FEATURED IMAGE: BRYCE DURBIN

FEATURED IMAGE: BRYCE DURBIN

Personalization is a marketing buzzword today. Ironically, that personalized touch doesn’t have to come from a human. More businesses today are turning to marketing chatbots to engage with customers and prospects in a brand-specific way.

57% of firms are already using chatbots or planned to begin doing so this year — Forrester

Chatbots use artificial intelligence to mimic actual human conversation, via text messaging. Customer-service robots aren’t necessarily new, but the technology has advanced to such a point that the computer programs interacting with human clients are becoming indistinguishable from the real thing.

Understanding the Popularity of Chatbots

We’ve witnessed the evolution of chatbots without realizing it because it didn’t have a name back then. When I first signed up for AOL back in college, all those fake account spamming me were an early form of chatbots. Phone trees that tell you to press different numbers to reach the right department are another form of chatbots. Today’s chatbots leverage artificial intelligence a bit more and can help your business in many ways:

Providing customer service. Instead of waiting to speak to a human representative with an easy-to-resolve question, users can message a chatbot to get the needed answer more efficiently. Better customer service = better customer satisfaction and improved brand loyalty.

Targeting marketing. A customer reaching out to a chatbot provides personal information to begin a service inquiry. Personalized marketing (based on the information provided) shows during the interval while the customer holds. This same premise applies to lead nurturing on the site, with the chatbot messaging guiding prospects in the desired funnel direction.

Reaching out proactively. Relying only on human customer service representatives is a passive approach. The user has to reach out to you first. But, chatbots can offer assistance at any time, and be ready to reach out proactively to offer customer support. This can foster brand affinity as customers see the company as being always there for their needs.

Gaining data. Looking to optimize your website? (Your answer should always be yes, as it’s an ongoing process). Chatbots can be programmed to reach out to site visitors with simple questions soliciting site feedback. This can help marketers determine what is resonating with prospects, where the funnel might be leaking, and help explain cart abandonment issues.

“The open rate for mobile messages is 98 percent, compared to the 22 percent open rate for email.” — Pypestream

Tailor to Brand Voice

Chatbots reflect a mobile-first approach to digital marketing. Plus, chatbots are programmed to remain in brand voice. Instead of training human employees endlessly about business values and brand goals, a chatbot integrated across digital platforms can improve brand consistency.

Examples of chatbot marketing abound. Beauty and cosmetics retailer Sephora, for instance, created a chatbot to ask users who messaged it to take a quiz. Using the data gained from the quiz responses, the chatbot provided customized beauty tips. Team project management app Slack has its own chatbot allowing users to ask for tips to enhance their efficiency within Slack channels (plus, they’ve integrated with Taco Bell’s chatbot to allow Slack clients to order and pay for tacos directly from Slack).

Keep in mind, though, that chatbot success takes effort. According to Forrester, marketers should limit the scope of the chatbot, set realistic goals, and not launch the chatbot until it is ready. The more information you feed into the marketing bot, the more data you’ll get back. So create a smart, human-like bot that can provide quality content and excellent support.