As the preferred method of human communication has evolved from letters, telephones, and televisions to email, text, and chat, improvements in AI have kept pace and made it ready to partner with corporate marketing in the digital age. Marketers have done well by pairing technological advancements with the best AI tools—such as personalization based on browsing history. This trend should continue with the new era of global chatbots. When companies move toward marketing by chat, they need to use this channel wisely or risk damaging their customer relationships. As technology advances, user expectations rise.
Gone are the days when the Yellow Pages were delivered to every house, and print advertising is on the decline. Companies need to move beyond traditional methods and modify their marketing channels accordingly. Chatbots are a perfect match for targeted, AI-based marketing, and we already know personalized advertising can be very effective. I admit to making online purchases of items suggested to me based on an item I bought earlier. And who wouldn’t want to try a new book by a favorite author? But as technology helps companies market smarter, there are equally smart digital tools and applications available to discerning end users. A careful approach with your intelligent chatbot will avoid alienating customers, and it could increase satisfaction with existing customers if done well.
What’s In It for the Customer?
Rules and regulations in some countries allow people to end all texts or chats from a company with a single text response, such as STOP. In order to avoid annoying your customers, who might then unsubscribe, companies need to limit the number of marketing texts. The more sophisticated extension, though, is to make chatbot communications intelligent enough to inspire the consumer to want more. A chatbot that reminds you that a bill is due, an appointment is scheduled, or your favorite shampoo just went on sale is deemed valuable and worth keeping around.
Don’t Overdo It
Push marketing should be used cautiously and only when AI tells you it makes sense. There are applications available in some countries that are designed to block push marketing messages, so a chatbot should only push with some intelligent reason, such as alerting you to a subscription that’s expiring. It should also not get something basic wrong. A chatbot pushing dog food to a cat owner or children’s wear to a young college graduate will be silenced quickly. If a customer is not responding directly to a chat, slow the message rate down or even allow him or her to take control of the frequency or topics. Companies must resist the temptation to oversaturate or risk the inevitable consequence of being unfriended.
Mind the Screen Real Estate
Many users chat on a mobile phone—or other small screens—and have limited attention, time, space, and patience. Chatbot messages that are brief and to the point will be more effective than long-winded ones. Readability and usability are also key. Your chatbot should be smart enough to include helpful, direct links and allow for quick, abbreviated responses to make it as easy as possible to respond to. Chatbots are visual communicators, so line breaks and careful quality assurance of the written messages are needed to maintain a professional and respected brand.
Localize or Don’t Bother
Going global requires chatting with customers in their language of choice. AI can help a good chatbot know what language to use, but it should also be sure to chat in the right dialect. Don’t speak Canadian French to a European French speaker, and don’t assume all Spanish or English speakers chat in the same language. Be sure you are using the correct writing system for the customer’s locale (such as Traditional Chinese or Simplified Chinese). If your AI is confident that a customer is young and tech savvy, your chatbot can assume some sophistication—but my teenagers tell me that over-abbreviating or appearing to try too hard to be hip can backfire. If you’re not sure what language to chat with, it’s better to ask than to assume and be wrong.
Good AI Requires a Good Strategy
Using chatbots to market is a no-brainer in this age of texting and chatting, and AI can add the wow factor to go with it. But companies need to resist the temptation to over-push and must proceed with caution and good AI.