In 2011, Gartner predicted that “by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without ever interacting with a human.” The prediction was greeted with yawns.
After all, by 2011 we already knew that one of the primary reasons people preferred to use the Internet to get information on companies was that they wanted to avoid “being sold to.” We accepted that Gartner was right, but assumed this was just another date that would be pushed back to 2022, then 2025 and so on.
But that all changed in January of 2019. All of a sudden, Gartner’s prediction seemed very realistic.
January is when Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s plan to integrate Facebook Messenger with WhatsApp and Instagram text messaging apps. When the integration is complete more than 2.6 billion people around the world who already use these services can message each other without signing out of one app and on to the other.
With an audience that large, the marketing efforts to reach it are rushing in. More and more bots for business are being built and deployed not just on Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp, but on websites and other social platforms as well.
Here’s a deeper look at why, where and how your business can and should be using automated bots to grow your business as well.
What Are Chatbots?
Before we look at why and how, it’s important to know a little bit about what messenger marketing is and how it works. Messenger marketing is conducted through bits of AI-driven code called chatbots.
These code robots are programmed to understand questions, provide answers, and execute tasks. A chatbot is constructed in a question and answer if this then that mode.
In other words, they can carry on simple conversations with people. Instead of having to search through a website to find an answer or worse still, have to speak to a person, a user can type a question for the bot.
The bot can lead the user through a series of questions with pre-programmed responses to help them find exactly what they were looking for. Along the way, they collect valuable contact information without the user ever having to provide it.
Why People Like Using Bots
We’re already touched on the two biggest reasons to use chatbots. The first is that this is a very active and engaged market. People use messenger bots every day on the social platforms so there is no real learning curve or resistance to overcome in the market.
One of the reasons people are so comfortable interacting with bots is because of the level of privacy around them. The bot is communicating directly with them, not in public in a feed. So they can freely ask questions of a bot that they wouldn’t normally ask in a more public forum.
People also feel that they are in control of the conversation with a bot. That’s because they make the first move to interact with the bot. A chatbot cannot, for example, interrupt a user while he is reading your newsfeed or browsing your website with an offer.
Once a user does initiate the conversation, you automatically collect their contact information on the backend. There are no forms that pop up with fields to be filled in by the user. They are simply subscribed to your chatbot.
The other big reason chatbots have been adopted so quickly and so widely across the world is that they are known as a free alternative to text messaging. There are no data rates to worry about even if you are chatting with a bot halfway around the world on a different mobile carrier than yours.
How to Use Bots for Business
So how can you put these extraordinary little chatbots to work for your business? Here are just a few ideas to get your imagination primed.
One of the biggest and most widespread complaints about customer service is that people are not responded to fast enough.
Live chat functions brought great improvements to this area, but even they fall short for both users and companies. First, for companies, there is the expense of dedicating resources to man the chat.
For users, there is the problem of questions that come up after the business is closed for the day. Having a chatbot on Facebook or on your website gives your customers an instant reply to their query 24/7.
You can put your entire FAQ library into chatbots so they can take answering routine questions off your human staff’s plate. Some companies have gone a step further to automate their returns procedure through a chatbot. Others use them to work through the initial parts of a query before handing the user off to a live representative to complete a more detailed task.
Sales and Marketing
Sales bots can help customers work through a complicated sales decision. For example, if someone is looking to purchase security cameras for the outside of their house, a sales bot can help them determine how many cameras they need and what sort and amount of cabling they need.
A chatbot can also be programmed to provide suggestions to shoppers. Related product suggestion widgets have increased sales. A chatbot can easily be programmed to provide personalized suggestions.
User segmentation is another area where chatbots excel. As they work through the early steps of getting to know a prospect or customer, your chatbot is also helping you build a future marketing segment.
There are almost as many ways to use bots for business as there are businesses. This guide to Messenger Marketing will provide you with many other ways to adapt your sales and marketing efforts to keep up with this changing communication method.
Chatbot Marketing Restrictions
Of course, there are some restrictions on the type of marketing that can be done with chatbots. There are restrictions, for example on the types of messages you can send to people who have opted in depending on when they join your bot.
There are also some parts of your marketing efforts that should not be affected by the bots for business revolution for the next few years at least. One example of this is your paid advertising campaigns.
While people are beginning to take advantage of the option to send someone who clicks on your Facebook ads to Messenger instead of a landing page, the essentials of creating a great advertising campaign have not changed.
You can learn more about those PPC advertising essentials here.