A few years ago, it was social media. Businesses flocked to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram because these tools were so effective and vital for engaging their customer base. Now that seemingly every business is using some kind of social media platform, and stricter algorithms are making reach more difficult, the effectiveness of these tools (while they are still important), has begun to wane.
Early adopters of the next big wave in digital marketing stand to benefit the most. Could programs such as chat messaging apps and chatbots be it? The evidence suggests that this is the case!
What are Chatbots?
Sometimes also referred to as IM bots, virtual agents and artificial conversational entities, chatbots are apps or computer programs that respond to verbal or text questions or commands. The more basic of the bots work by selecting their answers from a database of pre-programmed responses while the more sophisticated programs use artificial intelligence (AI) for highly personalized interaction with clients.
For businesses that are customer service based, or for those that sell products, using chatbots could be a great way to get better engagement from their customers while freeing up many of their resources as less employee time would be spent dealing with customers directly. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that many people would rather message a company than call it.
According to a study conducted by Twillo, 66% of people prefer communicating with companies via messaging platforms over any other medium.[i]
Another study by Facebook IQ which surveyed 12,500 people[ii] found that:
- 63% of people are messaging businesses more than they did two years ago.
- 56% would rather get customer service through a messaging app than via telephone.
- Over 50% are more likely to do business with a company that they can message.
A challenge with using social media messengers, however, is that most companies are still quite slow to respond to messages. Social Sprout found that close to 90% of messages needing a response are being ignored altogether by companies. Those messages that are answered have an average wait time of 10 hours, despite the fact that customers consider a reasonable wait time to be four hours.[iii] Enter the bots.
With chatbots, companies can provide instant replies to their customers 24/7, thereby increasing engagement and giving them an edge over the competition. They help to ensure that the content delivered is always consistent, they are mobile friendly and they are capable of providing real-time updates. These features also mean that chatbots can be used to create highly personalized ad campaigns to attract customers.
The Rapid Adoption of Chatbots
While the use of Chatbots for customer service is still in its early stages, there is no doubt that it will continue to gain popularity as more people adapt messaging apps. A study conducted by BI Intelligence found that there are currently more people using the four most popular messaging apps (WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat and Facebook Messenger) than there are who are using the four most popular social media apps (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram). [iv] Tech research firm, Gartner predicts that by 2020, we will be having more conversations each day with bots than we will with our own spouses![v]
This means there is a huge opportunity for businesses willing to take the leap and begin using chatbots for their digital marketing.
Adoption by Social Media Platforms
A number of social media platforms including Facebook messenger have started adding chatbots to improve customer experience, qualify visitors, gather information and so forth. Even Pinterest has jumped on the bandwagon and has recently unveiled its own chatbot which uses Facebook Messenger to allow users to share and like pins inside of Messenger without opening the Pinterest app.
How can you use messaging apps and chatbots for your business?
Since the use of messaging apps is on the rise, it makes sense to determine how you can best take advantage of this trend for your own digital marketing efforts.
The most obvious answer is to use the technology to deliver content. While email is still important, an experiment by HubSpot found that using Facebook Messenger was 242% more effective for open rates and 619% more effective for click rates.[vi]
Another way to use chatbots is to help direct your followers to content. TechCrunch, for example, has a chatbot that conducts searches for articles of interest to their followers.
Chatbots may be used to engage event participants by sending reminders, directions, follow up surveys, etc. Some organizations are even using them in place of web forms for registrations.
Since Facebook Messenger as a marketing tool is still a relatively new idea, content is not lost in a sea of noise as it may be with other mediums. One example of this is its adoption by Feldman Automotive Group. The company ran location specific click-to-Messenger ads. When clicked on, these ads would bring the person to Facebook Messenger where they would be asked a series of questions, or if they chose, they could be directed to a sales rep.
In only a few months, the campaign resulted in a reach of more than 100,000 people and approximately 50 new sales per month were generated using the chatbot.[vii]
Using Messenger ads is a great way to both engage and re-engage your audience. Since it is interactive, it is ideal for collecting information and then creating more targeted content.
Finally, Facebook Messenger as a marketing tool helps to provide quick customer support as chatbots can be programmed to provide standard information and answer common questions.
So, are chatbots the next big thing in digital marketing? We think there is a good chance that they are. But if you choose to use them, just make sure that they are properly programmed so that queries get the proper responses and your business receives the best possible return on investment.