Chatbots or bots is one the most trending terms, along with buzzwords like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Will these chatbots be foes or allies for digital marketers, in the near future? Let’s find out!
During the turn of the century, digital marketing was dominated by Search Engine Marketing and Optimisation (SEM and SEO). Although they continue to be widely used, their scope of appeal has become restricted. The early 2010s saw the rise of Facebook and social media marketing, which has been growing exponentially ever since. Recently, mobile marketing rose and plateaued out. Users have stopped downloading new apps that lack a key element – personalisation. In this evolving market, most users are looking for a higher degree of personalisation, thanks to messaging apps.
Consumer behaviour has slowly shifted from social networks to messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Even payment banks like PayTM are hopping on to the bandwagon. Over the last two years, this has resulted in the exponential growth of the four largest messaging apps. Their growth has exceeded that of the four largest social networks globally, in terms of Daily Active Users or DAUs.
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For brands, this new marketing channel offers an exciting opportunity to experiment with fresh ad formats and connect with their consumers in novel ways. Businesses also enjoy fewer competitors, less ad fatigue, and potentially exponential returns on marketing investment (ROI).
As brands test the waters with this new marketing opportunity, chatbots are emerging as a particularly compelling piece of technology.
What is a “chatbot”?
Chatbots are computer programs that can carry out human-like conversations with people using lightweight messaging app UI, language-based rules, or AI. Chatbots converse with users using natural language (either voice or text), rather than a traditional website or app user interfaces. There are two types of chatbots. One functions based on a set of rules much like a computer program. The more advanced version uses machine learning and natural language processing.
Companies are creating bots for Slack, Amazon Echo, Facebook Messenger, and Kik to talk directly to users. These bots complete tasks such as product recommendations, remote troubleshooting, placing direct orders, and much more. With chatbots, there are endless possibilities in every sphere, including hyperlocal services and products. Chatbots are transforming marketing and businesses can capitalise on the current conversational trend. Some ways are listed below:
Engagement beyond clicks
In traditional online advertising, we call a click of an ad or play of a video “engagement.” On the other hand, chatbots can get you a better bang for your buck. A chatbot engages in an active conversation with the user, resulting in better engagement. This is true for chatbots on Facebook Messenger, which tease their audience and drum up excitement prior to a product release. They give users an interactive experience, thereby driving user engagement.
Conversation and rapport building is more effective than a simple ad or video view. The chatbot interaction leaves users with an entertaining experience, a better understanding of the brand, and a positive emotional feeling. These takeaways are rarely achieved with traditional ads.
Insights directly from users
Users converse with chatbots just like they do with their peers. In this highly personal and conversational setting, chatbots can ask intrusive questions such as:
– “Where do you live?”
– “What music do you like?”
– “What’s your dream travel destination?”
This is something that traditional ads can’t do. Moreover, questions that one finds awkward or annoying coming from a brand, are suddenly socially acceptable and even welcome in chatbot interactions. This allows businesses to remember and refer to personal information in future conversations to further customise a user’s experience.
More opportunities for personalisation
Ads have become more targeted over time. Brands are always seeking ways to appeal to users at a personal level through programmatic display ads, retargeting, or direct mails. With chatbots, brands can personalise a conversation. They can even help a group of travelers plan trips with friends and family without actually being present in the same room.
Bringing a brand’s personality to life
Brand identity is usually pushed to users in an endless barrage through banner ads, videos, billboards, and such things. A branded chatbot, on the other hand, becomes a “live entity” that can infuse personality into conversations. Be it wit, humour, or behind-the-scenes content; a company can show rather than tell their brand story to their audience with a chatbot. While traditional ads are “pushed” upon an unwilling or apathetic viewer, chatbots “pull” users to engage with them. Strategically implemented and well-designed chatbots can tell your brand story, re-engage audiences, and even grow your business.
How can I build a chatbot?
Building a chatbot may sound daunting, but with modern tools, it is now easier than ever. You can create an AI-powered chatting machine in no time, but building a basic chatbot that doesn’t have a fancy AI brain and follows the rules is a better bet. The difficulty in building a chatbot is less a technical one and more to do with user experience. To build a successful chatbot, you will need to figure out the problems you solve with it.
Choose a platform for your chatbot (Facebook, Slack, etc.), set up a server from where to run your bot from, and choose which service you will use to build your bot.
So why haven’t we seen many chatbots yet?
Building a chatbot is more to do with user experience. Marketers must keep in mind that the most successful bots will be the ones that users would want to come back to. To achieve this, one needs to keep users’ data private and also improve the personalisations offered to them.
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Is a clash between humans and chatbots predicted in the future?
Chatbots are unlikely to replace actual human jobs yet but will definitely aid them to a greater extent. Consumers will benefit from chatbots through personalisation — and this is where social media plays a big role. Unlike the SmarterChild bot hosted on AOL Instant Messenger, the potential for bots is not just completing tasks assigned to it, but understanding the context of the user’s life. With Facebook integration, chatbots already have a rich data source to understand user habits such as when they check their devices, interests, most valued relationships, and upcoming plans and schedules. Hence, bots can deliver relevant updates, information, and recommendations that are both, location and context-aware.
The current chatbots available on Facebook definitely have room for improvement. Try using one if you haven’t yet, and you’ll receive a flurry of push notifications and updates from the bot to continue to share news and updates. Going forward, bots should get smarter as they interact more and more with humans, just like a human baby does. They will learn what type of information individuals want and when they prefer to receive it.
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