Chatbots are increasingly valuable at every stage of the marketing funnel. They’re being driven by more advanced technology, and brands are finding novel uses for them constantly.
This isn’t just because more commerce takes place online, but because AI is opening up new possibilities. Marketers are finding ways to use chatbots to improve their interaction with customers, qualify leads, and boost revenue at scale.
Chatbots have been one of the fastest-growing trends in marketing and ecommerce. In 2020 alone, the number of chatbots being used by brands shot up by 92%.
What is Chatbot Marketing?
Marketers can equip the same chatbot with any number of conversation “flows”. These are branching paths the conversation could go down. They're defined by the team in the same way they might define journeys through the site starting from the same homepage.
Those flows could be for different functions like answering FAQs, filling in customer feedback surveys, consulting your knowledge base, or taking the user through a sales funnel. Even taking purchase and payment right in the conversation window.
Chatbots can be broken down into three main categories. Button/menu bots, keyword-based bots, and natural language processing (NLP).
Button/menu-based chatbots will usually display a welcome message then give the user two or three buttons to press. All of the chatbot’s responses are written by the marketing team. The limited options make it easy for the user to clarify what they want. This simplifies the process for marketers to get them in the right conversation flow.
Keyword-based chatbots will let the user talk to the bot through text or voice dictation. Just like they were talking to a real person in a live chat window. The chatbot scans responses for certain keywords given to it by the designers. That’s how it’ll decide what to respond with and what conversation flow to follow.
This has the benefit of feeling natural. But unlike the button/menu bots it’s not obvious to the user what the limits of the chatbot’s understanding are. Uncertainty can lead to frustration. That’s a UX issue that might need some testing and iteration to solve.
The most advanced chatbots will use a technology called Natural Language Processing (NLP). This is a version of machine learning techniques where the bot is trained on a huge dataset of everyday language use.
The marketers still design and optimize conversation flows, but if the user asks something outside of that flow the bot doesn’t need to be “told” word-for-word how to respond.
You might have heard of GPT-3, an AI which considers around 175 billion factors when deciding how to react to a text prompt. Its creators at OpenAI are hesitant to release it into the wild, but this technology is the near-term future of the chatbot.
Chatbots don’t just belong in a window on your site. The wave of marketing chatbots began when Facebook allowed bot integrations into its Messenger platform in 2016. These days, chatbots can be integrated across channels and big platforms. These include WhatsApp, WeChat, social media, even voice assistant software.
For example, Domino’s Pizza has developed its “AnyWare” chatbot enabling people to order pizza anywhere. The same bot is integrated into Alexa speakers, work chat channels, even their Apple Watches. With people able to order from Twitter with a pizza emoji, there’s an element of the attention-grabbing gimmick to it. But it’s so widespread because it's a legitimate driver of impulse purchases.
Chatbots can be tailored to specific trigger events or behaviors on your site or with your web app. For example,
- If a user has been lingering on a product page on your website for 30 seconds, your chatbot could pop up and ask them if they have any questions.
- If you’re using the chatbot in your web app, you can use it to offer personalized tips or notifications based on detailed user behavior.
What Are The Benefits of Chatbot Marketing?
The main benefit of chatbots is that they’re available to talk to customers 24/7. This is important for small teams who can’t afford to divert their attention away from tasks. It’s also great for companies aiming for an international audience. Users can talk to your company directly no matter what timezone they’re in.
If your chatbot is designed well, leads who might have just bounced from your site because nobody was online won’t be missed. Depending on the sector you operate in, one lead can make a huge impact on your quarterly results.
Chatbots can engage and qualify visitors to your site just the way you would if you were talking to them. You can design your conversation flows just for this. Just two questions about your lead and their work can become highly-tailored conversation flows.
From there, your chatbot can either
- send well-qualified leads over to a member of your sales team or
- do the selling for you right in that conversation
Chatbots are able to collect valuable data on your customers, even if they’re not asking for it. As part of your voice of the customer program, your chatbot can gather feedback from customers for you to go through in your own time.
But in the same way you’re tracking customer journeys through your site, chatbots let you analyze journeys through the conversation. Imagine you had that kind of detailed birds’-eye-view on every support and sales call made by your team! This lets you A/B test and refine your conversation flows for even better results.
How Do You Implement Chatbot Marketing?
Setting up your chatbot will take some planning and care. Solutions like Intercom, whose bots you’ve likely seen, or Zendesk work right out of the box. Everything else comes down to how you want to interact with your customers.
The most important part of any project is to set clear goals.
- Do you want your chatbot to boost revenue?
- Increase conversions?
- If you’re using it for your web app, are you trying to increase the uptake of specific features?
- If your chatbot functions across social media, do you want to increase traffic to your website?
Talk to all relevant teams about these issues and how a chatbot would be able to help with them. Pick a small number of them to start with and see how your chatbot performs before you start adding any new goals.
Once you have your goals in mind, you can build a content strategy around achieving them. If you’re trying to qualify leads, you can focus on a few questions that matter to your sales team then build small, well-tailored conversation flows around them. Your chatbot can answer questions, address segment-specific concerns, and offer to put the user through to a real sales member at any point.
If you just want to reduce the workload of your social team, you’ll need to create a broad range of keywords and conversation flows so you can handle the many routine questions and concerns customers are addressing over and over again. You could visualize your chatbot as having either a few long conversation flows or many short ones, it all depends on the specific goals you’re aiming for.
The chatbot design process can involve stakeholders from many teams. Sales will know how to turn leads into customers, customer support will know what issues keep coming up. But when it’s time to write your chatbot’s questions and responses, the marketing team needs to act as the owners of the brand voice.
How your chatbot says it is just as important as what it says. It can be the difference between a chatbot that engages leads and one that gets dismissed. Your chatbot needs to sound relevant and on-brand, but that doesn’t mean it has to just be a faceless representative of the company.
Estée Lauder, for example, has Liv, a friendly chatbot that customers can talk to over WhatsApp. Liv is even integrated with an augmented reality try-on feature that allows users to try on lipsticks as they would in person. Liv responds like the expert makeup artists who customers would talk to in-store.
Also, the health benefits platform HealthJoy created Joy, a kindly AI nurse character who is ready to attend to users’ queries.
Think about your goals and your conversation flows when defining your chatbot’s personality. Your brand voice might be fun and playful, but customers may find that grating if they’re trying to resolve an urgent support issue. Voice and personality should serve the user journey at all times.
Your chatbot only gets one chance to make a first impression. Many users are accustomed to closing chat windows off out of habit, either because it’s blocking content or they’re expecting a trio of spammy notifications. When crafting an opening message, think about who your audience is and what they value. If you’re using UTM links to track where a user has come from, you might even tailor your opening message to that specific context.
- If you’re an online retailer and your chatbot is primarily for customer support issues, tell customers it’s here to help with anything.
- If your chatbot is selling a software platform for lawyers, maybe open with a question about which area of law they work in.
Just because your chatbot is partly for automating work, it doesn’t mean they can’t work alongside you like any other member of the sales or support teams. When building your conversation flows, consider places where it might be good for your chatbot to offer to hand the user over to a real person.
If they’re halfway through a conversation flow, a user could be coming to sales as a well-qualified lead. A support colleague will know exactly what their issue is just by seeing where they are in the conversation flow.
If you’re using a button/menu-based chatbot, you should keep an eye on how you implement strong call-to-action buttons. Consistent CTAs can help users navigate into the right flow whether that’s consulting your knowledge base or booking a meeting.
If you’re using your chatbot for customer support, consider how early you want to offer to put users through to a real person. If you get a lot of the same routine issues day after day you want the bot to answer them before the user gets through to a support member.
But might your users have an issue that’s too urgent for a chatbot to deal with? Say you’re an email marketing provider and a scheduled email campaign might fail to send. You want to give users the option to speak to a real person in just a couple of messages.
There are a lot of detailed factors to consider when designing your chatbot. It’s not likely you’re going to get it 100% right the first time. As with anything else on your site, you have the opportunity to collect detailed analytics about how users are interacting with your bot. This lets you identify where things are going wrong and correct them.
Best Chatbot Software
Chatbot.com is an easy-to-use but powerful solution. It works with any site but has direct integrations with WordPress and Shopify, as well as Facebook Messenger and FreshDesk. Chatbot.com also connects with tools like Salesforce, Zapier, and ZenDesk. This allows your team to use the AI to automate simple tasks, so it makes life easier for you and your customers.
If you’re already using HubSpot’s marketing tools, you’ll be glad to know they offer a chatbot that plugs right into their CRM features. This allows the chatbot to pull information in from your CRM and deliver more personalized messages to your customers, based on data you’ve already collected from them.
If you need to handle customer support tickets, ZenDesk offers an all-in-one solution that includes Zendesk Chat. Zendesk Chat can connect customers to your team personally, but it also has chatbot features like Flow Builder and Answer Bot which can deliver a personalized service to customers without them having to talk to one of your staff.
And if you’re focussed on marketing, Intercom has a chatbot, Live Chat, and email marketing bundled into one product. The Intercom widget can be embedded on every page of your web app, and because your user data and customer data are all in one place you can use this data to offer tailored support and marketing emails.
What Happens Next?
At the most advanced levels, firms like the Royal Bank of Scotland are using NLP to analyze customer concerns, using insights gained to improve their highly-automated chatbot experience. Even with a simple button/menu bot, you’ll see valuable patterns. These will look a lot like the web analytics software your marketing team is using already.
By talking to users at scale, your chatbot gains more and more data. This allows you to improve on how your company is interacting with customers. Whether you’re selling software or pizzas, chatbots are a great way to engage with customers in ways that will deliver value and boost revenue.
I hope this article has helped you learn more about Chatbot Marketing and how it can help a business bring more leads and sales to boost their revenue. Providing timely help and support to your customers is one of the key benefits of implementing Chatbot in your marketing efforts.
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