Traditional marketing used to be a lecture. Now, it’s a conversation. Instead of talking at their customers with one-sided communication, brands have started engaging in meaningful dialogue with their buyers. Nothing embodies this change more than the rise of chatbots, which give brands the opportunity to talk to people one on one without needing to hire an army of customer service reps. According to Gartner research, chatbots will account for 85% of all customer service by 2020.
But not all conversations are created equally. The rise of chatbots has led to some companies trying to get in on the trend without any real strategy. For example, if a brand just rolls out a bot with a one-time use case for a single function, the user experience is going to suffer. There needs to be a long-term goal, like lead generation or brand awareness, to give the digital conversation a purpose. Only when that happens can brands benefit from a direct channel with their consumers.
A big part of the chatbot appeal comes down to first-party data. Marketers typically rely on pixel tracking and predictive analytics to gather details about their target audience.
Take Domino’s Pizza, which developed one of the simplest yet most effective examples of conversational commerce. The pizza chain launched its chatbot, named Dom, a few years ago. People could talk to Dom to place an order without using the phone. They could also set up an “Easy Order,” and the bot would save the preferences for future transactions. The investment succeeded for a few reasons: It gave customers a convenient, personalized experience. And perhaps more importantly, it helped Domino’s increase brand loyalty while simultaneously getting a better understanding of its buyers.
That understanding is crucial. A big part of the chatbot appeal comes down to first-party data. Marketers typically rely on pixel tracking and predictive analytics to gather details about their target audience. But as a result, they just end up dealing with guesswork because they never actually hear from the user. However, when people have a chance to weigh in, that opens plenty of quantitative possibilities. If brands assist customers or offer something of value, then they can conduct surveys or ask for input on the user experience.
The better the conversation, the better the data will be. That’s why brands need to build long-term relationships with users. A chatbot by itself isn’t a strategy. But when implemented with strategic touchpoints that point back to a larger customer initiative, chatbots can become conversational marketing.
These conversations don’t just have to be contained within the confines of customer service either. American Express’ bot, for example, not only sends notifications after large purchases, but also answers questions about accounts and can provide advice and insight for new credit cards. According to eMarketer, 67% of millennials in the U.S. claim they would buy something from a brand using a chatbot. After the initial sale, a lot of companies like to send an email to follow up. But the bot can take that inquiry to the next level by asking pressing questions about the purchase or offering information on related deals and discounts. The immediate communication through chat apps is a powerful upsell tool that can’t be replicated over email or social media.
If you needed any more convincing about the potential impact of a chatbot done right, consider this: Juniper Research found that bots will help businesses save $8 billion annually by 2022. Today, that number is only $20 million. So, in the next few years, brands have to get to know their customers with high-quality bot conversations. Some may struggle to succeed without a sound strategy, but the best companies have a real opportunity to talk the talk.