Chatbots are increasingly being developed and used by innovative retail brands to do everything from recommending products, assisting with tracking purchases, providing customer service and disseminating key information. Here are the five most important chatbot development practices:
1. Deploy on messaging platforms.
Chatbots can live wherever your brand has a digital presence, and the prevailing wisdom is to deploy chatbots on a brand’s website, allowing customers to pop up a little screen and begin chatting. Sounds great, right? Wrong! Rather than waiting for your customers to come to you, you should be where they are, and that's inside messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger. This shouldn’t be hard to believe; people now spend five hours per day on mobile devices, and the place they spend the most time are messaging apps like Facebook, which currently has 2 billion users. The results show the power of engaging people on mobile where they are: Our chatbot platform at Headliner Labs, for, example, sees an 80 percent or better open rate on messages sent to customers across our bots, which dwarfs industry average marketing open rates.
2. View your bot as a marketing tool rather than customer service channel.
From the very inception of chatbot tech, the predominant approach has been to view chatbots as a customer service channel. If I can impart one takeaway in this article, it’s this: Move your chatbot slightly up the sales funnel. View your bot as a powerful marketing tool through which you can converse with people and convert them to customers, not as another line of communication with existing customers who need help. Brands on our platform realize as much as 63 percent increases in digital direct-to-consumer sales annually, an astronomical result that stems from being able to engage customers with personalized messages tailored to their behavior, history and product preferences.
This doesn’t mean that people won’t use your chatbot to convey their customer service queries. They will, and there are lots of methods for funneling those queries from your bot directly to your customer service team.
3. Extract data from every interaction.
Bots are your company’s direct access to individualized interactions with consumers, and as a result to masses of consumer data that can be extracted from those interactions. You might have the best user-facing bot experience, but if you deploy it in a vacuum without using a platform that can provide key insights and analytics, you're reaping only a fraction of the benefits. Messaging is the form of communication with the most instant response, and it's also the most commonly preferred method of communication. It takes 90 minutes for the average person to respond to an email vs. the 90 seconds it takes for the average person to respond to a text message.
What can this data tell you? It can easily track consumer behavior to drive more effective marketing strategies, improve personalization efforts or accelerate the resolution of customer concerns. The ability to track user data in such a sophisticated way ensures that a brand is always aware of what there is to improve about their business from the customer’s point of view and act proactively on those insights.
4. Empower your humans.
Bots aren't here to replace your teams; rather, they're a tool for empowering your sales teams to increase mobile sales. How this works varies considerably based upon your company’s size. For smaller teams, bots are a great way to segment users into different buckets, some of which are identified by algorithms as being ripe for a human to step in and close a sale. This is yet another reason to use a chatbot platform in creating your bot — instant access to these algorithms that scan your conversations and identify when your team member should jump in and close a sale.
5. Get sales friction as low as possible.
Bots can be programmed to process payments without customers ever leaving Messenger. Currently, Messenger supports integration of your PayPal and Stripe accounts, so your customers only have to input their information once and then have it saved for future bot purchases. Here’s how it all works: The bot sends user product recommendations with photos and key info, and a “Buy Now” button leads customers into a seamless checkout experience. The experience eliminates many of the major friction points in mobile sales, thereby primed to dramatically optimize conversions.
Caroline Klatt is the co-founder and CEO of Headliner Labs, a New York City-based software platform company specializing in e-commerce chatbots.
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