Staying in touch with your clients and having the ability to respond asap to every query they have can be a valuable asset to your business. However, the internet never sleeps and people nowadays demand immediate attention whenever they have a question – be it in the middle of the night or when you’re on vacation. As it can be tough to keep up with such demands, a chatbot can provide you with considerable advantages and give your marketing strategy a boost.
Before we dive into the details, let’s start with a simple definition.
What Is a Chatbot?
A chatbot is computer software that simulates communication with a real person. Advanced chatbots use tech such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to analyze user queries and provide relevant answers. The rapid progress of these branches of computer science in the last few years has made it possible to build chatbots that are so sophisticated, they can easily be confused with real people.
Using NLP, the bot processes the query made by the user to understand what is the intent. It then analyzes its knowledgebase to find relevant entities and information and, using NLP again, formulates an answer.
Machine learning allows for the bots to be trained in real conversations to achieve precision. This way they practice their ability to communicate and, so to speak, they learn from their mistakes.
Types of Chatbots
There are three main types of chatbots – menu-based, rule-based, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Each has a different level of sophistication and can perform a variety of simple to complex tasks.
- The menu-based chatbot is the simplest. It represents a tree-like structure with pre-set questions and answers. When a user initiates an interaction with the bot, they are given a multiple-choice to choose from. Depending on their selection, the chatbot offers the answer it was instructed to provide. These steps repeat until the end of the session or until the user requests to contact a human associate.
- The rule-based chatbot is, to an extent, similar to the menu-based but it is more sophisticated and imitates the dynamics of real communication. It too has a pre-designed question-answer tree to guide it but it relies on keywords to understand them. Once it detects a valid keyword it scans its database and provides a fitting answer.
- The AI chatbot is the most advanced one. It can process and simulate natural speech to maintain a convincing human-sounding conversation with the user. Before it is used in the field, the AI undergoes training and learns to understand queries and find subtleties in the way people express themselves.
Of course, no chatbot is so advanced yet that it can or should replace human communication. And the most sophisticated ones are an investment that not every company needs or can afford. However, even the simplest chatbot can be invaluable to your business and make your website more welcoming.
So, now that we’ve established how cool they can be, let’s focus on the practical benefits of using a chatbot in your marketing strategy.
1. 24/7 Availability
With a chatbot, you never miss a beat and are always available to answer customer questions. This can help you retain customers who might otherwise feel neglected and turn to the competition.
For example, if they happen to encounter an issue while using your products, they might need immediate assistance. But if this happens after working hours, you may not be able to assist. Maintaining a chatbot is far more cost-effective than 24/7 customer service and can deliver satisfying results on many occasions.
Also, if you have a chatbot on your website, you’ll be able to answer any questions by those who are considering your services but have not made up their mind yet. By being available for a quick chat anytime, you’ll also show them that you care for your customers and you don’t want to keep them waiting. This will give potential clients another good reason to stick around and find out more.
Chatbots can be an especially beneficial strategy when you work with international clients and offshore markets. Even if the bot cannot solve the customer’s issue, it can provide useful suggestions and book an appointment with one of your reps during working hours.
2. Better Customer Support
Customer support reps should be quick, friendly, and competent. But if your team is always busy and overwhelmed with calls and messages, the quality of their work will eventually drop substantially. What’s more, clients who have to wait for too long to get a response might become impatient and even frustrated. Presuming this happens too often, it could drive them to reconsider doing business with you, and leave.
A chatbot can help you maintain a more balanced customer support task distribution, by taking over the simple cases and leaving only the complicated ones to reps.
Even the simplest chatbot can serve as an interactive FAQ page and save time for both your team and your clients. If the conversation becomes too complicated, the chatbot can always offer to transfer the case to an associate from customer support or book an appointment if the time is not convenient.
As mentioned, the most sophisticated chatbot solutions can be pricey. However, with the innovations in technology, there are options on the market that are affordable even to small businesses.
The price of the chatbot usually depends on the time you’d like to invest in building it and the services you’d like it to provide. There are vendors that offer free basic solutions you can build yourself, as well as agencies that can design and maintain one for you on a monthly subscription.
Roughly, it can cost you from 0$ to up to 5K$ per month and there are many plans in between that can be adjusted to meet your needs. So before you make a decision, you should consider the benefits a chatbot can offer.
4. Increased Lead Generation
Lead generation holds a central palace in every marketing strategy and a chatbot can be a valuable asset to it. Most providers even offer a lead-gen template designed especially for the purpose.
The bot starts the conversation by asking the user a few questions, to obtain information that will help it to provide more accurate answers. The fields are very similar to those of a call-to-action (CTA) form, but the process is much more engaging and the lead immediately receives the information they need in return. It’s a win-win for both sides.
Take Lego, for example. Their Facebook messenger chatbot Ralph was designed a few years ago as a holiday solution to help people make better present choices, but got so popular, it’s still around. To make the best suggestions, Ralph starts with asking some questions and gathering information. And people share it without a second thought because it’s fun.
Also, people are less reluctant to ask a quick question online than to fill out a CTA form, start a phone call, or send an email. With a chatbot available 24/7, you have the potential to turn every prospect who visits your website into a lead.
However, make sure to always inform your customers about any data you gather and what your intentions are. Otherwise you might violate local or international privacy legislation.
5. Hassle-Free Meeting Scheduling
A chatbot can be used to help customers schedule meetings with your sales reps or book appointments to use your services. Automating the process can be an affordable and user-friendly alternative to hiring an assistant who manages everyone’s schedules.
What’s more, with a chatbot, the procedure becomes quick, easy, and convenient for your clients. They can book a meeting at any moment of the day or night, without having to wait for working hours.
Similar to the lead-gen templates, there are pre-built chatbots for meeting-scheduling as well. You can opt for a solution dedicated solely to the purpose of managing your calendar of appointments or you can add the feature to a more complicated bot with a variety of features.
Whatever the case, both you and your customers will benefit from the efficiency and convenience of a chatbot for this type of communication.
6. A Boost in Sales
Chatbots can be especially beneficial for eCommerce websites.
A chatbot can operate transactions, provide product details and additional information about shipping fees, offer discounts, and respond to various user queries. When customers have access to this service at any moment of the day or night, it can make them more inclined to make a purchase. This goes especially for but is not limited to B2C sales.
For example, imagine somebody who is browsing your eCommerce after working hours and wants to buy a product but cannot find information on whether you deliver to their region. A quick chat with the bot can give them an answer and seal the deal. If the customer has to wait for this information until the next day, chances are they can change their mind and decide not to buy.
7. New Channel for Customer Engagement
Amongst other things, a chatbot can serve purely entertainment purposes. It can be used to engage visitors into casual conversations and keep them longer on your site.
An advanced AI chat can be designed to even have a personality that matches your brand identity. For example, if you have a company mascot, you can build a chatbot around it to welcome website visitors and engage them in conversation.
The AI can also be a fun and entertaining way to educate people about what you do, give them useful trivia, boast about achievements, etc. Of course, it can be also used to gather additional information, but if this is the case, it should be clearly specified.
A good example of a successful entertainment chatbot was launched by Disney, as part of the marketing campaign of one of their movies, Zootopia. It was available on Facebook messenger and offered users a fun ride, solving crimes with the protagonist, the bunny Judy Hopps. Back then tech was not that advanced yet, so the conversation was less than perfect, but still, it was entertaining and cool.
Entertainment chatbots can be very expensive, but if you can afford them, they are a novelty that can fascinate your clients and do wonders for brand awareness.
There are many ways a chatbot can improve your marketing strategy and make your website more welcoming.
A chatbot is one of the most affordable ways to show availability and improve your services. It can help you with lead generation, increase sales, keep your customers around and keep them engaged.
However, before you start building one or hire an agency to design it for you, you should consider your goals and the resources you are willing to invest to make the best choice.
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