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User EngagementFebruary 24, 2017Written by Alex Debecker

9 Rules to Maximise Chatbot Retention

Chatbot retention is at the centre of attention, and rightly so.

User retention has been a real issue for many chatbots released over the last few months. Some brands reported a 40% user drop-off after the first message - ouch. If you have been busy designing your chatbot, this is something you have to start thinking about.

Here at ubisend, we have had the chance to deliver hugely successful projects with high user engagement. Thus, I am sharing our nine rules to maximise chatbot retention.

Before you start measuring your chatbot against others (or benchmarking your metrics), I advise you to take a look at following rules we follow.

Table of contents

1. Find your chatbot concept

What is your chatbot's purpose? Why did you build it? Does it solve a problem, if so, what is it?

Before we talk about anything else, you need to define your chatbot concept. Actually, this is the first pillar of our chatbot planning blueprint.

What does it have to do with chatbot retention?

Your chatbot's core value has a direct impact on retention. If your users don't find value using your chatbot (beyond the fun of playing with something new), you may just find retention will plummet.

To build a truly unique and valuable chatbot, you will have to isolate the one core value it solves.

2. Develop your target persona

Who is your target segment? Much like marketing any other product, your chatbot should be directed to a specific audience.

There is virtually no reason to go broad and develop a catch-all chatbot, at least not at launch.

The more precise your target persona, the better your retention metric. After all, if you solve a specific problem for known set of people, why would they churn?

3. Personalise (without being creepy)

Personalisation helps increase retention. Without going into creepy territory, your chatbot should include personalisation tokens.

The most obvious example is to use their name when you talk to them

chatbot retention personalisation

FYI, Hubspot have a lot to teach about personalisation and not being too creepy. Although this article was written about email marketing, the principles apply here.

Know your audience, use personalisation tokens when appropriate and don't try to impress the user with all the data you have on them.

4. Visual elements increase chatbot retention

Most places where chatbots are used allow the developer to send visual elements such as images, videos and gifs.

You should use them.

In a test we ran with one of our clients, we saw an 18.84% decrease in churn when messages contained visuals.

maximise chatbot retention churn visuals

Run a test for your own bot and compare results. Does retention increase when using images? What about video or GIFs?

5. Keep your messages short

This could potentially be a hard habit to kick at first, however, it will do wonders for retention.

As marketers, and internet users in general, we have spent years honing our long email writing skills. The shortest email you have sent your customers probably included 3-4 sentences.

With mobile messaging, you need to forget it.

A chatbot is, first and foremost, a conversation. It must encourage the user to engage with it. If your chatbot is simply blasting out massive messages without ever including the user, you are not having a conversation. You might find users will quickly lose interest, unless of course they expect it because it's the one core value.

In case you missed it, people now talk in short sentences. Heck, I barely even use short sentences when I chat on Messenger!

Although your bot should not pretend to be human, to put the user at ease, it should mimic this type of 'normal' behaviour.

6. Less push, more pull

One of the biggest mistakes we see in chatbots is to go straight for the kill, attempting to turn the bot into a push notification system.

By subscribing to your chatbot, your users give permission to send them messages. But, for most people, sending a message via their preferred app is direct access to their private life.

They are giving you a chance to reach them through a brand new channel. A channel previously open only to friends & family.

Treat this with respect.

Sure, you could take advantage of the ability to push messages to your users, but make sure you avoid pushing all the time and you are ready for when the user wants to pull information from you.

7. Make your content super-targeted

The best way to increase your chatbot user retention is to offer exactly what they need. Seems obvious, right?

To back this up, we ran a two tests with one of our clients.

Test one, we allowed any website visitor to join their chatbot and sent them broad scope content for 10 days, one push message per day using Messenger.

Test two, we targeted a segment who we knew to be at a specific stage of the user journey. We sent them content specific to their stage for 10 days, once per day using Messenger.

Care to guess which one of these two tests achieved the lowest user churn rate?

That's right, stage two crushed it (obviously).

After the 10 day campaign, stage one lost 3.14% of its users while stage two lost 0.29%.

maximise chatbot retention churn targeted content

Not bad, huh?

8. Three strikes you're out

We are still very much at the start of using chatbots as a tool for communication.

Consumers are basically chatbot noobs. It is your role as a chatbot owner to teach them.

All the AI-driven chatbots we build include what we call 'a double fall-back function'.

The first fall-back is simple: if a user says something the chatbot does not understand it will reply with a customisable "I didn't get that" type answer.

The second fall-back is trigger-based. After three fails-to-understand in a row, the chatbot will stop sending the canned response and guide the user a little more.

FYI, some clients also like a third fall-back where we integrate outbound notifications to their CRM or preferred channel. A real human is alerted and can take over from the chatbot as required.

Fall-backs help you keep the user engaged and on the path to a solution, preventing them churning out of frustration or inadequate help.

9. Re-engage your users when appropriate

In point 6, I talked about pushing fewer messages and being readily available for pull-based enquiries. Re-engaging users with what is essentially a push notification, has to be done correctly.

The best way to re-engage your users is when something happens either within your bot (eg. a new feature) or related to your bot's function (eg. something happened directly relating to the issue your bot is solving).

A great example of appropriate chatbot re-engagement can be found in Dharmesh Shah's Growth Bot.

Every now and then, Growth Bot sends me a push message telling me about its new skills.

chatbot retention growth bot engaging

These messages keep me engaged, prevent me from churning (I want to know what's next!), and educates me about the bot - all at once. I have been subscribed to the Growth Bot since July 2016, over 7 months ago.

An example of a bot alerting you to relating to its function might be a weather chatbot sending you an alert to tell you it is about to rain. You asked the bot to tell you about the weather, so a message popping up on your screen is precisely what it should be doing.

How's that for chatbot retention?