Bots for Business

Chatbots: A Marketer’s Dream

As marketing continues to diversify and marketers seek digital solutions, chatbots have emerged as a viable tool for helping a brand consolidate its voice, while also keeping it dynamic.

By Edward Pollitt
July 2, 2020

If you look at the basics of marketing, it is more than likely you come across the idea of brand voice.

A brand’s voice is the way it interacts with its customers across all touchpoints, whether it be through marketing campaigns, social media, user experience design, or its in-store presence.

Traditionally, a brand’s voice would be defined by senior management and then disseminated through the company—a “set-and-forget” approach has been commonplace when it comes to building a brand’s voice.

But as marketing continues to diversify and marketers seek digital solutions, chatbots have emerged as a viable tool for helping a brand consolidate its voice, while also keeping it dynamic.

As we know, with chatbot technology continuing to develop and with bots becoming more lifelike, many companies are turning to bots as a way to automate customer support.

This serves as a great way for companies to scale their customer support capabilities, while also freeing up human staff for other tasks.

Bad bots

However, there are some potential risks when it comes to brands using chatbots in this way.

Many brands rushed to deploy chatbots in 2016, after Facebook launched Bots as part of its Messenger platform.

But with many still grasping the technology, this spike in bot use also saw the rise of some “bad bots.”

Late in 2016, Microsoft launched Zo—a relaunch of its previous chatbot Tay (which it was forced to shut after the bot had been caught making racist remarks.)

Although Zo avoided any of the same controversies, there was still one major problem—its voice.

The technology had been designed to match the speech patterns of millennial users. However, a Business Insider article showed the bot to be sarcastic and pessimistic rather than youthful and exuberant.

Similarly, a shopping assistant–inspired bot created by Tommy Hilfiger in 2016 also drew some criticism for its clunky user experience.

Getting it right

With both of these examples of bad bots dating back to 2016, it’s clear that brands have improved when it comes to deploying chatbots in recent years.

Much of this can be attributed to marketers taking a more active role in the development of chatbot technology.

While it is often a team of developers that puts together a chatbot’s software, involving marketers in this process can create a better result for the end user.

Here, marketers can instill the brand’s voice and tone in the bot and help craft clear yet conversational responses.

Tone can vary. A bank, for example, might want to give off a tone that inspires a sense of trust from the user.

A youth fashion brand on the other hand, might want to focus on being conversational and friendly to better engage with its target demographic.

In recent years, beauty brands have been leading the way when it comes to effective use of chatbots for marketing.

A 2016 bot used by Sephora helped increase makeover appointments by 11 percent, according to Forbes.

Similarly, a recent marketing campaign from Nivea uses a bot to help the end user discover their skin type.

The bot asks users a series of questions before directing them towards the most relevant product.

Not only does this technology create a personalized experience for the user, it also utilizes emojis to create a warm and friendly tone that is relatable for the target audience.

While this is a small detail, when it comes to chatbots, something like this can go a long way towards improving user retention.

Customer retention

A 2010 study from the Harvard Business Review found that reducing customer effort can increase brand loyalty.

“When it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily,” the study says.

“Framing the service challenge in terms of making it easy for the customer can be highly illuminating, even liberating, especially for companies that have been struggling to delight.”

While a lot has changed in terms of customer experience over the past decade—namely the rise of e-commerce and digital technologies—the principle remains.

The Nivea bot is a great example of a brand providing the user with a simple and practical solution.

Similarly, Hello Fresh—which relies heavily on customer retention with a subscription-based business model—has managed to improve the experience for customers with bot technology.

On Facebook Messenger, an automated bot answers common questions, like, “How much does it cost?” And, “How does it work?”

As well as removing any risk of slow response times—a turnoff for any customer—these automated responses have the ability to entirely resolve some customer queries, a process that might sometimes take hours.

This has allowed Hello Fresh to scale and improve its overall customer service offering as the company has grown in recent years.

Other marketing uses

The malleability of chatbots in marketing is not limited to shaping voice and tone.

Brands also now have the opportunity to deploy multilingual chatbots as a way to strengthen their footholds in specific markets.

For any business looking to grow globally, creating a brand voice in multiple languages serves as a way to keep branding consistent, no matter where you are.

But adding multilingual capabilities to a bot can also help locally.

Giving users the option to speak with bots in a multitude of different languages means the brand is far more likely to connect with customers from all walks of life, ultimately broadening overall reach.

There is also the ability for marketers to integrate bots with other marketing technology tools.

Integrating a bot with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool can help create even more personalized responses for customers, as the bot will have a greater understanding of who it is interacting with.

Dreaming big

The role of any marketing department is relatively simple: serve as the face of the company, and discover new audiences.

There are very few technologies that can help with this task like a chatbot.

From improving interactions with leads to helping build strong relationships with existing customers, bots serve as a way to automate tasks that could otherwise bog down a marketing team.

It has been predicted that by 2022, 20 percent of all customer service interactions will be handled by a conversational AI tool.

To make sure these interactions remain positive for the customer, marketers must work closely with developers to ensure these bots are the best representation possible of a brand.

With this in mind, the possibilities of chatbots in marketing are endless.