companies to connect with their customers like never before in a way that is contextual, relevant, personal, and conversational. That’s where chatbots come in,” said Kristina Podnar in her article for Content Marketing Institute.
Here’s how chatbots work: a customer types a question (“Does this T-shirt come in an extra-large?”) and the chatbot responds with the answer, and the Q&A can go on from there. For those brands that fastidiously collect customer data, that data can be mined to personalize the chatbot-customer interaction. For example, if your customer orders that T-shirt in an extra-large, the chatbot might message about another, similar shirt available in the same size.
Chatbots can enhance different aspects of the customer experience. These include:
- Improved eCommerce customer service: Chatbots can bolster your call center’s response times. Unlike human employees, Chatbots are always available to quickly answer simple, straightforward customer questions and concerns. They can also save you money by cutting your overhead costs. Chatbots can be programmed to serve as after-hours “representatives” when a human is unavailable. Some customers – whether because of a time constraint or an aversion to talking to customer service reps – actually prefer asking a chatbot a question to talking to a stranger on the phone.
- More personalized product recommendations: Think of your chatbot as a virtual concierge or personal shopper for your customers. Instead of simply presenting customers with your best-selling products in the hope that they’ll want what everyone else wants, your chatbot can use your customers’ search and buying history (as mentioned above) to tailor personalized recommendations.
- Proactive engagement with customers: Not only are people talking to chatbots—they are also buying products via chatbots. According to Digitas LBi, 37 percent of Americans say they are willing to make a purchase through a chatbot. Instead of waiting for customers to seek out your brand, you can seek out new customers by proactively offering them product information, often when they’re already seeking it. If a potential customer mentions on a messaging app that they’re looking for, say, a new camping stove, and that is something you sell, your chatbot can instantly let the user know about it, including product details and ordering information.
How do I go about implementing chatbots into my eCommerce Strategy?
If you’re interested in trying out chatbots to see how they can boost your brand, we have a few tips to get you started:
- Determine what messaging apps your customers use. Naturally you want to make sure you’re putting your chatbots on apps your customers are already using.
- How big do you want to go at first? You’ll probably want to start small with a few test chatbots before implementing a full-scale strategy. This way you can get an idea of customer response and usefulness without too much risk.
- Choose the right partner to support your bot development. In choosing a bot platform, look for a platform that can utilize all the data you currently have as well as any new data you’re able to collect during their interaction with the chatbot. “Retailers should look for a bot platform that can centralize data and scale bot development,” Christian Brucculeri, CEO of Snaps, told eMarketer.
- Weigh the risks with the rewards. Using chatbots is not without some risk – both to your brand and to your business. The language that your chatbot uses should reflect both the tone and content that any of your reps would use. Make sure you put a conversational commerce policy in place that, among other things, discloses how your chatbot complies with data localization and governance laws that are unique in different countries, how data is stored and transferred, and how you ensure that children under 13 are restricted from using your chatbot. (Content Marketing Institute)
Bottom line? Chatbots increase customer engagement
Despite some early and very public blunders (remember Twitter’s Tay?), thanks to technological lessons learned chatbots are now smarter and more useful than ever. With so many people using messaging apps 24/7, chatbots are a quick and easy way to tap into a huge potential marketplace with your own personalized content. When it comes to keeping people talking about your product, chatbots can serve as excellent conversation partners and add value to your eCommerce solution.