Do Chatbots Stand a Chance of Outperforming Site-Based Marketing?

Whenever a new, shiny toy comes onto the marketing playground, we marketers need to pay attention. Will this newcomer make a splash, or leave with its tail between its legs?

Recently you may have noticed a surge in popularity of chatbots. They can do everything from tell you the weather to help you order a product. But in between, there’s serious marketing capability.

So the question is: are chatbots the wave of the future for marketing? Will they beat out more traditional digital marketing tools in engaging and converting website visitors?

How Chat-Based Marketing Works

First, it’s important to understand how huge the audience for chat-based marketing is. There are about 3.5 billion users of chat apps like Kik and Facebook Messenger, and brands are frantically scurrying to find ways to deliver effective marketing messages through these technologies.

Let’s say you visit a clothing site. Maybe you don’t yet know what you want to buy and just intend to browse. A chat box pops up and, having identified your location and the weather there, says “Hey! Looks like swimsuit season is right around the corner. Would you like me to show you our newest bikini arrivals?”

Immediately you’re engaged. If you type “yes,” the chatbot will direct you to bikini options.

By using predefined marketing messages, you can automate much of the sales process. The jury’s still out on numbers, but using chat as a marketing tool definitely has potential.

Chatbot Marketing Benefits

Because chat-based marketing is still so new, marketers are still figuring out the best strategies to see conversion. Here are a few reasons to consider it for your brand.

It’s a Refreshing Alternative to Worn-Out Communication Channels

It’s getting harder to reach consumers via email as inboxes get inundated with unwanted newsletters and promotions. Chatbots can fulfill many of the same functions: offer discounts to sway visitors to buy, follow up on orders, or assist in repeat orders (like toilet paper).

Your Selling is Automated and Effort-Free

Once you set up your chatbot messaging, you can set it on autopilot and let it work its magic for you while you sleep. Of course, you do need to pay attention to analytics to understand what’s working and what’s not, just like you would for any marketing tool.

It Provides Valuable Customer Insights

Any tool we can get our hands on that lets us understand buying patterns and behaviors is one that helps us drive our goal of increasing sales. The technical nature and level of interaction with consumers means that you’ve got tons of useful data that can shape future marketing campaigns, be it through the chat app or other channels.

The Data is Stored for Later

Nothing is more annoying to a consumer than a brand having a “goldfish memory” and having no recall of past interactions. Consider when you call a customer service line several times and the rep has no record of your past call where you explained, in painful detail, the nature of your problem.

Chatbots store interactions, so if a consumer visits a site again, it’s already smarter about where that shopper is, and can communicate new messaging to guide her toward making a purchase or other conversion activity.

It’s a Great Lead Qualifier

Even if the chatbot itself doesn’t close the deal, it can at least warm a lead up and direct it to the right funnel for whatever followup you have to ensure the sale. Asking a series of questions can prep a lead for a particular salesperson who can then provide additional details to sway the lead to buy.

It’s Great Branding

Even if your chatbot doesn’t sell products, simply providing value can have immense clout when it comes to building a relationship with a potential future customer. This is especially pertinent in early-funnel decisions: if your bot can provide advice, the user finds value in that information, which primes her for continuing to explore your solutions.

They Provide Highly-Targeted Marketing Messages

Using a decision tree, your chatbot can deliver a message targeted to a very specific person with very specific needs. All marketing is moving toward this “audience of one” concept, to great success.

But Will It Beat Up Traditional Marketing?

We’ll have to wait and watch to see how chatbot marketing fares in the bigger picture. But suffice it to say, it’s worth exploring as an additional marketing channel to support what you’re doing elsewhere. The key is getting in the game early: as chat-based marketing takes hold, it may soon become ubiquitous, and every brand will use it in non-unique ways. If you’re among one of the first brands to leverage chat apps for marketing, you’ll capture more market share and be considered a forerunner for an innovative new technology.