Chatbots are a new necessity, and there are many benefits of using them for your brand.
There's no question the direction of retail marketing is centered around creating experiences enhanced by a personalized touch. And believe it or not, chatbots are a key part of that equation.
"Siri? Why do we love you?"
It might sound counterintuitive, but bots often provide a more human experience than today's consumers get with an actual human. It's been a while since anyone could pick up the phone and call any kind of customer service professional directly.
Even before smartphones made the concept of the phone obsolete (why call when you can text?), consumers had to jump through automated, voice-prompt hoops to get through to an actual person. Calling customer service is that much more convoluted a process now, and that's assuming there's even a number offered. Many companies instead offer contact forms, email addresses or social media links for consumers with questions or concerns.
In many cases the most immediate option is a live chat – but even those are often limited to peak times when there's enough potential traffic to justify staffing with live people. At least that was the case. Chatbots are revolutionizing the way consumers and brands stay in touch.
If you've never experienced an interaction with a chatbot, this video from ChattyPeople gives a great overview of how they work. And if you're not convinced you need to jump on board the bot wagon, here are five ways top brands are using chatbots to excel:
1. Keeping consumers informed
Whether it's sports scores, breaking news headlines, or the latest recipes, brands like the NFL, CNN and Whole Foods bring the info right to you in places like Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Slack and Skype. Set it and forget it, or make a query and follow the prompts to the info you need in the moment.
2. Keeping it fun
Chatbots may be easier from the brand perspective, but that's no reason for consumers to use them – what's in it for them has to be top of mind. To that end, making themselves synonymous with the word "fun" is a good approach for brands like Trolli (the makers of Gummy Worms) and Disney, who offer up games and prizes to keep young users engaged. Even better when the prizes are exclusives no one else gets to see, like the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare trailer that was fans' reward for solving a 12-digit code using Activision's Facebook Messenger bot.
3. Getting them while they're young
Appealing to generations like Millennials, Centennials, and even children – as Mattel's Hello Barbie does – is another smart move. "Conversational AI" (artificial intelligence) is only going to become a bigger part of our lives – especially for those still coming of age. Today's kids will start with something like Hello Barbie, and move on to Amazon Echo and whatever else comes next. Not having a chatbox option may make your brand seem archaic to them.
3. Adding value to consumers' lives
It's not all about fun and games, of course. People want technology to enhance the way they live – not be just a distraction or waste of time. To that end, keeping consumers connected to healthcare, financial, and social justice information – to name a few – are great use cases for chatbots. Some brands doing it well? UNICEF, Boston Children's Hospital, and Capital One. Integrations with Amazon Alexa-enabled devices takes the latter two to the next level.
4. Keeping it human
In the short term, the novelty of personalized information delivered to your inbox or device is pretty heady stuff for some, but the value of adding a human face to chatbots ups the ante quite a bit – especially for retail brands. Tommy Hilfiger and Cover Girl make use of the popularity of model Gigi Hadid and Dance Moms star Kalani Hilliker respectively – a brilliant move that's working. In Hilliker's case, her Kik bot drives 14 times the conversation of her average post.
5. Knowing when to pass the buck
What's great about chatbots is the way they let consumers self-serve – without feeling that way. No hoops to jump through, information at the ready, and easy links to shop in the case of retail brands. But unlike self check-out registers at the store – which can feel like you've suddenly been made to work for your purchase – chatbots let consumers feel independent, but not alone. If things don't go smoothly, the bots are programmed to put consumers in touch with actual people to handle more complicated issues. From a customer service perspective, this is definitely a win-win. Consumers still have help when they need it, while brands significantly decrease their service staffing spend.
It's still early in the chatbot game, but not so early that numerous brands aren't seeing great ROI. There's little downside, given the growing Internet of Things, and consumers' dependence on technology overall. Chatbots are easy enough to set up, with companies like ChattyPeople, Botsify and others offering a variety of plans – even free ones – for businesses of all sizes. So don't wait too long to see what chatbots can do for your brand. The future gets closer every day.
Photo credit: Shutterstock / Antonio Guillem