What’s all the buzz with chatbots?
Although chatbots have been around for a while, within the past year there’s been a surge in interest and usage. There have been more and more companies offering bot building services, website integrations, and developer tools.
Now we can have bots on our e-commerce sites with Drift and Intercom, in app bots on Kik and Telegram, and even virtual assistants like Google Assistant and Siri. They can be guided by simple rules or use machine learning to develop an understanding over time.
To put it simply, chatbots are cool. Perhaps that’s why we’re so interested in them. AI, AR, IoT… it all gets us thinking of the opportunities and the future innovations that will make our lives easier.
As marketers and business owners, bots present an opportunity for communicating with potential customers even when we aren’t available. They can answer questions, send us updates, remind us of meetings, and a whole lot more.
Today, we’ll be discussing Facebook Messenger Chatbots. It’s something most of us can relate to, and since Facebook Messenger has over 1.2 billion users, it appears that there’s s a large market to work with.
The next big thing, or just hype?
Before we chat with some top minds, let’s talk about where this all started and why chatbots have been such an intense area of focus for digital marketers, business owners, innovators, and futurists alike.
In early 2016, Facebook announced that they were offering a chatbot platform within the Messenger app.
This meant that companies had the opportunity to built bots which could respond to customer support inquiries, offer services/products, and share information, all at scale and affordably.
Other apps at the time offered bot platforms as well, such as Telegram and Kik, but Facebook was about to create an in-app experience that many of the other apps couldn’t offer.
Later in 2016, Facebook allowed messenger bots to accept payments in the Messenger app, using the credit card and address details from Facebook and Messenger profiles.
This meant that vendors could accept payments within the messenger app, rather than redirecting customers to a payment form, thus creating an environment with even less friction for purchase.
Plus, Facebook would be keeping people on their platform rather than redirecting users to a third party website. That’s a win for Facebook as well.
One last major point to note: people tend to engage with Messenger notifications more than they do with emails. This is especially important for content marketers.
For example, Neil Patel mentions 88% open rates and 56% CTRs.
Even if he’s exaggerating, that’s significantly more interaction than you’ll experience with email. (Feel free to check out these depressingly low email stats from MailChimp.)
This begs the question: if chatbots can garner more opens and clicks, why wouldn’t we invest time and money setting up campaigns to dominate on this new platform?
It’s a valid question. But before jumping into it, we need to be wary of shiny object syndrome.
Just because chatbot messaging appears to carry a lot of potential for small business owners and marketers, (not to mentions it seems like a “cool” new gadget to wield) it doesn’t mean we should jump head first into using them.
What do the top minds think?
Before you decide, let’s take a look at what some of the top minds think. I posed to them the following question to develop a better understanding:
What are your thoughts on Facebook Messenger Chatbots? Should companies be investing in them, or continue the focus on email marketing?
Here’s the feedback we received:
Sam Hurley is a #1 ranked Digital Marketer, Personal Branding expert & Founder of OPTIM-EYEZ
“Both! Email marketing still boasts amazing ROI: “Three-quarters of companies agree that email offers “excellent” to “good” ROI.” (Econsultancy, 2016)
It’s just as important to utilize FB chatbots, for many business models. Not only does this deployment increase efficiency in dealing with customer service queries right through to speeding up the social selling process, but it also evokes a ‘modernized’ perception … If audiences see your business is using chatbots, they know you are up-to-date and on the ball.
It’s a no brainer! Facebook isn’t going anywhere, either…”
Co-Founder of Digital Leadership Associates
“People will do whatever they can to avoid “salespeople” and FB chatbots are a quick and easy way for customers to interact with a company. Being as nobody reads emails from brands and people use FB messenger, it seems a pretty safe bet to invest in.”
Co-Founder & Chief Digital Strategist Blue Thread Marketing and Blogger, on Twitter as @MordecaiHoltz
“Customers aren’t spending their time on a variety of apps anymore. Today, research has shown a high concentration of engagement on Facebook Messenger. Brands that realize this, are engaging and providing important information via the chatbot. This is a natural fit to the user’s behavior, which is geared towards conversations via the platform. After launching chatbots for Messaging, Facebook is clearly aiming to offer seamless integration and simple user experience between customers and business pages. By responding to messages directly within Facebook, brands can now offer comprehensive customer service in one place.
Should brands continue with email? Yes. Email marketing is still the most direct, valuable and strongest communication platform for brands. Facebook will enable customers to get information after they’ve identified or purchased.”
Founder of RazorSocial, writer for Forbes and Entrepreneur
“I recently went through a directory of Facebook Messenger bots and most were poorly designed or not working. There is good potential for Facebook messenger bots but you need to invest the time and money in coming up with a good design, building and maintaining them.”
Founder, Marketing Macros & Top Millennial Marketing Influencer
“Invest in chatbots but only if your business can ensure a high-quality, personalized product. Chatbots are great for enhancing your content marketing efforts, increasing sales opportunities, and supplementing your customer service efforts.
However, if the service causes added frustration to the customer experience via an inability to understand a simple inquiry or providing a poor user experience by giving them generic content not customized to their interests, it can do more harm than good. Like anything, do it well or don’t do it at all.”
“Chatbots are phenomenal for existing customers, especially to manage and delight with transactional messages like order confirmations, shipping, and unboxing user-generated content invitations. They’re also perfect for uber targeted product recommendations and upsells based on a customer’s order history.
What worries me is their use as a top-of-the-funnel tactic. Chatbots have huge open rates right now, but with the recent addition of ads (via Facebook) they’re likely to become a nuance instead of a help if the person hasn’t “signed up”.”
Founder of Growth Hacking Secrets on Facebook
“They definitely have a place in most marketing strategies today. Either as an enhanced customer service experience, or as a full-blown funnel for selling digital products/services. I’ve seen both examples perform well.
Chatbots could be used in a funnel to create value to people that are more inclined to use messenger than email. I don’t think companies should go for either or. Use both in conjunction and make the most of the different target groups.
Facebook has just started with the expansion of messenger, and this is just the beginning. My tip is to jump on the train and learn asap.”
Neiv Allen Schwartz
“While email marketing is still one of the most powerful marketing channels, email accounts are also oversaturated by such strategies (with proof seen by services like these popping up: Unroll.me). Additionally, email marketers are plagued with Gmail’s ‘Promotions’ tab.
With that being said, Facebook Messenger chatbot marketing campaigns can have a higher open rate and click-through rate over email campaigns (if implemented correctly). Overall, Messenger chatbots can be a very useful marketing channel which can strengthen a larger marketing strategy. Especially if these chatbots are coupled with Facebook Messenger Advertisements, the user experience and campaign effectiveness can be quite magnified. While these Messenger chatbots can be very effective, they can be equally limiting with Facebook’s 24-hour time window restriction (unless your chatbot falls into a specific use case).
Ultimately, it’s worth the time, effort, and money to implement Facebook Messenger chatbots as a new marketing avenue, especially since it can be very easy and cost-effective to get off the ground with bot builders.”
“Enterprise Chatbot Platforms will enable any business to engage in conversational commerce. As I said at in this Entrepreneur article, “Where 10 years ago every company needed a website and five years ago every company needed an app, now every company needs to embrace messaging with AI and chatbots.” Soon Voice and AR will change the way we engage with chatbots on Facebook.”
A global digital marketing influencer at Maria-Johnsen.com
“Many companies think bots are the next big thing and Facebook wants to make money off of their chatbots. If Facebook developers continue to improve them, sponsored ads feel more like a conversational sales pitch. These bots are a communication platform for businesses and customers. They interpret the intent from natural language processing (NLP) and what users have earlier searched on Facebook. These bots learn over time, so they are imperfect. Facebook users write anything in search function and some of these search terms are not related to business terms. I recommend companies to keep focusing on email marketing. Because in email marketing you can be creative and write just about anything and turn a prospect to a customer while a chatbot is more like a communication tool. However, you may want to include Facebook chatbot in your business activities.
In digital marketing companies must implement all processes in their marketing activities such as: search engine optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click, email marketing, video marketing, RSS feed distribution, social media marketing and mobile marketing.”
Entrepreneur, Growth Hacker, Author, Investor, That @yo guy on Twitter
“Messenger bots are incredibly powerful and still very underutilized. More companies should be exploring chatbots like BananaBot.com to push extra messages to customers if they missed their initial CTA. If you have the bandwidth, focus on both email marketing AND chatbots, as well as any other ways to reach your audience/customers to keep them engaged.”
Content Marketing Manager at Klipfolio
“I tend to get uneasy with “or” statements, but if I had to choose (and although I’m super excited about Facebook Messenger bots) I’d say stick with email marketing. Truth is, very few companies are even close to maximizing all that email marketing can offer.
Very few map out cohesive, comprehensive email marketing journeys that are driven by empathy and seriously focused on helping people solve their challenges or otherwise reach their goals.
I’m grateful to work alongside Phil Gamache, our brilliant marketing automation manager. He has opened my eyes to new avenues in email marketing—from more effective delivery methods to the untapped power of concise email courses.
Still, if “or” could be “and” I’d say keep optimizing your email marketing efforts and start thinking about how Facebook Messenger bots can be one component of your overall marketing strategy.”
Deputy Marketing Manager at TECNO Mobile Limited, on Twitter as @JesseOguns
“Facebook Messenger chatbots are changing the game. Reminds me of macros on Zendesk. You set it up to answer frequently asked questions coming from social and email to your Zendesk account. But it’s a little bit complex to set up and not as robust at the options with chatbots on messenger.
With chatbots on messenger, the possibilities are limitless and Facebook messenger has the numbers already. Customers of brands use it. It will be a worthy investment for a brand once they set the goal they want to achieve.
The chatbots will be more effective than email as Facebook users who like your page can easily be reached and new users can be acquired. However, you’ll also need to promote the chatbots and allow for easy discovery by those it’ll be useful for.
Imagine reducing your customer response time from 2/3 hours to 1 minute or instantly when your chatbot answers the frequently asked questions. So, yeah! A worthy investment after nailing down the business objectives and making a case for using it.”
Marketing Professional at MktgInnovator.com
“Chatbots can be highly beneficial to small companies in particular. The companies usually don’t have the staff to respond promptly to all customer inquiries all day every day. Chatbots can be set up rather thoroughly to make the experience comfortable and helpful for your customers. Just make sure you’re investing in a service that can create a chatbot for you that really works well.
On the other hand, while chatbots are a handy resource, it’s important to mention that human interaction is still a must. Your customers will usually want to talk to another human being, so use chatbots as a starting point for them, not the only customer service you offer. Plus, chatbots are still flawed in some ways, and your customers will notice that, leading to bad sentiment. You don’t want that, so make sure you’re balancing chatbots with real-time human engagement.”
Concluding thoughts on Chatbots
You can’t ignore trends, but you’d be wise to not follow them blindly.
The same mantra holds true for chatbots.
Depending on the industry you’re in, a chatbot could be very helpful for customer service, sending out content to your audience, and promoting products/services.
Don’t expect miracles though. Chatbots are, at their simplest, another way to communicate with prospects and customers.
The beautiful part is that you can talk to people at scale since a little bot will be doing the heavy lifting for you. Furthermore, bots live on a platform that is interactive, encouraging opens and clicks.
Will this get abused? Perhaps.
Also, there are other constraints to bots, such as their inability to answer certain customer inquiries.
Regardless, there still exists an opportunity to take advantage in a new setting that is largely untapped.
If there are large potential benefits for your business, I would suggest testing chatbots for yourself.
What are your thoughts? Have you tested out a chatbot yet?