Personalised communication has evolved from SMS notifications and segmented social media advertisements, to one-on-one communication through conversational experiences like chatbots. The ‘always on’, global, and digitally native customer demands more from brand interactions and has created the expectation of real time messaging contact. Enter chatbots.
Facebook Messenger now boasts 1.2 billion users – while everyone is closely following Instagram and Snapchat’s next move, messaging platforms are dominating the growth of social media networks. There are now 100,000 chatbots on Facebook Messenger alone, and the growth of the industry is dwarfing that of the app ecosystem.
The digital landscape is crowded, with brands scrambling to navigate emerging platforms and what to say to who, and when, and where. Conversational interfaces like Facebook Messenger allow brands to access a wider user base, and deliver personalised experiences through chatbots.
Why use chatbots?
Chatbots and voice assistants live on the messaging platforms that people are already using such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Kik. No need to download another app (who has the phone storage?!), or use a clunky website. Bots have a diverse range of abilities and can be used for campaigns, e-commerce, product launches, or customer service as just a few examples.
The real reason brands are so interested in bots is the conversational experience they provide. Imagine thousands of users having a unique, personalised conversation with a brand – all at the same time. Brands taking the lead in engaging conversational experiences are also tailoring their chatbot personas to directly reflect their target audience for the best chance of retention and engagement. Whether the brand is flirty, fierce, or funny – a bot can be a direct representation of a brand personality. It’s like word of mouth promotion – at scale.
Who is using them?
Sephora was one of the first beauty businesses last year that launched not one, but two bots for customer engagement.
The experiences include the Sephora Reservation Assistant as an appointment booking bot to help consumers reserve makeovers at Sephora stores in the US, and the Color Match bot which scans a photo to provide the closest lipstick colour match from the Sephora product line.
Mary Beth Laughton, SVP of Digital for Sephora, noted that the separate bots were created to offer more streamlined process for their customers and enhance their engagements with the brand.
“This allows us to provide richer, more varied conversations that ensure clients get exactly what they want out of the experience.” – Mary Beth Laughton, SVP of Digital for Sephora.
These chatbots allow Sephora to have a personal conversation with their customers — but at scale.
High end fashion brands have also embraced bots as a channel for providing personalised experiences for consumers. Louis Vuitton, Everlane, and Burberry are some of the brands who have seen the benefits of providing their customers with a branded experience in an app they are already using.
The conversations on bots replicate the high level of customer service that a luxury brand offers. Whereas other bots may be transaction driven and focused on speed of service – luxury brands can use conversational experiences to enhance their brand narrative and provide an alternative point of inspiration for consumers.
So, what can you do?
From the start, creating an effective bot involves translating a brand personality into a bot personality. If your business was a person – what would they say, think, or feel?
The challenge is designing rich conversational experiences that not only stretch creativity and methods of engagement — but also make sense. Users are still coming to terms with how to use bots; what the acceptable or standard use cases are, and what interactions will be commonplace with intelligent assistants
Research your customers and find out what services they could possibly engage with through a conversation. This might be a fun product launch that is turned into a game, a booking service, or providing your products available to purchase through Facebook Messenger.
To get started with bots for your business, check out building platforms like Chatfuel which allow you to build a bot – no coding required! If you’re not sure what would be suitable for your business you can check out Botlist for a comprehensive list of live bots that brands are already using. Keen bot builders are even popping up on Upwork and Fiverr as freelancers build their skill set to include chatbots. If you’re after chatbots with personality – check out platforms like PullString and design agency Xandra.
The sky’s the limit!