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Marketing

How To Make Chatbots Your Secret Holiday Weapon

The technology for artificial intelligence is rapidly maturing — and, with it, the commercial uses for that AI are expanding.

Enter the chatbot.

Chatbots are swiftly emerging as the new way for consumers and brands to communicate — and the upcoming holiday season offers you a brilliant opportunity to use chatbots to transform your customer experience and improve your sales.

If you’re still unsure what chatbots are and how your brand can reap their benefits, keep reading. Big-name brands have been leading the trend, but smaller brands are also starting to embrace them — and customers are starting to expect them.

What Are Chatbots?

Chatbots are essentially computer programs that are designed to simulate human conversation through a messaging app. In the retail market and service industries, chatbots frequently assume the roles assigned to low-level customer support operatives.

Chatbots make use of natural language processing (NLP) technology to operate much the same way that voice assistants like Siri and Cortana do.

Some chatbots simply guide people along decision trees — similar to those you might find on automated customer service lines — while others offer a fairly authentic conversational experience!

Even though chatbots are still relatively new, 41% of companies had already implemented chatbots or were preparing to do so as of 2017. Naturally, the big names in tech and retail — Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and others — have pioneered their own chatbots early on.

However, chatbots aren’t just for the major players these days. Chatbots are predicted to be involved in 85% of business-consumer interactions as early as 2020.

Chatbots are increasingly becoming a preferred method for consumers to interact with their favorite brands when they’re looking for information — or just looking to be entertained.

Why Do Consumers Like Chatbots?

Unlike automated service lines — which many consumers regard with disdain — consumers seem to really enjoy chatbots. Partially, that’s because chatbots reach consumers where they’re already spending their time.

More than 45% of U.S. population uses messaging apps — and that number is rising.

Chatbots are also simply much faster and more efficient than their alternatives. Available 24-hours a day, seven days a week, chatbots give consumers clear, near-instant answers. When consumers have a simple question, they don’t have to dig through a pile of FAQs, wait through lengthy pre-recorded messages, or sit on hold with customer service to get an answer.

Convenience is always a big lure for consumers — and convenience is why 56% of consumers would rather message a store than call customer service. Chatbots draw on a vast array of knowledge and they put it all right at the consumer’s fingertips.

There’s no reason to go into a store or wait on customer service over the phone when you can get a mirror experience through an online conversation.

How Can A Chatbot Help Your Business This Holiday Season?

The right chatbots have the potential to drastically change the holiday shopping game for your consumers — and improve your holiday sales. Here are six of the best ways your small business can make use of chatbots this season:

1. Great Gift Recommendations

A lot of holiday marketing — and the resulting social strategy — is focused around gift-giving. More than a fifth of American consumers — 22% — say that they’re willing to use a chatbot to find inspiration for their purchases, and that number may increase the deeper it gets into the holiday season!

Your chatbot can easily use auto-replies to guide users down interactive pathways depending on the responses they choose to questions like, “Who is this gift for?” and “How much do you want to spend?” Improve the customer experience even further by adding images of the suggested gifts to the chatbot conversations and a call-to-action button that will drive consumers through your sales funnel.

2. Painless Wish Lists

You can also encourage your existing customers to create wishlists that they can send to their family and friends with a click of a button. Wishlists take the pain out of trying to find the perfect gift right out of the holidays for a lot of people. Parents, in particular, may appreciate wish lists from their kids — and their kids may have fun completing them!

Naturally, you don’t want to forget to include more images and call-to-action buttons in order to make it easy for whoever is on the other end of those wishlists. Convenience is always the key to chatbox success.

3. Handy Push Notifications

How would you like to get a 75% open rate in the first hour on every message you send out to your customers? Given that an open rate of 5%-10% is great for email marketing messages, 75% sounds incredible — but that’s exactly what you can get if you use chatbots through Facebook Messenger!

Chatbots give you a way to directly reach your consumers with strategic notifications and improve your local search marketing efforts. You can encourage conversions by offering lighting deals, limited-time sales, free-shipping specials, and similar holiday bargains.

You may even consider trying some of your limited-time offers into a consumer’s previous interactions with a chatbot. For example, if a consumer inquired about gift ideas but never followed through with a purchase, a 20% discount offer could be the personalized push he or she needs to convert.

4. Handy Shipping Information

Shipping is a huge concern during the holiday season — and your brand’s service in this area can make or break your business.

You can use a chatbot to make it easy on consumers to find out all the shipping information they need to know before they purchase, including estimated delivery times, expedited options, and the last possible day to purchase if they want delivery by Christmas.

Your chatbot can also provide customers who have made purchases with updated tracking information — and easy-to-find information on how to navigate the return process.

5. Easy Reservation Information

If your company is in the hotel or restaurant industry, chatbots can make it easy on your customers. Fully 33% of consumers say that they’re perfectly willing to make their dinner or lodging reservations via a chatbot, so why not oblige them?

If you’re a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations, you could use your chatbots to answer questions from consumers about how long the current wait time is for a table or what the daily specials are on the menu. Think about the things that your customers call to ask and make it possible for them to find the information without ever dialing a phone.

6. Post-Holiday Sales Jumps

Don’t forget to make use of your chatbots to get a jump on the post-holiday marketing! You can use push notifications all over again to previous users and customers to alert them to your post-holiday sales and bargains.

This is also a great opportunity to remind users who left behind something in a shopping cart about their unfinished purchases. You may find consumers who are ready and willing to spend their holiday cash on something you have to offer.

Final Thoughts

Chatbots are an excellent way to communicate with consumers whenever and wherever they happen to be thinking about a purchase. They can help your small business sell products and improve the customer experience before, during, and after a purchase.

In an increasingly competitive market, good customer experiences are what can differentiate one brand from another — so don’t let your company get left behind as chatbots become a marketing standard.

This story originally appeared in Social Media Today. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

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