Quick survey: over the past year, if you’ve visited a website and instantly received a message in a chat box in the bottom right-hand corner, please raise your hand.
Ok, you can put your hands down. This isn’t Zoom. No one can see you — at least, I hope not. That would be pretty embarrassing.
Over the past few years, chatbots have started populating the corners of websites at a staggering pace. In fact, over the past year alone, chatbot usage has increased 92%. And would you believe it: the source for that statistic just sent me a chatbot message as I’m typing this.
But chatbots don’t just represent a new widget that can help direct website visitors to the right page or answer some questions. They stand for an entirely new marketing channel and strategy called conversational marketing.
So, how can you tell whether you should invest in conversational marketing and whether you should add a chatbot to your own site? We’ll answer those questions and more in this article.
But first, let’s get a bit more background on the subject.
What Is Conversational Marketing?
Conversational marketing refers to a type of marketing that uses — you guessed it — conversations to engage prospects quickly. The term was first coined by Drift, a company that provides chatbot products and services to businesses.
It’s important to note that conversational marketing doesn’t include traditional sales conversations — it only includes conversations with chatbots. However, it does run on the idea that direct conversations, like those you’d have with salespeople, are the most effective way to get leads to convert.
That’s why conversational marketing tries to flip the script on the traditional sales funnel. In a traditional sales funnel, direct contact is generally the very last step after the prospect has already put their name into a lead capture form, browsed the website for a while, and checked out some newsletters.
But with a conversational marketing sales funnel, that direct contact is the very first thing that happens: a lead visits the website, and immediately they’re contacted by a sales rep. Well, a bot pretending to be a sales rep, at least. That bot can then answer the lead’s questions, capture their information and add it to your CRM, and even schedule a call with a real sales rep.
In the past, this type of outreach wasn’t possible — even the largest businesses just simply didn’t have the resources to hire enough sales reps to talk with each of the thousands of visitors that came to their websites. But with the recent improvements in natural language processing technologies, chatbots have made that dream into a reality.
Why Are Chatbots Useful?
Your customers (and people in general) want the quickest and easiest way to access important information about your product. When they have a very specific question, such as whether your platform exports data as a .csv, it’s typically easier just to ask someone than to search around through all the pages on your website.
Chatbots allow your customers to get immediate responses at all hours of the day and night without forcing you to hire dozens of sales reps to man the lines around the clock. Sometimes, those quick responses can prevent a lead from getting frustrated and moving on to a competitor that happens to have that information more readily available.
Plus, assuming that your chatbot is somewhat friendly, conversing with it may help build a feeling of connection between your customer and your business that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
But none of this would matter if people weren’t willing to give your bots a chance. Nowadays, chat apps, like Messenger, Whatsapp, iMessage, and Slack, have become the default communication method for large swaths of the population. That means that it’s becoming more natural for many people to send a message through a chat box than it is to pick up the phone and call — not to mention that it requires less effort, and they don’t need to restrict their questions to business hours.
Should You Add a Chat Bot To Your Website?
Like most broad questions, there’s no clear cut answer. The chatbot boom is still relatively new, and there isn’t much data out there to confirm whether this is a winning strategy or if it’s just a new gimmick that will fade out soon.
However, data do seem to indicate that, at the very least, people are interested in chatbots. But whether it leads to conversions across the board is an open question.
Overall, the answer may depend on your industry. According to data from collect.chat from 2017 to 2019, the industries that profited the most from chatbots were:
- Real estate
- Health care
Some of this may be because these industries typically involve appointments and reservations, which are great use cases for chatbots.
Chatbots are also more common in B2B contexts than B2C contexts. 58% of B2B companies use chatbots on their sites, but only 42% of B2C businesses do the same, according to Relay. If you’re a B2B company, you may want to use a chatbot just to ensure you’re keeping up with the competition.
Of course, a lot of this will also depend on how well you implement your chatbot or if you have any original ideas to bring to the table. If you have some creative thoughts on how you can make chatbots work for you, by all means, try it out even if you don’t fit the mold. This is still a very new field, and the rules are yet to be made.
Key Takeaways: Does Your Website Need a Chatbot?
Chatbots are increasing in popularity, and data indicate that they’re here to stay.
It stands to reason that conversational marketing and chatbots should help customers engage with your brand and ultimately increase conversions. However, there isn’t much data to support this yet, and most of the compelling data out there come from businesses that are trying to sell chatbot services. Hopefully, as this field continues to grow, more data will confirm or reject the utility of chatbots.
For now, the best thing you can do is evaluate how useful you think chatbots will be based on your typical customer profile. If you were in their shoes, do you think a chatbot would be helpful? It may not be the most scientific way of deciding, but it’s the best we’ve got at the moment.
If you’re still not sure, you can also consult an experienced web developer or marketing professional who can lend you their expertise and advice.