So here we are, it’s the beginning of 2018 and I find myself future gazing for what the year might hold as well as reflecting on the previous 365 days.
Something i’ve become truly aware of recently is the abundance of tech enabling brands to automate customer conversations – however, beyond this to successfully implement this tech it requires a completely fresh approach for many brands and organisations.
With the emergence of new consumable tech such as Alexa and Google home it means even households with low disposable income can access experiences that previously could have only been imagined. Voice activation and mobile technology in itself has changed the behaviour of the consumer to enable conversations with brands pretty much anywhere and at anytime.
These conversations are seamless, connected, and most importantly, expected by customers.
Just like Kevin Bacon says ‘no one wants a buffer face!’ Today’s consumers are no exception. When the 4G signal drops out and we can’t have real-time conversational commerce with brands without actually having to speak to them.
We’re now in an age where connected devices and a minimal user interface is enabling users to access brand content 24/7. For those brands that embrace it successfully will surely be able to deliver more personal and more connected moments which ultimately lead to improved business results.
According to Gartner, 2017 was the year where marketers saw customer experience as their primary differentiator. Well, we believe 2018 is the year that those marketers deliver those experiences through automation and AI.
It’s a brave new world
We’ve already seen examples of brands entering this new world of tech and due to accessibility, we’ve even seen it in use in small businesses such as online personal trainers. The chat bot itself is very much in a rudimentary state where conversations are pre-programmed and based on a rules engine which someone has manually written. The opportunity however for intuitive conversations that learn however is something of great interest.
To compete brands need to think less about the race to the bottom on price and more about the conversational experience.
Marketers need to be thinking conversation first, technology second.
Why? Because tomorrow, your brand will be recognised not by its identity or social activity but because of the conversations you’re having with your customers.
Consider this, an insurance company is generating 10,000 visits a month from paid search and about the same from organic search let’s presume 60% of that traffic is prospects searching for premium quotes. These users are looking for an exchange of information but often (as we all know) insurance quote engines can be arduous and lengthy processes – it’s also often a grudge purchase (Thinking about car insurance specifically).
Many consumers, however, will at some point wish to speak to a call centre agent (also begrudgingly) to ensure the facts are all considered. The brand that utilises a chatbot on the website to initially engage with prospects, profile the user and feeds them into a funnel will have a far better overall experience by the time they get to speak to an agent as all the information is pre-captured. The legwork is complete and if considered properly, machine learning and AI can have a significantly less robotic conversation than a human script.
Business 2 Bot?
So far we’ve seen tech in use by consumers, but what about business to business – is it viable? Could it work? We believe so.
Drift is an exciting new piece of tech which enables business owners to engage and book in appointments directly with sales reps to have a conversation. It’s a great way where we see chat bots pre-qualifying the data and generating high-quality leads. This subsequently leads to less time and higher conversion. This is perhaps explained better in the graphic below.
So what is it about the chatbot hype?
It’s an exciting era, to differentiate themselves, brands will have to move away from segmenting customers by their social demographic and geography…
“…Instead, they’ll segment them by the sorts of conversations users want to have!”
You could argue in one sense we’re going full circle. Historically marketing and sales was about conversations and subsequently people bought from people. But with the advent of digital, conversations became digitised and somewhat stagnant via email and even social media. The demands of the user for instantaneous conversation has increased and they no longer rely solely on what they read or see online – they value and trust experience and quality of service.
Automating instant conversations and engaging with prospects is the new form of digital marketing, it’s not all hype, it’s here to stay…if implemented effectively. For brands to truly differentiate their online experiences they must blend humans and bots appropriately to deliver ‘exceptional experiences’, as well as cost benefits.
So, in summary, to win the race forget about the chatbot hype – focus on building a robust conversational strategy.