Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ve probably had a conversation with a chatbot — though you may not know it. Many companies have started implementing chatbots on platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and even their own websites. And, when paired with other marketing channels like email marketing, chatbots have massive potential for increasing conversions.
Chatbots are software capable of having a conversation with a human, typically for the purpose of helping complete specific tasks or addressing common questions and problems.
In the past couple of years, more and more brands have started to utilize chatbots in their digital communications with customers. This has allowed companies to scale tedious tasks like customer service triage, answering FAQs, and even sales.
Companies have even started using chatbots in their marketing efforts as well. They can be a very powerful tool for amplifying the effectiveness other aspects of their strategy — notably, email marketing.
In this article, we will explore the relationship between email marketing and chatbots, as well as how you can use them together to grow your business.
More on Chatbots
Before we get into how email and chatbots can work together, let’s take a little deeper look at what chatbots really are.
The main concept
Chatbots have been around for a while, but they only recently started gaining mainstream popularity. This is largely due to vast improvements in technology surrounding chatbots, as well as the platforms that support them, effectively lowering the bar of entry.
They are designed to simulate real conversations with the goal of completely understanding interactions with humans, both semantically (what they mean) and emotionally (what is the sentiment behind a given interaction).
Thanks to improvements, chatbots have evolved to include very simple programs that use keywords to follow a “script,” to much more complex software that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to “understand” complex inputs.
Simple chatbots a preprogrammed database or associative array (a set of key-value pairs) comprised of keywords and corresponding responses to move a conversation along.
This type of chatbot doesn’t use any artificial intelligence and is simply following a script of sorts, sending the preprogrammed responses when the associated keyword shows up in conversation. If inputs do not contain the necessary keywords to evoke a response, there is usually a generic response to encourage the contacts back in the right direction.
You ask a customer service chatbot on an ecommerce website about making a return. The chatbot registers the keyword “return” and responds with the proper procedure for making a return and provides a link to a webpage with more information.
Although artificial intelligence technology hasn’t quite gotten to the level of human intelligence, it has certainly progressed enough to make some pretty sophisticated chatbots — just take a look at all of the virtual assistants out there: Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, etc.
Complex chatbots use machine learning to better understand different inputs and find the right solution in real time. That means they’re “smarter” and more capable of understanding varied inputs — even accounting for spelling errors and different permutations of the same request — and providing more natural outputs.
You ask a chatbot, “what whether is tday”(sic) in hopes of getting a weather forcast. The chatbot is able to understand the core question despite the several spelling and grammatical errors, then responds with weather data pulled from the internet in real time in language that sounds conversational and natural.
If you’re interested in learning more about how machine learning can be applied to create “conversational” chatbots, check out this article from the Stats and Bots blog.
What are the benefits of using a chatbot?
From the user standpoint, chatbots offer 3 main benefits:
- Solve a problem without leaving their messaging app or switching web pages
- Get desired information without having to take the time to research
- Interact with a brand in a dynamic and “humanized way without having to wait
Chatbots can serve to reinforce a company’s brand image by adopting a specific tone and unique personality.
This technology enables brands to easily capture new audiences like millennials, while still maintaining your relationship with email subscribers through email marketing.
How do you create a chatbot?
Creating a chatbot can take you anywhere from a couple of minutes to weeks, months, and even years!
It all depends on how complex the its objective is: creating a simple chatbot that welcomes visitors to your site is much easier than implementing a complex chatbot designed to give personalized product recommendations.
Depending on your needs, as well as the amount of time or budget you’re willing to spend, you can either hire an agency to develop your chatbot or create one on your own.
If you decide to take the second route, there are several platforms that help you create chatbots with relative ease — and they don’t require a ton of technical knowledge either.
We are familiar with three of these platforms:
Chatfuel is a tool for creating chatbots for Facebook Messenger. The interface resembles a conversational dialog box that you slowly construct using the responses that you want to include.
This is a great tool for beginners because of its simplicity. It’s free to use, and users have the option to upgrade to a professional account for $30 per month.
Recast.ai is a platform that lets users create more complex and customized chatbots using advanced technologies. The site also supports a community that makes it easy for users to collaborate or get answers to any questions they might have while creating their bot.
Although it’s not as simple to use, the possibilities are much broader, and the platform is free to use.
Mobile Monkey is a tool that enables users to create chatbots with relative ease and no technical skills required. They offer a full-featured plan for free, as well as paid plans for more advanced users.
This is a really fantastic tool for increasing your mobile conversion rate at great scale and saving a ton of time in the process.
3 Ways Chatbots and Email Marketing Can Work Together
Now that you have a better understanding of what chatbots are and how they work, it’s time to take a look at how they can help with your email marketing.
These two technologies work very well together because they communicate with contacts at different points in the conversion process. So, why not use them together?
Here are 3 scenarios in which you can use chatbots and email marketing in tandem to increase your conversion rate.
1. Email list subscription bot
This is probably one of the easiest strategies to implement because the goal is simple: get new leads to sign up for a email list.
Once the conversation is triggered, the bot can ask for a few details (gender preference, areas of interest, preferred frequency, etc.) in addition to the subscriber’s email address. Then, all of this information is transferred to the email database where a company can access this information and use it for sending marketing emails.
As you can see in the example above, the conversation is triggered once the customer likes the company’s Facebook page. The bot collects some extra information for segmentation (what types of content does the subscriber want to see), asks for an email address, then ends the conversation.
This is a really easy way to grow your subscribers and extend the reach of your email marketing.
2. Lead nurturing process
Not all sales result from a spur of the moment decision. For larger or more important purchases, customers often take time to reflect and research options before buying. If your offering has a longer purchase cycle, you can use lead nurturing to give leads a “nudge” in the right direction.
Using email marketing and chatbots together in this process allows you to address the conversation on two fronts:
- Email – Send important documents and detailed information that potential customers need to make a decision
- Chatbot – Respond to questions and communicate information quickly when leads are close to conversion
3. Online purchases
Chatbots can even be setup to handle online purchases. If a customer already has an account, then the process can be as simple as selecting products they want buy and confirming delivery and payment details from their account.
Where do emails fit in? Transactional emails that follow the purchase of course. 🙂
Emails confirm the purchase details, notify customers of shipping information, and verify delivery with a receipt. These emails can also serve to communicate other marketing initiatives such as seasonal sales, special offers, and loyalty programs.
Chatbots present an excellent opportunity of opening up a new channel with customers to increase conversions and develop better relationships. Using them in conjunction with the rest of your marketing stack will ensure that you keep your customers satisfied and improve the overall performance of your marketing campaigns.
Are you using a chatbot in a different way than those mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below!
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Inbound Marketing Manager @SendinBlue. I love helping SMBs and eCommerce businesses reach a larger audience by writing on digital marketing best practices and advanced techniques. In my free time, you can probably find me skateboarding or tinkering in an overly-complex spreadsheet. 😉