It’s always a little awkward to declare any year the year of something, but I’m going to do it anyway. This may very well be the year of the bot. As social has moved from public social networks like Facebook to more private messaging platforms like Snapchat, Kik and Messenger, chat has established a firm foothold in the online behaviors of consumers, and one of the core ways marketers can play in this space is through bots.
Chat is all about one-to-one interactions. This is not something marketers are naturally accustomed to. Look at the rise of social networks. The race to gain likes and followers was all about making social achieve scale. When people just want to chat one-on-one that scale goes out the window. But that’s where bots come in.
Bots are nothing new, but they’re popularity certainly is, as is their growing sophistication.
The Solution We Needed
Brands have never been great at responsiveness online. They answer about 75% of questions on Facebook and 32% on Twitter. That means at least 25% go unaddressed. There are a number of reasons for that but with bots a lot of those challenges are overcome.
Letting bots interact and respond to customers in one-to-one chat interactions adds scale to social efforts, creating convenience for a team of marketers and immediacy for consumers. Being able to respond at scale with technology creates a data treasure trove that drives additional improvements to the bot itself. This, of course, creates the challenge of appearing impersonal, irrelevant in responses and canned. That's a limitation of technology, but the ecosystem is getting stronger and smarter, meaning bots will only grow in their influence in the world of marketing.
The Groundwork is Laid
Bots are already finding a place in the marketing landscape. GE launched Dot the Bot to share science facts in emoji form for World Emoji Day. AmEx has a bot to give users content related to purchases they make with their credit cards. Pizza Hut is allowing users to place orders using a bot on Facebook Messenger, and Sephora is giving users tips through a bot on Kik. All of those are value adds, helping people pursue their interests and making their experiences richer.
Service, Utility, Convenience > Entertainment... For Now
Bots are here, and while, many are offering fun and entertaining experiences, the ones that offer utility, service and convenience for customers are most likely to overcome the novelty effect and be something consumers trust and turn to frequently.
They’re not robot overlords, but in an era of chat experiences over social networks, chat bots are going to be necessary for marketers to reach new audiences in the social space.