Tanner Smith’s cocktail bar in Manhattan understands the power of bots. On a recent Friday night, I was heading out to Tanner Smith’s to celebrate a friend’s birthday. When I visited the bar’s website to learn more about the venue, a message popped up offering me a free glass of prosecco through a Facebook Messenger bot. Sure enough, when I clicked on the promotion, I was taken to Messenger, where a bot offered me a coupon for my free glass. In that brief surprise and delight moment, I turned from curious customer into a fan who admired the business’ gesture enough to give them a shout out in one of my company’s blog posts.
Tanner Smith’s is not alone. Increasingly, businesses large and small are incorporating bots into their marketing and communications strategies to build engagement. Consider a few notable examples:
- The National Hockey League has introduced NHL Chatbot (via Facebook Messenger) to share with fans short-form content such as game previews, scoring alerts, GIFs, and video in-game highlights. Kalin Stanojev, co-founder and chief product officer of GameOn, which developed the bot, told MediaPost that NHL Chatbot extends the reach of the NHL by bringing meaningful content to where fans already are, all customizable and with the latest in-game updates.
- Spotify uses a bot to make it possible for users to discover new music via Facebook Messenger and share songs with friends, thus capitalizing on bots not only for content discovery, but also for social sharing.
- The Wall Street Journal relies on a Facebook Messenger bot to deliver timely news, including stock prices, to readers, akin to the NHL sharing sports content, but for a different audience.
Bots are catching on in the business-to-business world, too. Investis Digital relies on a bot on our own website to manage queries from clients, potential clients, and job seekers. Our bot offers visitors a path to service via four drop-down menus. Once a visitor chooses a path, a human being may intervene depending on the complexity of the query.
In all, more than 300,000 bots exist on Facebook Messenger alone. Gartner says that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationships with businesses without interacting with a human. By 2023, retail sales from chatbot-based interactions are forecast to almost double every year to $112 billion by 2023 from $7.3 billion in 2019, per an estimate by Juniper Research.
Bots have come a long way in a short amount of time. Just three years ago, when I was an intern at a social media agency, bots were a novel concept, and businesses used them for simple customer service functions. But times have changed, and bots are catching on for a number of reasons, including:
- The artificial intelligence that powers bots is getting better, and smarter, making it possible for bots to manage more complex interactions.
- Bots are well suited for brands to communicate with the surging millennial and Gen Z populations, which have grown up texting each other to communicate. Bots emulate the texting metaphor, but with more sophistication.
- As brands look for ways to share content in an “always-on” world, they’ve found bots to be a powerful tool. Bots have always held promise to service customers needing basic information about products and services when a customer service representative is not available to respond. What’s different now is that businesses are cracking the code for using bots to share content such as offers and information in a way that is not obtrusive.
At the same time, bots have a long way to go in order to offer a likeable user experience consistently, and they need to be used carefully. In fact, it’s likely that your customers and prospects want bots to complement people, not replace them. They are vulnerable to a problem that businesses often have with new technology: the shiny new object syndrome, in which an organization puts the technology ahead of the strategy.
To succeed with chatbots, we suggest that you:
Understand first how they improve your customer’s journey.
Where does a chatbot add the most value along the continuum of a customer becoming aware of your brand, considering you, making a purchase, and remaining a customer? How does a bot move customers along the funnel? If you cannot articulate a business case for how a chatbot will strengthen the customer journey, then a bot might not be for you.
Connect a bot to your broader connected content strategy.
One of the major challenges brands face today is managing the sheer volume of communications channels available to them. Today, brands share content across a multitude of devices and channels. It’s not always easy for them to share a consistent narrative across all of those touchpoints, as our own CEO, Don Scales, discussed in a recent Forbes column. As Don points out, it’s super important to first understand the narrative you’re sharing about your brand. How does a bot help you express that narrative?
Know the human interplay.
Bots are great for sharing quick information, but if someone wants to talk with a person, don’t make it hard on them to do so (which is where so many bot experiences fall short). Let bots do their job, but to create a real relationship, offer a clear path to a person.
A bot is not a customer relationship: It’s a means to building one by meeting people on their own terms. For more insight into how to incorporate bots into your own connected content strategy, contact Investis Digital.