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Chatbots: What are they and how can they benefit your business

We’ve all heard it before, bots are the future. The thought of entrusting bots with your customer service can be a little intimidating, and yet several brands have been able to leverage chatbots to enhance their marketing. The simple reality is, bots aren’t here to take over the world, they’re here to make life easier and more efficient.

In this article, we’ll cover what chatbots are, their marketing benefits and how they differ from live chat.

Chatbots: What are they and how can they benefit your business

What is a chatbot?

Simply put, a bot is a computer program built to automate certain tasks. You can then define a chatbot as a program built to automatically respond to received messages.

Depending on how they’re programmed, chatbots can respond the same way each time or respond differently based on certain keywords or based on what a user requests or chooses in the conversation.

Advanced bots can use sophisticated technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) which allow them to understand complex requests, personalise their responses or even improve their interactions over time. But since this technology is still new, most bots are built with specific responses or follow a set of rules programmed by a human.

The best part is there are a variety of services that allow you to build your own chatbot without needing any coding or engineering skills. Chatbots can also be used in a number of mediums like SMS, website chats and social media channels like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Twitter.

What are the benefits of chatbots?

1. Improved customer service

Chatbots can help you improve your customer service through the following ways:

a. Provide 24/7 customer support

Since bots can be programmed to give automated responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs), they’re a great tool for providing your customers support any time of the day. Human customer service representatives may not have the luxury to be constantly available to respond to queries and customers themselves may not be willing to wait. Moreover, having round the clock customer service available will ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

b. Provide extensive customer assistance

Chatbots can be especially beneficial if you’re an e-commerce business. Even in physical stores, support is always available to help customers navigate the shop. This similarly applies to online shoppers, they may need information such as which product best suits their needs or where to find the product on the website or even how to pay and checkout. Chatbots can provide assistance in these situations just as a salesperson would in a physical store. They can also interact further with customers by asking questions and giving recommendations depending on what the customer needs.

c. Proactive customer engagement

Sometimes your customers or users won’t initiate conversations. Chatbots can be proactive and encourage engagement from your customers. For example, if a user browses your website looking for specific information, a chatbot can initiate a conversation, providing information that supports their search or inquiry. But it’s important that your chatbot is able to spark dialogue at the right moment so that your customer doesn’t interpret the conversation as an intrusion.

2. Lead generation, qualification and nurturing

Chatbots allow you to engage with your customers with personalised messaging throughout their buyer’s journey. By asking necessary and related questions, a bot can persuade a user and consequently generate a lead by getting them to make quick decisions. Bots can also help direct leads to a sales team for immediate conversion or at the very least, schedule an appointment for later.

In the same regard, bots can help nurture qualified leads depending on which stage of the buyer’s journey they are at. For example, in the e-commerce market, bots can engage with customers by giving personalised recommendations (as mentioned before), offers and discounts that can help boost sales conversions.

3. Grow your email marketing lists

You can also use your chatbot to build and update your marketing lists. For example, if a user initiates conversation through your Facebook Messenger bot, you can receive their public profile data and use it to generate a lead. Bots also give you the opportunity to ask users for their contact information especially if they may need further assistance from a representative in your organisation.

Keep in mind that email is a very personal thing so ensure your email marketing efforts are warranted and not seen as an intrusion by your audience.

4. Audience segmentation

Audience segmentation plays a significant role in keeping your content relevant to your audience. It’s also a great way to enhance your lead generation strategies. With chatbots, you can easily segment your audience based on the data available to you. You can put tags such as demographics, age, interests or even the content a user is converted from to break down your audience into various categories.

This ultimately feeds into your lead nurturing efforts, since each audience category as its own solution relevant to its needs.

5. Retargeting leads

Since users can subscribe to your bot, chatbots are an effective method for retargeting. For example, if a user viewed a product in a bot but didn’t take further action, they can later be sent a message with more information regarding the product they viewed. And since chatbots work across various platforms, you can later target a lead acquired from Facebook Messenger through other mediums such as SMS.

Chatbots vs live chat

Live chat or live support is technology that allows companies to interact with users on their media properties such as websites. Live chat is another improved form of customer service since users can have real time conversations compared to traditional forms such as calls or email.

Chatbots differ from live chat since its interactions are powered by machines rather than humans. Both have very similar ways of working but here are some key differences:

There’s no perfect solution when it comes to picking live chat or chatbots. Your decision will have to be based on your current customer service needs and which solution best meets them. All in all, chatbots are faster, cheaper and much easier to implement. And as AI technology advances, chatbots will be able to handle more complex queries.

It’s also possible to use both options for your business. For example, if the initial queries are easily answerable, then chatbots can handle such requests. But if the queries are beyond the chatbot’s capabilities, then they can be passed on to a live customer representative.

Chatbots are here to stay and with its array of benefits, you should definitely plan to leverage this technology for your business.

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