ChatbotChatbots are here, and they are here to stay. For marketers, chatbots can help in many ways. I’ve seen bots span customer service, brand awareness, content, lead gen, gamification, product selection and conversational commerce. For example, the Sephora bot on Kik has a Beauty Uncomplicator that gives users personalized recommendations, ability to purchase within the bot and surfaces up content such as beauty tutorials and customer reviews. The GRAMMY bot on Facebook messenger not only offers a trivia game but also serves as a search bar for related GRAMMY artist content.
Unfortunately, for the most part, chatbots suck because of they are “dumb” and do not offer the user personalized experiences. This is seen with the insurgence of McBots, which are templated bots that do not reflect the brand voice, decision tree bots that offer no personalization and—my personal favorite—the infinite loop of the “I’m sorry, I don’t understand” chatbot, which is basically shoving an IVR phone system into a chatbot. Raise your hand if you enjoy being on an IVR phone call. That’s what I thought.
So how can your brand leverage this technology in the right way to engage our audience? I put together this list of things that you should consider and questions to ask in your RFP process.
- The vendor you choose should build chatbots for major brands in or around your industry sector. For example, if you are an enterprise beauty brand, you might want to consider a team that has had deep experience in the space and not a vendor who has built a chatbot for a small pizza shop. Is this vendor a subject matter expert? Do they have experience working with enterprise brands? How many years have they been building chatbots?
- Does the vendor understand your brand and your brand voice? Your brand has most likely spent a considerable amount of money perfecting the brand vernacular. From my experience, the best bot experiences are the ones that have strong brand voice and serve as an extension of current marketing campaigns.
- Will the vendor collaborate with your team to develop a conversational UX strategy? It is important to offer the user personalized experiences. Due to the bidirectional nature of chatbots, a good conversational experience is important, otherwise you end up with a McBot or an IVR chatbot.
- How much AI does the bot need? Not all chatbots are equal. A few great examples of chatbots powered by AI include the eBay ShopBot, GRAMMY chatbot, Epytom Stylist and the granddaddy of all AI chatbots, Mitsuku. We’re far from singularity, and currently the smartest bots understand limited amounts of natural language processing (NLP). I believe we’re still in the stage where we need to train the user how to use a bot properly. I generally recommend a combination of suggested responses and NLP to my customers.
- Does this vendor only develop on one platform? This year in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook Messenger paused approval of all chatbots for over a month. It’s always wise to be on multiple platforms. Other text messaging platforms include Kik, Google Assistant, Twitter, Skype, Viber and LINE. Chatbots can also live on websites and mobile apps.
- Is this chatbot a standalone product or does the chatbot need to be integrated into your existing ecommerce platform or CMS? Having built both ecommerce integration and CMS integrations, this can be time-consuming but ultimately aids in the automation of the entire conversational experience. Does the vendor already have these integrations built in, or will they have to start from scratch?
- Has the vendor prepared a realistic timeline and breakout of costs? Does their product enable you to execute your long-term goals?
With the bot boom in 2016, there were some bold declarations of how chatbots would render mobile apps and websites useless. Well, it’s 2018 now, and I don’t see mobile apps or websites going away, but there continues to be an increase in users for messaging apps. At last count, it was up to 5 million monthly active user for messaging apps.
The reality is that chatbots are just another channel for a brand to reach the consumer. And after investing so heavily in your brand voice, it should definitely be prevalent during a bidirectional conversation. The user should feel a personal relationship with the brand, and the chatbot should be the start of a long-term relationship with the customer, which we can all agree is priceless.