Scan the leading websites in your industry – whatever your industry – and you’ll be struck by the ubiquity of chatbots.
Even five years ago, these automated tools were regarded as having a fairly niche set of uses, and were seen as so expensive and complicated that only the biggest brands were able to use them. But in the space of five short years, that’s all changed. Chatbots are now an incredibly important tool for businesses, and can be added to your customer-facing portals very easily.
Alongside the widespread adoption of these tools has also come an increasing recognition from customers: as we’ve previously pointed out, approximately 47% of customers are now open to shopping for items using a chatbot, and many now find them invaluable for searching for products.
This is not the only use of chatbots, however. Incorporating them into your digital marketing strategy has a number of key advantages, from increased lead generation to the ability to generate instant feedback on product ideas. In this article, we’ll take a look at four of these advantages, and show you how chatbots can improve the efficacy of your digital marketing.
1 – Lead generation
When it comes to generating leads, chatbots have a huge advantage over their human “colleagues” – they don’t have to sleep. This means that they can interact with customers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and can do so in real time. This means that potential customers don’t have to send an enquiry form, and wait for a response from one of your employees. Instead, you can offer them instant, tailored advice on your products.
That might sound like a small extra service to offer your customers, but research indicates that the impact it can have on your sales is enormous. Surveys indicate that about 64% of consumers see 24-hour service as the biggest benefit of chatbots.
These stats have led to a corresponding increase in the use of chatbots across a wide range of industries, and in many circumstances chatbots have been given high levels of responsibility in the sales process. Research shows that by 2019, over half of all companies were using automation for part of their businesses processes.
2 – Instant feedback
Another important advantage of integrating chatbots into your digital marketing campaigns is that they can be used to quickly and efficiently elicit feedback from your customers, and intelligently respond to these suggestions.
This is not a commonly mentioned advantage of chatbots, because many brands still see them mainly as a tool that requires data to function, rather than one that can be used as a source of business intelligence. It’s true that training chatbots to respond to customer queries normally requires large datasets, but there are other ways of using them that don’t require this level of technical infrastructure and knowledge.
A good example of this is the campaign that was run by Absolut Vodka in 2018. This marketing campaign, as reported by entrepreneur, used a chatbot to interact with potential customers over Facebook messenger. The purpose of this outreach was partially to perform a survey on the most popular vodka-based cocktails among Absolut’s customer base. However, the technique also led to a x2 conversion increase via Facebook messenger, and allowed Absolut to open another way to interact with their key customers.
3 – Data acquisition
Take the approach we’ve mentioned above to its logical extreme, and you’ll see that chatbots can actually be an incredibly useful and effective way of collecting data from your customers.
This technique is still in its infancy, but is already showing great promise. The idea is simple enough – since a chatbot (if correctly trained and used) can potentially interact with a huge number of customers simultaneously, it makes sense to use these bots to collect information on your customers, even if all this involves is a simple question about their habits.
This information can be used for a variety of purposes. First and foremost, chatbots asking customers to rate their experience, and to collect suggestions on how your sales process can be improved, can instantly help you to improve the efficacy of your customer service offering. Information like this can also be used to inform your SEO process, by providing a finer-grained analysis of how customers arrived at your site.
The potential applications of these data go way beyond on-site marketing, though. They can be used, in other words, to inform all of your marketing channels, including arguably the most important – email.
According to Ottawa-based software developer and online marketer Gary Stevens of Hosting Canada, email remains the most effective marketing channel today, stating “Despite some outcries to the contrary, email is far from dead and is, according to all statistics and expert predictions, actually gaining traction as a marketing modality, making it more important than ever before that you have the right systems in place to ensure you aren’t leaving any money on the table.”
And last but definitely not least, this information can be fed back into your chatbot itself, and used to train it to respond more effectively, and in a more sophisticated way, to your customers. In this way, using your chatbots to collect data is essentially a way of getting them to train themselves.
4 – Building a relationship
Finally, it’s worth recognizing that when used correctly, chatbots can work in parallel with human marketers towards the most important goal of all – building a truly engaged relationship with your customers.
This is often forgotten about, because many brands still see chatbot development frameworks as a way of automating away human marketers and customer service staff. This, however, is the wrong approach – instead of seeing chatbots as an automated replacement for humans, marketers should see them as an efficiency tool. Chatbots, ultimately, can save your human marketers time that they can then spend working on more useful tasks.
Taking this approach can provide real advantages to brands. This is because it’s not just your marketing team who will applaud you for making their jobs easier – your customers will also value the more streamlined purchase process that chatbots can provide.
Examples of this kind of approach can be found in many industries, but perhaps the most prominent is Pizza Hut’s chatbot. This tool is primarily focused on providing a friendly interface for customers making online purchases. However, as part of this service it also collects information on customers, and remembers it to speed up the checkout process for future purchases.
Automate your marketing
If, after running through the advantages above, you are ready to take your first step into the exciting world of chatbots, you now have plenty of options available to you. There are a few solutions that provide ready-to-use chatbots requiring very little in the way of training.
These can be a great solution for new companies, or those who are relatively new to the world of advanced digital marketing and want to super-charge their data acquisition process. Just remember, whichever approach you take, that chatbots are there to help your marketing staff, not replace them.