The way that customers and consumers interact with businesses and brands continues to change as one-way traffic evolves into the much-vaunted “conversation.” That’s thanks to the rise of chatty virtual assistants and bots who can help any type and size of business engage with their audience.
A marketing team’s aim in life is to get the best possible understanding of the customer and optimise the marketing dollars they spend on the highest value methods of interaction that produce the best return on investment.
The same story has been true through the newspaper/radio/TV and web era. But now, rather than engage through surveys, in-store opportunities or contests, via the negative drag of customer support or the anonymity of sales data, customers are increasingly talking to brands on a daily basis.
The rise of virtual assistants and chatbots create ways for regular ad hoc or structured engagements that can provide marketers with a slew of opportunities, depending on the brand or company. For example, health insurer Vitality’s new skills for Alexa on Amazon Echo devices creates a world of engagement opportunity through healthy recipe ideas, workout suggestions and tips for healthier living.
So, the move to Alexa adds pace to the marketing agenda, that bypasses regular email updates, the service’s own magazine and other traditional efforts. While it is early days for this particular vendor, they plan to user account to the skill for more granular and relevant data. Vitality encourages healthier shopping at supermarkets, discounted health gear and gym membership and a focus on smart devices like Apple Watch, all just a step away from the current tips and information.
As the Alexa skill learns about what customers ask for, it can personalize responses and options. It can offer new services or to complete orders, say for health food from partners and to access rewards. The sum total creates more data for the brand, relevance for users, who get more used to engaging and chatting during the day.
Chatbots and messages with benefits on the rise
Consider the future options where a smart health app can reduce insurance premiums for healthy living, and customers are keen to ask ways to reduce that further, these are just a few examples where marketers can push services and products that improve the customer experience. Add in a chatbot for when people are in the office or on a crowded commute and don’t want to talk, and the brand has the scope to engage anywhere anytime with useful services, products or advice that promotes healthier living or more general rewards.
While mobile brands like Vodafone with its TOBi chatbot are changing how tech brands do business, and the likes of Just Eat and PizzaExpress using Facebook Messenger bots to take orders or table bookings, any business is in position to move to more regular marketing opportunities.
Expect bots to get chattier as Facebook pushes its new Messenger features including lead generation templates for posts, appointment bookings for a wider range of businesses and other opportunities to make any company more accessible and llikely for customers or prospects to engage.
From the simplest opportunity like using location-based services to nudge someone via a bot when they are near your store or eatery, to reminders that another 1,000 steps on your pedometer app will get the customer a free health drink, the casual and chatty approach to engagement can move marketers on from the formal approaches of previous digital interactions.
All of which pushes marketers, or any company, to think about how they can use chatbots and virtual assistants to build up layers of conversation that lead to engagements or sales (or upselling) opportunities while insinuating the products, service or brand in the customer’s day-to-day life.
Not all businesses need this level of engagement, but certainly, many can benefit from it, and don’t need millions of customers to see an impact on the bottom line. Even a business with a small, loyal core of engaged clients, such as a gym, store, bakery and so on can use bots to encourage people to work a little harder, enjoy a bargain or treat and so on.
And companies used to working on a regular cadence of communication, such as banks, dentists, garages or other services can up their messaging. Dentist bots can check children and brushing their teeth properly, garages can alert about traffic or weather issues that could affect drivers and so on.
Whatever the business, think about using bots to engage as a regular part of your customer’s day to boost the marketing opportunity, using chatbots and AI along with other smart technology to be where your customer is, when they need you.