The Missing Piece of Chat Bot Technology: Consumer Intent

Chat bot technologies make it easier for companies to interact with shoppers through messaging apps. While this provides tremendous upside, it also applies pressure for marketers to make a positive, valuable first impression.

Facebook recently announced that businesses will be able to send consumers promotional messages through Facebook Messenger. More recently, we’ve seen announcements from Apple and Google announcing new investments in chat platforms such as iMessage and Allo. Why all of the buzz? Because chat technology–and chat bots in particular–present major opportunities for companies to upsell shoppers.

However, opening up Messenger to promotional chat bot technologies could also tarnish relationships if not implemented correctly. After a consumer voluntarily starts a conversation with a business, the company will then be able to send re-engagement messages to that person via Messenger. This re-engagement must happen within 24 hours of the initial interaction to ensure that the message doesn’t veer into spam territory.

As digital communication channels evolve and more companies can interact with shoppers through messaging, the major technology players are establishing protocols to protect consumers’ interests. For example, Gmail’s recent updates safeguard against email malware and phishing. Likewise, the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation improves standards around email subscribership and consent. This has the potential to be a win-win for both consumers and businesses.

How to best handle the monetization of Facebook Messenger

As the tech giants structure digital communications according to their own rules, businesses can continue to evaluate whether the messages they send are useful and in the consumer’s best interest.

Chat bot technologies make it easier for companies to interact with shoppers through messaging applications. While this provides tremendous upside for businesses, it also applies pressure for marketers to make a positive, valuable first impression.

Thanks to user-centric companies like Amazon and Uber, today’s consumers have heightened sensitivity when engaging with businesses online. Options must be many, interactions must be effortless and customers’ preferences must be front and center.

Consumers are at the center of the engagement experience. On Messenger, users will have the option to easily block/mute businesses to avoid spam or unwanted advertisements. It’s no exaggeration to say that a single negative experience can turn customers off for life.

Engineering revenue and customer satisfaction through intent

The key to keeping customers happy when interacting online is simple when a business recognizes consumer intent. Deriving intent from word and actions can be complex, but the concept itself is relatively straightforward. Simply put, consumers are more likely to find value in personalized advertisements and engage with content that’s based on their unique needs.

Thankfully, most businesses (at least savvy ones) are open to the big data and machine learning technologies that center on customer intent. Businesses already have access to a great deal of information about their customers’ wants and needs, and they can make better use of it by translating this wealth of information into intent-based interactions.

Intent is the deciding factor when consumers choose to engage with a business through messaging and, therefore, understanding it should be a top priority.

When applied to channels like Messenger, these insights will improve interactions, leading to increased revenue and stronger customer relationships.

In order to engineer this type of interaction, businesses should use a scientific approach to chat bot technologies. When done right, customer engagement can truly be a science with less chance of error.

In order to fully leverage customer intent, businesses would be wise to apply the following four strategies:

Personalize experiences: Using cognitive science, companies can leverage what is known about consumers and personalize advertisements based on this information. In moving beyond the generic, businesses can ensure that every chat bot interaction is specialized and driven by value-based content. What’s more, personalization is an iterative process, and advanced machine learning technologies can translate shopper behavior into even more targeted advertisements over time. With the help of predictive models, chat bot technologies can make real-time decisions as to which ads will best engage individual consumers.

Provide online assistance: Chat bot technologies offer a balance of self-service opportunities with guided assistance safeguards. Again, with the aid of predictive technologies, businesses can detect key engagement opportunities–such as an opportunity to upsell or renew–that benefit from the assistance of a live agent, as opposed to a chat bot.

Always share context: Businesses are at their most useful when communications from one channel to the next are effortless for the consumer. For example, if a shopper moves from Messenger to phone service while ordering a product, any information she has already given should follow her on her resolution journey. Passing context from one channel to the next meet consumers where they are and prevents the need to start over.

Retarget, retarget, retarget: Consumers respond best to personalized ads. For instance, if a shopper engages with an ad for shoes but does not initially purchase them, it only makes sense to retarget that shopper again–even on another channel–with a second ad for that same exact product. Continuity in the digital realm can help businesses capture incremental sales that are otherwise lost to competitors. Retargeting methodologies are a prime example of using of content and context to inform intent. By combining the ads shoppers respond to with the channels and times they prefer (i.e., context), businesses can increase their chances of successfully bringing those same customers back to their site and ultimately converting them. Using Messenger’s 24-hour timeframe, businesses can re-engage shoppers based on products and services they’ve most recently shown interest in.

Combined, these techniques can help businesses take advantage of big data to develop stronger, more fruitful interactions with chat bot technologies.

By taking a measured approach to digital interactions, businesses can base outreach decisions on real-world consumer intent and ensure that customers’ first interactions with chat bots, and all future interactions, are good ones. This paves the way for healthy relationships over time and shields consumers from redundant, irrelevant or frankly unwelcome communications with businesses.

Scott Horn is the chief marketing officer at customer acquisition and engagement provider [24]7.


Image of bot courtesy of Shutterstock.