It’s Not About the Bot, It’s About the Conversation

Marketing used to be a lecture. Now it’s a conversation. Where brands once talked at customers, they’ve started engaging them in meaningful dialogue. Nothing embodies this change more than the rise of Chat Marketing, which give brands the opportunity to talk to people 1:1 without hiring an army of customer service reps. According to Gartner research, chat will account for 85% of all customer service by 2020.

But not all conversations are created equal. The rise of chat has led to a frenzy of companies trying to get in on the trend without any real strategy. For example, if a brand rolls out a chatbot 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 conversation a purpose. Only when that happens will brands benefit from a direct channel with their consumers.

Take Domino’s Pizza, which developed one of the simplest yet most effective examples of Chat Marketing. The pizza chain launched its chatbot, Dom, a few years ago. People could talk to Dom and place an order without using the phone. They could also set up an “Easy Order,” and the bot would save their 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 gaining 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 a ton of quantitative possibilities. If brands assist customers or offer something of value, then they can subsequently 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 itself isn’t a strategy. But when implemented with strategic touchpoints that point back to a larger digital-marketing initiative, chatbots can become a larger, full-funnel Chat Marketing strategy.

The better the conversation, the better the data will be. That’s why brands need to build long-term relationships with users.

These conversations go well beyond customer service. American Express’ bot, for example, not only sends notifications following 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 need 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 need 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.

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