Marketing has undergone a revolution in the internet age. Almost every traditional marketing tactic and gimmick has evolved to keep pace with the changing world.
Chatbots are the latest addition to the digital marketer’s bag of tricks. The software platforms are deployed in several roles, from customer service to customer engagement to lead generation.
Chatbots have come a long way from simple scripted answer machines. Today’s chatbots are intelligent enough to engage potential customers and ensure that human customer service and sales agents are not swamped with repetitive inquiries that waste time and resources. But that’s not all they do. Businesses today use chatbots in very interesting ways that demonstrate the full spectrum of the capabilities and capacities of chatbots.
As service go-betweens
These days, chatbots have emerged as a middle layer between customers and service providers.
Consider the case of the latest set of services Facebook Messenger offers. In addition to being the platform where restaurants and other food vendors can chat with their customers, the new Facebook Messenger lets the customer place food orders directly from the Messenger. This means that Facebook Messenger has become a new channel for order placement and revenue generation that complements and augments standard customer service channels.
As ecommerce shopping assistants
Ecommerce offers great opportunities for experimenting with chatbots. From a simple query resolver to complex shopping assistants, the industry is very receptive to chatbots and associated technologies. Since ecommerce is a vast industry with players of all capacities and risk appetites, it offers the perfect conditions for experimenting with chatbot technologies. An example is H&M’s Kik-based chatbot. This chatbot doubles as a shopping assistant that helps the user select the right design and style. In many ways, this chatbot acts like a store salesperson who presents the shoppers with choices.
Popular ecommerce stores employ chatbots to provide information about store policies. The most frequent questions an ecommerce store receives concerns return policies, warranties, and related information. Instead of dedicating (and wasting) a human to answer all the queries on various channels, a store deploys a chatbot that intercepts all incoming queries. The number of queries resolved by the chatbot increases as the underlying architecture and technology improves. Only the questions that the chatbot could not answer are directed to the second tier, which is managed by a person. This is a great way for stores to reduce operational expenses.
Future scenarios will see chatbots taking a more active role in ecommerce. The suggestions feature of the H&M bot will become more prominent and will take advantage of customers’ social profiles to improve suggestions.
As business process helpers
Businesses in all industries realize that the lines between various internal processes are rapidly blurring. Instead of discrete components, sales, marketing, customer support, and production all come together to generate revenue. This is why cross-functional teams are the latest business structure.
This phenomenon is also very visible in digital marketing, where all channels are utilized to generate leads and sales. Chatbots play an important role in this scenario because they can be deployed on various digital channels with little or no modifications. Another important benefit is that the script could be modified to suit the particular vernacular and trends of a particular social media channel.
1-800-Flowers offers a popular chatbot that takes away the pain from the process of ordering flowers from the website. Customers can interact with the chatbot and place orders directly without going through complicated checkout processes.
As social media agents
Another important example is the Burger King chatbot for Facebook that allows visitors to place orders. It also indicates the nearest restaurant for picking up the order. While this chatbot might appear primitive, with its preset script and standard responses, the significance is clear. Instead of forcing customers through a complicated sales funnel, businesses can leverage the benefits of social media channels to increase brand awareness and product footprint.
Future scenarios will see these chatbots take advantage of social data and previously mined customer data to offer deals or coupons on special occasions (where the probability of a sale is very high!).
The way forward
The main reason behind the apparent sudden rise of chatbots in various industries is the advancements in underlying platforms. These advances mean the chatbot designers have access to the innovative new software architecture and supporting hardware. A very good example of this phenomenon is the chatbots deployed on Facebook Messenger platform. These fully customized bots are ideal for answering common questions and serving related content in response to visitors’ questions.
From here, you have several pathways open to you. You could consolidate your business processes or introduce cutting-edge technologies and platforms to explore new vistas. In all scenarios, you should make sure that you have moved away from traditional hosting solutions to cloud and container-based solutions that scale up the resources in case of sudden and unbudgeted requirements. Similarly, these technologies have the capacity to auto-heal network and infrastructure problems that result in sustained hassle-free operations.
Umair Qureshi is the assistant manager for brand communications at Cloudways, a managed cloud hosting platform.