2016 was the year of conversational commerce.
As the year progressed, we saw the trend slowly shift.
What originally remained focused on mobile messaging as a channel, has now moved towards chatbots as an automation tool.
As a marketer, I may be biased but I believe we tend to be the first in line when it comes to adopting new technology. We are the ones people turn to and ask,
'So, you heard about chatbots? Should we get one?'
In this article, I want to discuss exactly that. Should you get one? By focusing on the advantages of chatbots from a marketing point of view, I hope to convince you that yes, you definitely do need to get one.
The advantages of chatbots in marketing
I am going to list a few of the main advantages chatbots give, from a marketing perspective. How they can help your business and how they can make you a better marketer.
Think I have missed a main advantage? Tweet me and we'll discuss!
Chatbots are a new marketing channel
I want to start with this one because it often comes up as a double-edged sword.
On one hand, chatbots are exciting because they are a new marketing tool. We often share the success our clients have seen implementing chatbots as part of their marketing stack. You can read our case studies section, for instance, or simply crawl our blog.
On the other hand, some marketers feel chatbots may be 'another channel'. Another channel to learn. Another channel to produce content for. Another channel to monitor.
I think the benefits far outweigh any potential negatives.
Chatbots are the marketing channel of the future. In a recent study we commissioned, over a third of consumers said they want to see more companies using chatbots.
When you look at the results chatbots get in terms of engagement (as a reminder, we are looking at 87% read rate, 53% click-through rate - on average) and the fact that consumers want more of them, it seems pretty evident chatbots are not 'just another channel to learn/use/monitor'.
New and more efficient content distribution
One of the main advantages of chatbots from a marketing perspective is the opportunity for better content distribution.
As marketers, we have been dying for a better content distribution tool. Everything we have tried has let us down, so far.
Email open rates are at a low point, about 20%, and have been for over 10 years. Email providers seem to think that is a good thing. I am not sure how only reaching one out of five of your own subscribers is a good thing, especially when you are trying to distribute your content and engage them.
Social media gave us hope for a little while until metrics started declining again.
In 2012, a Facebook post on your company's page would reach a mere 16% of your audience. In 2016, the Facebook Newsroom announced changes in their organic reach which could lower your posts' reach down to 2%, making email marketing look like the Holy Grail.
So, what about chatbots?
Chatbots are a direct line to your audience. It is email without the spam. It is social media without dilution. It is direct mail without the cost (and the 'a letter!?' reaction from your customers).
Once you have acquired users through your chatbot, no one is going to prevent you from reaching them. The only way to lose that subscriber is if they unsubscribe.
Chatbots are 'always-on' helpers
As marketers, it is part of our job to service the right content to the right people at the right time (sounds like HubSpot mantra).
Sometimes, though, our lovely audience needs our help finding the content they want.
I like to think of chatbots as an 'always-on' helper. In fact, they are always-on helpers in many aspects, from sales assistants to customer support, but for now I will focus on marketing.
A customer lands on the wrong page of your website? A quick query with your chatbot will help her find her way.
Is a lead looking for a specific case study about your product? A couple of questions to your chatbot and it will deliver the right content.
Now, I don't mean marketers can become lazy, feed a database of mishmash articles to a chatbot and expect it to do the work for them.
Instead, marketers can count on their chatbot to take over when the customer needs something, 24/7.
Chatbots are 'always-on' listeners
Up until now, we have gone over fairly bog standard chatbot advantages. They allow personalisation at scale, they are on 24/7, they actually reach their audience - we love them.
This one is a little-known advantage of chatbots, one I think marketers and entrepreneurs will not start looking into for many years (i.e. get in there right now!).
Chatbots are not just a great tool to answer to your customers. They are also a fantastic tool to get insights on what your customers want and how they phrase the things they want.
You know the dreaded '(not provided)' Google Analytics gives us whenever we try to figure out the keywords our visitors have used to find us?
Imagine getting access to 100% of this data, and a whole lot more, from your customers. That is what you get from your chatbot's logs.
Your chatbot's interactions are direct and in-depth insight into your audiences' brain. You can crawl through the logs and figure out exactly how they talk about their issues, the language they use to explain what they are looking for, the keywords that matter to them.
All this insight is invaluable and will influence every part of any business, from SEO targeting to ad copy writing and closing a sale.
Become an innovator in your field
We live in a fantastic time for chatbots.
From a technical standpoint, we see progress every day in fields like artificial intelligence, conversational UX, or even messaging platform design.
From an innovation standpoint, all businesses are given a once in a lifetime opportunity: be the first at something.
When we surveyed over 2,000 UK consumers about chatbots, 43% said they see companies using chatbots as innovative.
I know this is stretching the marketing department a bit and stepping into PR territory, but imagine the impact of being seen as an innovative company and a first in your field.
As first-movers, you have the chance to build massive success around this innovation. It all gets a little technical here, so if you want more information on this particular advantage of using the chatbot technology in your business, I suggest you give good old Wikipedia a read.
Aside from all of that, though, introducing chatbots to your company could make you an innovator in the eye of your customers, peers and the hierachy. I have to say, that does sound pretty cool.
Chatbots offer personalisation at scale
Let's end this article on an obvious, but exciting note.
We have seen that chatbots offer a direct line to your customers. One of the reasons chatbot engagement is so high is due to personalisation.
Not only can you reach straight to your customers personal mobile phones (a privilege that, up until now, was most likely reserved to our husbands, wives, and parents), you can do so using personalisation.
I have to admit this is one of our favourite aspects of chatbots. Whenever we discuss it with clients, this is the one we put the most emphasis on.
Your business gets to have a one-on-one conversation with customers through the channel they like, without having to physically be there and use man-power to do it.
How amazing is that?
Conclusion: the answer is yes
Yes, you should get a chatbot.
Yes, chatbots bring tremendous advantage to your business.
Yes, your customers are expecting you to make the move towards chatbots.