What are Chatbots and why should I pay attention to them?
Updated: Oct 6, 2021
I think the technologies behind chatbots mark a significant development in what is possible in the way we communicate, in how a company communicates with current and potential customers and how a company communicates internally. I think this is hugely significant for marketing and sales, yes, but also much wider than that.
If you are responsible for a company, yours or not, I suggest it is worth your while to know of these developments and trends, how significantly you could benefit from these opportunities, and reflect that in your business and marketing strategies.
What Are Chatbots?
A chatbot is a digital interface enabling a conversation with a person or people. Its aim is to both provide and collect information. Chatbots can be voice-based (eg Alexa, Siri) or built into communication channels like Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. The nature of the medium and the characteristics of the physical device used then determine what is possible. For example, chatbot conversations in Facebook Messenger or Instagram can include images, GIFs, videos, audios, emojis, buttons, carousels, hyperlinks… You also commonly see chatbots on websites, initiating customer interaction.
Hugely significant with chatbots, they enable you to get information back from the customer / consumer and do stuff with that in real time. If you consider a printed manual, it is a collection of information deemed necessary and useful, produced and then given to the consumer. There may be a customer support contact for problems and additional help. But basically, a bunch of information handed over for consumption. Chatbots enable real time conversations – questions asked, information collected, options offered, targeted and relevant information or capability provided. This can be applied to every area in which a company communicates, internal and external.
Obviously, interactive communication is not new. But the development of the technologies behind chatbots together with the development and uptake of Social Media platforms is recent and represents a huge potential for innovation. In many ways, it represents a revolution in communication, and this is the foundation of conversational commerce.
‘Chatbot’ has become a wide term, including, especially on the voice-based side, technologies like AI, Machine Learning, cognitive analytics... There is huge potential here, and significant research is being done
Value of the Chatbot market?
for all kinds of chatbots - reports value the chatbot market at USD 17.17 billion in 2020, and it is projected to reach USD 102.29 billion by 2026 [www.mordorintelligence.com]
for non-voice chatbots - more modest, reports predicts that chatbot marketing will grow to six billion USD by 2023. More modest but still significant. [www.marketresearchfuture.com]
What’s in it for you?
Primarily - improved customer experience (CX). This is one of the driving forces behind chatbot uptake in companies
Reach more customers – engagement with Social Media (SM) is increasing - over a billion users globally on both Facebook Messenger and Instagram. That is a lot of customers and potential customers, all busily chatting away, both looking for and finding information and then acting in it. As new features and capabilities come online, this trend is likely to increase.
SM is increasingly B2C and B2B –
90% of people now follow a business on Instagram
> 80% of people report they shop on Instagram
> 20 billion FB Messenger messages exchanged between businesses and consumers every month
46% of B2B content marketers used organic Instagram within the past 12 months
Collecting information on customer characteristics, preferences, questions, etc enable hyper-targeting of marketing, problem resolution, information provision - all improving customer experience. With better targetting and knowledge of what potential customers want, you are inherently dealing with a warmer audience, and can better meet their needs – happier customers.
With chatbots you can provide immediate responses to customer questions and problems, 24/7 with reduced staff costs. Available 24/7 with immediate response – happier customers. This is one element of the automation possible with chatbots.
Integrations are enabled with chatbots, eg via Zapier – integrating with CRMs, spreadsheets, internal systems and processes, platforms like Kartra, Kajabi, ActiveCampaign, ClickFunnels, direct integrations with e-commerce platforms like Shopify. With chatbots you can communicate with customers via the SM platform provided messaging, and also via SMS and e-mail directly. You can integrate directly into your marketing/sales funnel mechanisms.
With chatbots you are able to collect details from leads like e-mail and phone number, and store them in your own system. You can then use this in omni-channel marketing. Significantly, it enables you to get your customers off of the algorithms of the Social Media platforms. Take advantage of the SM platforms, great. Depend on them for your living, with their algorithms that change as they see fit, that can shut you down as they see fit. Not good. Take control of your customer List – it is a business asset you need to secure.
In the past, it tended to be the products and prices that had the biggest impact on conversion and customer loyalty. These days it is more the positive customer experience (CX). Data shows that over 80% of customers are willing to pay more for getting a better experience [source SuperOffice]. Chatbots are an excellent tool for improving the customer experience at all stages of the sales funnel, from initial contact to completed sale, to ongoing nurturing of happy customers.
A significant benefit of chatbots, is more effective communication generally. How significant is communication in your company?
Chatbots are relevant for company communications outbound from the company, eg including
◦ Marketing and market research
◦ Customer Services
◦ Sales & lead generation
◦ Leading customers through the sales process to purchase completion
Chatbots are also relevant within companies, eg including
◦ IT Support
◦ Human Resource (HR)
◦ Employee onboarding
◦ Internal help desk
◦ Company policy dissemination
I think the most significant element of chatbots is the principle of moving from a one-way communication to a two-way, context specific conversational communication, together with the increasing uptake of Social Media platforms and the increasing power and capability of mobile devices.
Another element is how recent chatbots are. Chatbots in FB Messenger have been around for some years, but on Instagram only this year [see post dated June 2021]
I think the key takeaway from this is the question - what are you going to do with this information, how will you integrate it into your overall business strategy and marketing strategy? Personally, I think strategy is everything. No doubt, your competition will be taking advantages of these advances in technology, leveraging what has become available. Will you?
If you would like to know more, or chat about this please contact me.
To give some examples of chatbots, I have set up two keyword triggers on my Instagram page, aiming at people selling pizza (who doesn’t like pizza?) Check it out, DM me the words “pizza” or “offer” and see. [Click here] This will take you into Instagram.
Checkout a sample chatbot in Facebook Messenger, a bot designed to show you what I do and how. [Click here] This will take you into FB Messenger, then follow you nose
As another example, here is another Messenger chatbot I did for an electrical company in the States (again, the e-mail address is not actually being captured, it is there for demonstration of the capability) [Click here] This will also take you into FB Messenger.