There Can Be No Denying It: Bots Are Now Marketers

Opinion: Today, a brand must become an assistant, friend, adviser and guide

AI-powered bots are bound to become the new marketer Devrimb/iStock

With the rise of conversational experiences, just about every business function—from marketing to commerce to support—must be redesigned to be conversational.

The greatest impact felt due to conversational marketing is that businesses interact with far more consumer prospects than they do with those paying customers. Each one of us will soon be experiencing this as a target, if we aren’t already.

But it’s merely the latest phase in the evolution of marketing. The earliest phase was known as outbound marketing, and it consisted of broadcasting key messages to vast audiences through media along the lines of print and television.

The next phase was inbound marketing, which meant creating interesting content and micro-targeting users via social media and large email campaigns.

This newer phase involves having one-on-one conversations with customers to ultimately build long-lasting relationships.

It is a gigantic transition from the one-too-many, “yell-and-sell” style campaigns to one-on-one, “chat-and-connect” conversations.

The modern opportunity is to build an ongoing, personal, deep relationship with the individual customer. At the same time, marketers must be more deliberate, since it is so much harder to fake a relationship than it is to fake a transient ad or marketing message.

Today, a brand must become an assistant, friend, adviser and guide. These conversational interactions are far more substantial and consequential. Brands now must be much more personal.

Instead of broad, high-level key messages, each brand must now individualize messages. What value can I bring this particular customer?

Instead of having the customer map the brand messages to their personal situation, the brand has to map its individual offers to the customer’s personal, ever-evolving situation. This means brands will also need to remember prior conversations and maintain context in all future conversations, since it is terribly frustrating for the user to repeat already-provided context.

Outbound notifications will be transformed from simple alerts (an end unto themselves) to interactive messages that are the start of new conversations. Instead of receiving an alert notifying me of my package delivery, I prefer it to include an innate ability to instantly reschedule. Instead of an alert just confirming my flight ticket, I might want to view destination information at the same time.

No message will be stand-alone: Each message will operate in conjunction with a rich, conversational experience. Even the frequency and timing of messages will be influenced by user preference and context. Nothing is ever the same.

These conversational experiences will transform engagement marketing. We all know that marketing and newsletters start feeling like spam after a while. Now, personally relevant messages sent at the time and frequency of a user’s choice will likely have better response.

A short message is nowhere near as disruptive as long-form emails are, and by interacting with these short messages, the user can dig deeper.

In fact, conversations are proving to drive conversions. A rich, engaging, meaningful conversation catered to the user’s needs is more likely to convert to transaction or, at the very least, identify a lead.

Conversations offer brands a chance to fully understand customer requirements and to position their products just right. Just like in offline retail, a good shopping assistant can convert customers and upsell or cross-sell products, while an overly aggressive salesperson will likely drive customers away.

Whether your brand appears to be a friendly shopping assistant or a used-car salesman will now determine your conversion rate.

Artificial-intelligence-powered bots are bound to become the new marketer. In fact, chat bots enable conversational experiences that engage with customers without being intrusive. They are personal and fully understand a customer’s needs and preferences, and they will build long-lasting relationships with customers by offering the right product to the right customer in the right way.

Beerud Sheth is founder and CEO of bot and messaging platform Gupshup.