Chatbots are on the fringes of marketing.
Does that mean you shouldn’t venture out there? Should you wait and see how the other companies, your competition, does first?
Build your house when land is cheap and hope a city sprouts up around it. The goal here is to own a farm while people are scrabbling for studio apartments.
An odd analogy, but inbound marketing isn’t as detached from this scenario as it first seems. Get into chatbots before the audience gets tired of speaking to machines, or before an AI is released that dominates the internet, and you can carve out your piece of attention.
When used correctly chatbot can make a phenomenal difference to the buyer’s journey, save on hiring customer support staff, or just deliver content in a novel way.
I know this has all been pretty opinionated so far, but hey, I am passionate. Pinky swear, that the rest of this article will be cold hard facts as it breaks down the 5 chatbot trends marketers should know in 2018.
5 Chatbot Trends Marketers Should Know in 2018
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is a program designed to imitate a conversation with a real person.
Why does this matter?
According to Forbs writer, Blake Morgan Chatbots are the future of customer experience and have the power to replace search windows and many apps in the not-so-distant future.
Rather than ask customers to send emails a chatbot can answer a customer’s question in real time. True the technology isn’t amazing, and there are limitations, but the massive uptake of messenger applications has left marketers scrounging for a way to engage an audience over these platforms.
Trend #1: Social Messenger Applications are Driving Chatbot Marketing
“Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking” Mark Zuckerberg
But there are only a few platforms that people are messaging on. 72% of U.S smartphone users use less than 7 apps in a day. In response to this consumer behavior, the social platforms that we all know and love started letting companies build chatbots with them.
This created a need for existing platforms to step up, and large platforms started letting businesses build platforms on top of them.
The user’s interaction with Pizza Hut’s chatbot begins with an autoresponder asking them if they would like to place an order with the chatbot.
As you can see the chatbot can then show the customer deals and promotions which are extremely relevant to them because they intend to order a pizza. This is all done through Facebook and a similar Chatbot that works via Twitter.
Pizza Hut is far from the only company that is taking advantage of how much time users spend on the messenger app, and their reluctance to use other applications.
Depending on the study, social messaging has either overtaken or is about to overtake social media platforms, and it’s egging chatbots along.
Credence Research recently predicted enterprises would transmit two trillion messages a year by 2017 to create a market worth $78m by 2022
Trend #2: Chat Bots Can Gain Customer Insights
The Pizza Hut chatbot is an example of a chatbot being used to guide a customer through the final stages of the buyer’s journey, but they can be used to improve at any stage of your marketing funnel.
When Chatbots are used to gather customer insight they can improve on all stages of your marketing funnel. Chatbots can store information about the kind of questions that the customer asks.
“Not only does this make the chatbot better equipped to answer future questions and upsell additional products, it gives you a better understanding of what your customers need to know to close the deal.” Sujan Patel, Forbes.
We have all heard the saying that the best types of content answer the questions that the customer is already asking. Companies are using chatbots to find out the exact questions that are being asked. Neat aye?
Taking this further, a competent marketing team knows that after collecting analytics they need to be acted on and the cycle of constant improvement continues. Advanced chatbots are starting to automate this process and improve themselves by learning from previous conversations and are able to answer more questions.
For now, at least people are still smarter than chatbots, and marketers are still continually optimizing their chatbots based on how users respond to its replies, but this is set to change.
Trend #3: Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence
Consider this statistic from Gartner, that artificial intelligence will amount to 85% of customer relationships by 2020
Before the robot apocalypse, artificial intelligence is going to make a lot of companies a lot of money. Google’s DeepMind, is creating an AI that can learn from what it has done in the past. “AI is not new to marketing. It actually began with automation of lots of marketing tasks that were initially done manually,” says David Geer, TNW writer.
Chatbots are going to get a lot smarter. It is hard to say just how much smarter without reducing this article to pure speculation, but imagine a chatbot that was indistinguishable from a human. It could run millions of algorithms in real time and using analytics devise a strategy to convert every prospect individually.
In today’s sensitive and polarized online world, it will take some trial and error before AI chatbots master the delicacies of polite conversation. Microsoft AI Tay taught us the unpredictability of AI when Twitter turned it into a racist Nazi in less than 24 hours.
Trend #4: Chatbots are Getting Cheaper
Facebook’s decision to let third-party applications build chatbots in their messenger platform has drastically lowered the price.
These programs aren’t going to write any books or amaze the customer with their keen intellect but through predetermined menu options, they let the customer, browse, interact, or make a purchase, from inside Facebook messenger.
Trend #5: Chatbots Are Learning to Negotiate
An incredibly interesting development which will have massive ramifications for marketers and customers.
Facebook’s AI recently exceeded expectation when it started to communicate in its own language and basically learned how to lie. “For example, a bot might pretend to be interested in something that had no value to it in order to be able to “sacrifice” that thing later as part of a compromise,” Futurism.
We have only spoken about chatbots in a B2C context, but if AI learns to negotiate like a human, we might see AIs negotiating with the AIs of other companies to set up a meeting, agree on prices, and close deals. Apart from putting a lot of people out work, this technology could be a massive disruption to both sales and marketing.
Companies need to stay on top of developments like these to remain competitive.