Why Chatbots Need To Be Part Of Your Marketing Strategy
In movies, books and television, we’ve always been promised a future filled with technology we can talk to. From Samantha, the operating system in the movie Her, The Jetsons’ Rosie the Maid, to C-3P0, Cylons and Marvin the Paranoid Android, the expectation of relatable helpers has been part of popular culture for the better part of the last century. And we’re getting there.
As advances are made in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology, the opportunities become even greater. From Siri to Google Now, Texting with Groot to TheTrumpBot and more, automation isn’t just the next big thing, it’s happening now. For marketers, achieving 1-to-1 relationships at scale is becoming a reality.
Pair this with the popularity of messaging apps and the rise of “dark social”– social and internet interactions that take place in private channels or otherwise outside the scope of what can be measured by web analytics – and chatbots become an obvious and critical platform for advertising strategies.
What’s a Chatbot?
Chat bots are automated experiences that mimic a one-on-one conversation. They change the way you interact with your device – an organic interaction instead of a series of menus and clicks. This is easy to imagine in the context of a story, the opportunity to chat with a fictional character, or even receiving updates about deals or events. But chatbot utility goes well beyond that.
For example, in the past a user may have needed to browse a retail store’s website and search for “shirts,” then browse for colour, enter a size, add to their cart and take several more steps to complete a purchase.
Today, they could open their chat with that same store and say “blue shirts.” The bot would offer available options, recalling from previous interactions the customer’s shirt size, where they live and even their credit card details. And the interaction, already more conversational, occurs within the app of their choice.
2016 has been an enormous year for chatbots, as both large chat platforms and major technology players have launched features and services that enhance and promote automated experiences for users.
In April, Facebook announced their Bots for Messenger Platform at F8 and just this month the integration of advertising into Messenger. Kik launched its Bot Shop this past spring, and in the same month, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced his company was all in on “conversations as a platform” and that chatbots would have as profound an impact as touchscreens and the web. From Apple, the introduction of iMessage Apps in iOS10 will pave the way for chatbots in iMessage. In October, Twitter announced two new features – quick replies and suggested responses – that allow chatbot developers and platforms to automate Direct Messages in new and exciting ways for customer service, sales, information and more. Starting in December, Actions on Google will allow third-party developers to complete tasks using conversational actions, like chat.
How We Got Here
A modern-day advertising leader has to be at the forefront of both the creative elements of marketing and the runaway train of technological innovation. In order to effectively reach consumers who are savvier than ever, the pressure grows to show an understanding of their habits, preferences, aspirations and even speech patterns.
Over the past decade, the evolution of the smartphone brought apps and social networking to the forefront for marketers, putting brand experiences, sales and customer service in the palm of a user’s hand. Companies experimented with the best ways to reach audiences and incentivize downloads, retention, followers and interactions, while users revelled in the novelty of instant access to the voice of a brand.
Today, it seems that consumers have settled into using fewer apps than ever:
- In 2012, the average smartphone user had 41 apps installed. Today, despite better hardware and more options, the average user has only 32.
- Half of all smartphone users download zero new apps in a given month.
- The majority of smartphone users use only between 1 and 5 apps in a given day.
For marketers, this means finding users where they are and engaging them there. Chatbots are one of the best avenues for this type of engagement, to tell stories or support a specific campaign, as well as to provide information, customer support and facilitate sales and orders. In a new and ever-improving way, brands can have one-on-one, custom conversations at scale, within the platform of the user’s choice.
Look out for our next post, with case studies and some of what our company, Massively has learned along the way about best practices for any brand considering a chatbot strategy.
Russ Ward is the President of Massively Inc. Massively has been building chatbots for entertainment, customer support, sales and more since 2014. Learn more about what they do at http://massively.ai