Why Marketers Need to Think About "Chatbots" Now

People are chatting about chatbots. They are the new shiny toys of digital media and have everyone scratching their heads, wondering how they can incorporate this new technology into their own marketing strategy. While these AI-powered talking machines have been slow to catch on, they have a huge potential to change the entire social media landscape. Here's why you should be thinking about chatbots sooner rather than later.

What Is A Chatbot, Anyway?

To put it simply, chatbots are made to simulate human conversation using computer programming and a degree of artificial intelligence. The capabilities of chatbots can range from basic to advanced, and are most typically used to field customer questions.

When it comes to digital marketing, chatbots have taken on many different forms. KLM Airlines use chatbots to smoothly connect their passengers with everything from flight information to boarding passes. Instead of deploying their own standalone app, they smartly consolidated all of their botty activity inside Facebook Messenger, which already has 1.2 billion monthly users.

On the other end of the spectrum, brands like Tommy Hilfiger have created a bot for product discovery. While Hilfiger's TMY.GRL chatbot had a few kinks to work out, the effort still highlighted how bots can be used to help facilitate a personalized experience for online shoppers.

Though these AI-powered conversationalists are still in the developmental stage, they have TONS of room for growth and shouldn't be ignored by marketers.

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Why Chatbots Matter

More and more people are using messaging apps like Messenger (1.2 billion users) and WhatsApp (1 billion) to communicate. As of 2017, Statista reported that there are 1.82 billion users on mobile messaging apps worldwide. That number is projected to reach 2.48 billion users by 2021.

And if there is anything we have learned from social media marketing, it's that you need to be on the platforms your audiences are using - which in this case means messaging apps.

The way we like to communicate today is also undergoing transformation. Nielsen's Facebook Messaging survey revealed that 65% of Gen Xers and Millennials preferred chatting over both calling and emailing when it came to customer care.

Incorporating bots for minor customer inquiries across digital channels could potentially solve human-led customer service problems, such as low question response rate and ratio of questions answered - all while conversing with customers in a way that's comfortable for them.

Where Chatbots Are Headed

Chatbots aren't going away anytime soon, which is why marketers need to begin their long-term game plan now. There are a multitude of different ways marketers can integrate bots into their social media strategy.

Since bots are fairly new they draw a lot of attention from audiences which can be a great way to drive campaign awareness and PR. They can also have a more permanent role in a company's customer journey, using bots to schedule appointments, recommend new products based on previous purchases, and more - the possibilities are endless.

The Takeaway

Right now the Golden Age of bots is fast approaching. As users flock to messaging apps, marketers simply need to incorporate bots into their social media strategy. With the sheer number of active users, it’s clear that messenger apps are on the way to becoming an umbrella for a multitude of other functions to give users access to convenience beyond simply chatting.

We’ve seen this happen with WeChat in China, and it's only a matter of time before we start seeing this trend emerge in the rest of the world. With that being said, the reality is that the only way marketers can prepare for the coming shift is to plan for the future and take steps to be ready today.

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