As an online consumer, you can’t avoid noticing the chat boxes that pop up at the bottom corner of the screen when you visit business websites. They’re not on all business websites (yet), but they’re becoming more common with every year.
The chatbots you see around the web offer some tangible benefits to the companies that use them. It’s no surprise that their usage is projected to grow nearly 25% over the next four years.
5 Reasons to Create a Chatbot Marketing Strategy
At the Sleep Judge, Content Marketing Strategist Jessica Ruiz-Jones and her team started using chatbots earlier this year and quickly proved ROI:
1. Chatbot marketing saves time.
The Sleep Judge is a site devoted to helping people identify the right sleep products for their needs, particularly mattresses. Each visitor has distinct priorities, but there are a lot of commonalities in what people are looking for.
“A lot of the questions get answered right away,” she says. Instead of a human staff member spending time answering the same questions over and over again on their social media channels or in the comments section of their YouTube videos, a chatbot automates the process.
She shared an anecdote of a woman looking for a mattress for her son who wanted to figure out the best option based on his weight and back issues. She asked a question in the comments of a YouTube video.
“Before we had the chatbot, I would have had to ask her a bunch of questions and wait for her to respond through YouTube,” she said. By directing her to use the chatbot instead of YouTube, Ruiz-Jones enabled a better customer experience—questions were answered a lot faster and a more informed purchase was made.
2. It increases conversions.
The woman Ruiz-Jones told me about bought a mattress that same day, and she told me the situation is common.
“[Around] 95% of the people who use our chatbot are able to successfully navigate and land on an actual product page,” she said. When people can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, they’re more likely to make a purchase.
Their data backs this up. “Since launching our chatbot, we’ve consistently increased our earnings every month,” Ruiz-Jones shared.
3. It helps you stay consistent.
When you have a number of different representatives communicating with prospects, there’s always the risk of them each using a distinct tone or providing disparate answers. An inconsistent brand experience can be confusing for customers and could lead to some prospects getting less useful answers than others.
With chatbots, you can work with your team to figure out the best answers to common questions, and be confident that every lead who comes to website will get the same response.
4. It makes you more competitive.
The ecommerce mattress industry has exploded in recent years, meaning that the Sleep Judge is in an especially competitive space.
Having chatbots “allows our visitors more independence in finding what is best for them,” Ruiz Jones explains. Offering something that improves the customer experience gives them a competitive advantage over other sites competing for consumer attention.
5. It provides useful data.
So much of any website’s success relies on collecting and analyzing data on what your audience responds to. Chatbots can serve to increase the amount of data you have available.
“I’ve learned about products that we should focus more on,” Ruiz-Jones said. “I didn’t really include sofa beds at all in our chatbot, and then I noticed a lot of people were asking [about them] on the email side.”
Learning which products your visitors are most interested in can help guide the choices you make around what content to create and promotions to offer.
8 Best Practices for Using Chatbots for Marketing
1. Make sure chatbot marketing makes sense for your business.
It can be tempting to jump into any trend that’s getting a lot of buzz, but chatbot marketing isn’t right for every type of business. According to Ruiz-Jones, the best use case for chatbot marketing is a business that gets a lot of repeated questions from leads who have basic questions.
If your industry involves “dealing with more complex issues that can require an emotional response, a chatbot could end up being a really terrible idea,” she advises. In cases where sensitivity is important, a human being is better for answering questions your leads have.
2. Choose the platform your customers are on.
“You should definitely be using a platform that’s already widely used by your target audience,” she recommends. “For example, in our case, we had a large user base already on our website, but you could also use Facebook Messenger.”
3. Create a roadmap to stay organized.
The Sleep Judge’s chatbot doesn’t just answer one question, it has a whole conversation with visitors, tailoring each new answer to the response that came before. Working through the proper options and responses requires advance planning.
“You want a blueprint of where the chatbot’s going to take you,” Ruiz-Jones says. “It can get really complicated, so mapping it all out before you get started goes a long way in keeping you grounded.”
4. Be thoughtful in the questions you cover.
This is at the root of using chatbots well. Your prospect’s experience will depend entirely on the questions and answers you program for the chatbot. They need to be helpful and relevant.
“Meet with your team to get well-rounded insight so you get it right the first time,” Ruiz-Jones suggests. “It’s a huge pain if you have to go back and edit your responses later, because you didn’t think about that earlier. The more accurate you can be the first time around, the better.”
Work together to create a list of all the most common questions you hear, and the best possible answer for each one.
“Remember that you’re not going to be able to handle open-ended questions,” she adds. Your chatbot should only cover topics you can respond to with clear, simple answers.
5. Figure out what tech to use.
“It’s definitely worth the time to sit down and figure out what kind of technology you want to invest in,” Ruiz-Jones says. “There are a lot of different tools out there.”
Her team uses collect.chat, which she says works well for taking visitors through programmed responses. But there are also a number of more advanced products that incorporate AI technology that may work better for some businesses. Take some time to research what’s out there and figure out which product is the best fit for your needs.
6. Make it easy for people to opt out of the chat.
For people who like a guided experience, chatbots make it easier for them to find what they’re looking for. But for those who would rather do their own browsing, they’re simply an annoyance. Ruiz-Jones insists that you should make it easy for visitors to exit the chat at any time.
Adding chatbots to your marketing strategy should mean increasing the options visitors have to interact with your website, not replacing the previous ones you had.
7. Get the pacing right.
A chatbot has the ability to deliver answers quickly, but that doesn’t mean they should. “You don’t want to bombard them,” Ruiz-Jones says.
Program in a couple of seconds between responses. Test your chatbot out before launching to see if the conversation feels natural. You don’t want it to feel too rushed.
8. Review results and make updates as needed.
Even if you work with your team to carefully choose the right questions and answers to program for your chatbot, you probably won’t get it 100% right.
“Our team meets monthly to review our stats and feedback,” Ruiz-Jones said. Early on, they made changes to the chatbot conversations pretty regularly, “But since then, it’s just minor tweaks here and there.”
The more data you collect, the better you’ll do at delivering a truly helpful experience to your visitors.
Is a Chatbot Marketing Strategy Right for You?
Chatbots can answer simple questions efficiently, saving both prospects and marketers time. For many businesses, they can be a powerful tool to add to your marketing strategy. But as with any type of technology, getting the results you want from chatbots requires thinking through how they can genuinely help your target audience and, in doing so, help you meet your business goals.