In the previous blog post we examined how chatbots compare to the various marketing channels as well as how they can complement existing marketing activities. We started by comparing chatbots with the email marketing channel. In this part, we will continue the examination of additional marketing channels.

SMS Marketing

SMS has long been considered as a very effective marketing tool. 89% of marketers employing SMS marketing find it from “somewhat” to “very” effective, or more effective than corporate websites (64%) and display/banner ads (59%) (source: 2015 state of marketing report). While SMS marketing requires the person’s phone number (harder to obtain) and explicit consent, it is less common than email marketing. It’s lack of design (an SMS message being simply text) is compensated by the fact that it is very “aggressive” and “immediate”. When it is delivered, the user will receive a notification and it is therefore difficult to ignore.

  • Chatbot Similarities
    • Enrollment/subscription – asking for a user’s phone number is considered more difficult than asking for an email address. A marketer usually needs a compelling reason to ask specifically for a customer’s phone number.
      Enrollment to a chatbot is more challenging than a simple email subscription (and ticking a checkbox for consent). The process requires  a user’s explicit approval. For example, a Facebook chatbot user is required to sign in using his Facebook credentials, go to the messenger app and click an explicit “Get Started” button to start conversing with the chatbot. The user then needs to give explicit consent to receive future proactive communications, such as outbound campaigns, from the chatbot.  A chatbot has some “novelty” effect that may be useful to attract more users.
    • Immediacy – this is probably the most important characteristic of SMS marketing. As opposed to emails that can sit for weeks (or eternity) in an inbox before being read, SMS usually generates a notification that is difficult to ignore. The ability to capture the immediate attention of the recipient is a marketer’s dream. Marketers that can leverage this aspect can produce great results. Chatbots are similarly very immediate. When the bot initiates a conversation through Facebook Messenger, a notification is generated which is hard to ignore.
    • High Open Rates – with 98% open rate and only 1% spam (source: mobilemarketingwatch), SMS is undoubtedly the king of open rates. Although there is not much data and a comprehensive study on chatbots, it is fair to assume that due to their similar nature, chatbots open rates should enjoy the same outcome.
  • Chatbot advantages
    • Content – SMS is very poor in terms of its content. It is extremely short, has no graphics and has limited interactivity. Chatbots are as in-depth as a conversation can go. Although the medium itself is mainly textual, it can be enriched with graphics, links to external sources, voice-capabilities, quick replies, menus and interactive carousels.
    • Conversational – what starts with a “difficult to ignore” notification, is usually followed by a bi-directional conversation. This means that the brand can ask questions and know exactly what the user is looking for, thereby providing a whole new level of personalization.
    • Actionable – Although SMS can include a link to a landing page that includes a call to action, a chatbot can go much further. Like a “concierge”, it can go as far as book a flight, a restaurant, etc. Technologically these chatbots can be connected to backend systems using standard APIs, opening a world of opportunities.
    • Cost – in some markets both the company and the user incur a cost per message.

Social Media

Social media was and still is the marketer’s darling due to its flexibility, its advanced personalization capabilities, and the ability to create diverse interactions (e.g. surveys, contests, etc.). But one of the major challenges that brands find in social media is the “dilution in reach”. In 2012, a Facebook post on a company’s page would reach a mere 16% of  their audience. In 2016, the Facebook Newsroom announced changes in their organic reach which would lower brand/company  posts’ reach down to 2%, making all of the brand’s investment in growing an audience let’s say, “challenging to leverage”. It’s true that chatbots (such as the ones from Facebook), “live” inside the social media platform, however once the connection/subscription occurs, Facebook (as of today) will not limit the amount of interactions or the “reach”. You can potentially upload any message that you want and it will be carried by millions of chatbots without any delusion.

  • Chatbot Similarities
    • Enrollment/subscription – very similar to liking a brand’s page, the user can find the brand’s chatbot on Facebook Messenger, thereby adding the chatbot as a contact. The enrolment can also be triggered by a simple URL which means that it can be done by clicking an ad or any other online promotional method.
    • Interaction – social media can be very flexible in terms of the interaction level. From likes, comments, shares, surveys, games, buy now buttons, etc., this medium is constantly evolving and will not stop any time soon. Likewise, chatbots can be implemented with varying levels of interaction. A chatbot can even interface with back-end systems, such as CRM, ERP, etc. to provide extremely personalized and relevant information and even perform a wide variety of tasks.
  • Chatbot advantages
    • Reach – as mentioned above, as of today there are no restrictions in terms of the reach. Every message that a chat generates will reach its destination without the need to pay for its promotion. This solves a major challenge while providing more or less the same level of interaction and content that the social media platform provides.
    • Notifications – although Facebook provides notifications on new content, notifications are not generated on every post. Facebook Messenger on the other hand, opens a “chat head” every time a new message is generated. This type of notification appears as an overlay on the screen and is extremely difficult to ignore.
    • Brand personification – chatbots can embody the brand’s persona. They can be configured to use the brand’s tone of voice and carry the brand’s approach. This creates a deeper level of intimacy – of getting to know the “brand persona” that is unlike any other medium.

As we have shown, chatbots are like a “superfood” of marketing channels. They are a great content distribution platform; they are immediate and difficult to ignore; they can represent a brand’s personality; and they are a direct line of communication to your audience. Most importantly, they are a bi-directional line to them. As such, chatbots can compliment each channel and at a minimum, be used to overcome their drawbacks.