The Marketing Power of Chatbots

9 April 2019

"Chatbots are the future of marketing!"

Part 2 of the Justin Lee interview on where artificial intelligence in marketing is headed.

When it comes to online marketing – and the quest to capture potential customers’ digital attention – many of us may be forgiven for thinking about social media. How can we be more engaging on Facebook? What can we do to build an Instagram following? Should we still be on Twitter?

But how many of us give much thought to direct messaging as a marketing tool?

We should, given messaging apps now boast more than 5 billion monthly active users, surpassing the number engaged on social networks. “Messaging is the new frontier of marketing,” according to Justin Lee of global marketing and sales software solutions provider HubSpot.

And it’s chatbots that are driving conversion through messaging, Justin says, because these automated, artificial intelligence-powered communicators “give us the opportunity to tap into it by creating scalable, one-on-one interactions directly with consumers”.

In a previous post, we talked to Justin about how artificial intelligence (AI) is set to revolutionise marketing and if the jobs of those in marketing are doomed? Harnessing the marketing potential of chatbots is a topic Justin specialises in through his role as Head of Growth for GrowthBot, an AI-powered chatbot developed by HubSpot.

Why are chatbots such a game-changer for marketers?

“Modern chatbots are, at their simplest, digital assistants that deliver specific results via a conversational interface. At their most complex, they are artificial-intelligence-powered tools that will make highly-personalised marketing scalable.”

HubSpot believes chatbots are the future of marketing because they enable consumers to engage efficiently with a product or service provider no matter where they are or what device they are using. With chatbots there are “no forms, cluttered inboxes, or wasted minutes spent searching and scrolling through content. Communication, service, and transactions intertwine”.

Justin told us that HubSpot was taking the learnings from its Growthbot project – which mines a large number of sources in order to answer users’ marketing, sales and growth questions – and is applying them to the development of a new application within the Hubspot solution suite.

“We’re launching a bot user product within the main HubSpot tool, where a customer can use it on their website.”

There are now more than 100,000 Chatbot users and Justin’s team continues to grow the number of data sources the bot can access, increasing its effectiveness.

Developing AI-enabled chatbot tools was part of HubSpot’s drive to increase its overall offering to customers, Justin says. “We’re actively working to become the tool that companies use for all their front-office operations and chatbot falls nicely into that space – it’s made for customer service, customer support, and sales.”

Chatbots at work in New Zealand

New Zealand companies are already utilising chatbots to improve their interactions with customers.

KiwiSaver provider Simplicity recently launched a bot called Artie to provide “robo advice” on retirement savings. "Artie will ultimately provide personalised advice, and where the situation is complex, we'll refer clients to fee-based independent financial advisors," Simplicity chief executive Sam Stubbs said.

But before that goal can be fully achieved, the fund manager needs to secure an exemption from the Financial Markets Authority allowing it to give digital advice. This regulatory hurdle shows the proliferation of chatbots is being monitored at official levels – an indication of the potential power of the platform.

Air New Zealand has taken the next step in the chatbot evolution, adding a human factor with the launch of a virtual assistant called Sophie.The airline called on kiwi company Soul Machines, which specialises in creating avatars, to develop Sophie – a bot who is not only AI-powered to learn from her interactions, but also has realistic facial responses to those interactions. She is even dressed in the same uniform as Air NZ’s “other employees”.

Delivering more of what customers want

It’s not hard to imagine more “Sophies” popping up as the digital faces of other organisations. With its life-like, interactive and AI powered virtual assistant, Air NZ has hit on a formula that ticks many of the boxes bots can deliver on as a sales and marketing solution.

As Justin outlines in another post, chat and messaging applications should be used to “delight” customers through real-time responses. “Immediacy matters, because customer behaviour has undergone a massive paradigm shift. People don’t want to submit a form or email anymore. Overwhelmingly, they prefer to interact with a bot or a human in real-time,” he says.

“Whether you’re B2B or B2C, think about using messaging to deliver a more delightful user experience. Imagine implementing technology in a way that leaves people thinking, ‘that was really easy,’ or ‘that saved so much time,’ or even better: ‘I feel more connected to this brand now.’”

Chatbots have the potential to offer a powerful level of cut-through and connection to customers, so make sure they’re on your radar as a tool you should be considering adding to your marketing mix.

Further reading about chatbots

The Chatbot Revolution is Here

Justin Lee: How bots can help us win the battle against distraction

How To Build A Charming (And Useful) Chatbot

Infographic: How Chatbots Are Changing the Customer Experience