The marketing world is experiencing a robot invasion. Forward-looking brands with access to the right marketing technology staffing have the opportunity to take advantage of their entry to engage consumers and reap tremendous ROI.
Interest in chat bots around the world has spiked over the summer as several high-profile success cases from major brands caught the public eye.
It’s understandable why businesses of all kinds are taking a closer look at this evolving technology. But before you consider adding a chat bot to your suite of marketing tools, it’s important to understand their potential value for your business, and what you’ll need to do to get one.
Applications for Your Marketing
Chat bots aren’t a brand new technology. They were around in primitive form early as the 1960’s, when MIT scientists created ELIZA, a natural language processing script. AOL Instant Messenger users of the early 2000’s might remember playing with popular chatterbots like SmarterChild.
More recently, bots who aren’t afraid to get vocal like Siri and Cortana have found a home in the smartphones and PCs of users around the world. So why the sudden spike in interest among marketers and business professionals?
It’s a combination of two things, really.
First, improved technology has led to better, more organic emulation of human language. Chat bots are sounding less like stupid machines and more like concerned, intelligent people.
Second, popular marketing philosophy is shifting to focus on customer experience, responsiveness, data-driven decisions and context. In all these things, chat bots have the potential to shine. Consider all the opportunities chat bots enable:
- Interactive content: Companies of all kinds are scrambling to develop content that will draw in prospects to their brand and messaging. It’s hard to think of a more engaging, interactive piece of content than a chat bot. A well-coded bot can be entertaining, informative, valuable, and ever-evolving–so it keeps people coming back for more.
- 24/7 instant engagement: Customers are giving brands more input, feedback and requests than ever before. And when they do, they expect speedy acknowledgement and response. For instance, 20% of consumers on social media expect a response within just 15 minutes, and another 28% expect it within an hour. Chat bots aren’t a perfect replacement for actual human interaction, but they’re better than silence. And they can even operate late at night, over the weekend and through holidays at times when your response times are especially slow.
- Customer service: “Press 1 for more information on store locations and hours, press two for assistance with a loyalty account, press 3 for…” Sound familiar? Everyone hates navigating through phone chains to get basic information or help from a representative. Bots offer a quick, simple, user-friendly alternative and can even directly provide basic assistance like account information, bill paying, or feedback submission.
- A data goldmine: Ever wonder what your customers are thinking, or how they speak, or what their problems are? Chat bots can bring you all that and more, in real time. Assuming your analytics system is robust enough to handle the flood of information coming in through these conversations, you can get precise insights into what your audience is talking about and how you can help them.
- Direct sales: Chat bots are even enabling basic orders directly on their platform. Straightforward orders from a menu or catalog could be made more easily and quickly from a bot than through many other channels.
Getting a Chat Bot of Your Very Own
You have a variety of potential paths to choose from if you think a chat bot could enhance your marketing.
It’s possible to purchase a general pre-packaged chat bot from a software developer that’s more or less ready to go “out of the box.” A product like this might only need a single in-house developer to optimize it for your needs, perform maintenance, and stomp out bugs. You might even be able to manage it with interim marketing technology staffing, if you can’t justify a full-time hire just for your bot.
But if you want to develop your own personalized bot to fulfill a very specific strategy, you’ll likely need to either make an order at one of the many chat bot development shops that are cropping up, or build your own internal team.
If you already have a well-stocked team of creative, web and software developers, you might be able to get them trained in chat bot development. With the right incentives and your support, they’ll likely jump on the opportunity to learn something new. But you’ll still probably need to add some new veteran talent, which won’t be easy to come by.
What to Look For
Thinking about adding full-time or interim chat bot expertise to your marketing? Choose carefully; you can’t just hire a software developer and assume you’ll be successful.
The most obvious and easiest to detect trait is technical aptitude. Put simply; does the candidate have the practical skills needed to design and build a chat bot from scratch? If not, do they have a history of being able to quickly pick up new development skills for innovative technology? As a relatively recent trend, there’s not a lot of existing chat bot development expertise out there. You may have to get creative with the talent you bring in, or get help from marketing recruitment consultants.
Additionally, you must look for someone with a big-picture marketing mindset. A good developer’s vision doesn’t begin and end with the bot–but takes into account how it fits in with social, email, brand messaging, etc. Many professionals with a software development background are trained to focus on perfecting the specific project they’re working on, but leave thinking about how to use the finished product up to the users. That won’t work in today’s marketing environment. Ensuring any new recruits are a strong culture fit for your marketing team will help ensure they’re on the same page and share your priorities.
Finally, your chat bot developers must also have a lot of genuine empathy for your audience. It’s not enough to create a human-sounding program with a slick interface. They must be able to put themselves in the shoes of others and consider how a customer might use a chat bot and what kind of response they want. This is an intangible property that can be difficult to detect. Make sure your marketing recruitment process is tailored accordingly, perhaps with personality tests designed to measure empathy.