Conversational Marketing: The Art of Using Chatbots for Customer Engagement

Two things drive branding: brand awareness and the customer experience (CX). However, the journey from awareness to conversion and brand loyalty is rarely linear.

Shopping, whether in person or online, sometimes involves s sometimes the circular pattern of research, consideration, reading reviews, and visiting a website before a customer finally decides to purchase or pass.

Fear not!

There are ways to streamline the customer journey that involve little time or investment.

How Customers Discover Brands

Most consumers learn about a business either through social proof, that is, hearing about a company from someone else, or through marketing and customer engagement.

They see a post on social media, find a company through search, link to your website via an email or landing page, and investigate your business by searching for social proof.

What are they searching for?

Customers want to work with companies that understand their pain points and offer solutions. Whether B2B or B2C marketing, customers either want something unique or a brand that helps them do something better.

They also want a more personalized, granular service that’s tailored to them.

But, how does a company serve a global market and still provide personal service when more than 2.14 billion people per year do the bulk of their shopping online without ever talking to an actual person?

A large part of branding is telling your brand story. In a perfect world, you’d have the time and ability to personally engage customers and connect with them on an emotional level.

But, the nature of eCommerce doesn’t work that way. There are only 24 hours a day, and even the most dedicated customer service team has to sleep.

There are also differences in time zones. Can you have someone there to answer phones or emails when there’s a customer service emergency on a holiday or in the middle of the night?

When you’re unable to engage your audience personally, one-on-one, technology is able to step in and oversee the conversational marketing on your behalf.

What is Conversational Marketing?

Simply put, conversational marketing is a dialogue-driven form of customer engagement that provides answers and support in real-time. It’s become the go-to form of customer interaction in the digital age.

By initiating a dialogue with leads, you’re better able to steer them through their journey faster. Questions get answered, objections countered, and the journey from consideration to conversion is shorter and more efficient.

This provides an overall more satisfying, value-packed customer experience that’s more likely to drive conversions and improve customer retention rates.

But, a growing business in the 21st century needs all of the help it can get.

Although conducting customer service via technology became a necessity in the age of social distancing, AI-powered customer service applications were already the emerging trend well before 2020.

The Importance of Customer Experience

What factors go into ranking your website? Is it the way it’s designed? The products you sell? Or is it a good customer experience?

In an environment where competition is fierce and more businesses need to find innovative ways to carve out their market share, a personalized experience is more important and harder to achieve.

Customer experience describes how a customer interacts with a brand as well as how that brand is perceived.

According to the ever-evolving Google analytics, customer experience is the most important factor for evaluating the quality of your content.

It’s also a critical factor in how your audience evaluates the quality of your brand.

You can produce a so-so product and still support high levels of brand loyalty. But, even the most superior product will sit on virtual shelves if the customer experience is bad.

People will tell a few friends about a great experience or product. A terrible customer experience will be announced to the world on social media, review platforms, and industry forums across the globe.

Need some statistics to back that up?

Consider these numbers:

  • 95 percent of customers will tell someone about a bad experience with a brand
  • 86 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a better buying experience
  • 57 percent of existing customers will switch brands if they can find a better experience elsewhere
  • Customer churn accounts for about $10,000 in lost revenue for every $100,000 spent

How do you level the playing field if you’re an SMB with a smaller budget, high competition, and more to lose?

One of the fastest-growing trends in customer service is the chatbot.

How exactly do chatbots work, and how can you leverage this sometimes overlooked but always a present bit of technology and use it to your advantage?

How Chatbots Improve the Customer Experience

Chatbots seem ever-present in the business world. From the automated internal messages distributed to your team to the dialogue box that pops up on almost every website, bots are all around us.

Rather than unnerving you, that thought should inspire you to consider the ways that you can use technology to increase awareness, initiate customer engagement, and add value to your brand.

According to Dr. Nicola MIllard, head of BT’s global services team, automation can:

“… effectively steer the customer through the “known knowns”, without the customer having to plough through lists of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) or lengthy IVR menus. This works when things are simple, but complexity, emotion, and complaints can throw a spanner in the conversational works.”

Targeted, intuitive automation, such as a chatbot, resolves these issues and streamlines customer interaction.

You’ll also improve the efficiency of customer care and save time.

For example, the answers provided during the chat can help drill down the nature of the interaction, steer the querent toward correct information or move the conversation on to a live associate.

As part of your conversation marketing strategy, chatbots allow you to increase your reach beyond time zones or borders and provide personalized assistance in real-time.

In addition to providing more efficient, targeted interaction, this type of marketing supports consistent quality, instills trust, and increases brand loyalty.

Customers come to count on your brand. They know that you care about their experience, and you’ll be there to offer help or support 24/7/365.

Use Cases: When to Integrate a Chatbot Into the Customer Journey

Chatbots don’t just interact with customers on a conversational level at the point of consideration. They also gather valuable data that helps shape the customer journey and informs your marketing strategy.

The information can be used by your sales team to refine and segment leads, upsell or cross-sell products, and initiate offers or flash deals that can transform consideration into conversion and support customer retention.

You can even reduce bounce rates, another factor in search engine page ranks (SERPs).

But, when and where are they most effective?

You can improve the customer experience with the strategic use of chatbots in:

  • Social media messaging
  • Shopping cart management
  • Website FAQs
  • Home page greetings
  • Lead generation
  • Help desk ticketing and support
  • Product information dialogue boxes

Now that you know where you can use a chatbot and why the question becomes:

“How do I incorporate chatbots into my marketing and turn cold. impersonal technology into a more personalized customer experience?”

Read on to learn the important components of a conversational marketing strategy that you can take and incorporate into your customer service model.

5 Solid Ways to Implement Chatbots for a More Personalized CX

There are potentially dozens of touchpoints on the buyer’s journey where a chatbot can be used to provide information or steer the interaction to a mutually beneficial conclusion.

You can insert intuitive chatbots at strategic points or place one at each avenue for interaction.

The following tips and best practices will increase their effectiveness and support a great ROI wherever and how many chatbots you deploy.

1. Convert Your FAQ Into an Interactive Experience

The common vernacular online is TL;DR. Rather than having the customer sift through a long, text-dense FAQ, you can turn that value-added information platform into an efficient way to manage common queries.

Don’t have an existing FAQ section?

Use information gathered during customer surveys, search engine or keyword research, and through analytics to construct the most common questions prospects have about your brand. You can even use a chatbot to conduct the survey and parse the data for you.

2. Map the Chatbot Dialogue

Much like people, automation needs to be taught social interaction. The whole point of the chatbot is to cut through the clutter and indecisiveness to steer the narrative while still being friendly and conversational.

How those conversation proceeds depend upon the purpose and placement of the bot.

Using flowcharts, you can better visualize how chatbot conversation should flow.

It might look something like this:

In general, the interaction should always begin with an introduction and greeting. This should always be followed by asking the customer how they can be helped. Are they looking for information, having difficulty, or ready to buy?

The trajectory of the conversation will then be triggered by how the customer responds. Because AI is intuitive, each succeeding interaction will become more granular and refined.

3. Deploy Chatbots to Refine Leads

Say what you want about Facebook. They’ve got automated marketing down to a science.

Using their model, chatbots can be used on your website or in direct messaging apps to initiate engagement and refine leads.

Automated lead generation qualifies and segments your audience by type or where they are in their journey by asking relevant questions that are designed to determine interest. This can help potential customers make informed decisions faster and come away with a sense that your company cares about customer satisfaction.

4. Capture Cold Leads and Convert Then Faster

Not all segments of your audience arrive at your website in the consideration stage. Some – I would say most – aren’t sure what they want.

When they do have a specific pain point, they need to be convinced that you’re the brand that will provide relief.

Lead conversion begins when you capture their attention and transition a general query into consideration. The information you gather during the capture phase can be used to construct a bot dialogue designed to nurture leads and nudge them further along their way to purchase.

This information can also be used to further refine leads by audience segment, which can then be directed to the proper channel to address them at that specific point in their journey.

For example, one chatbot can answer further questions or direct the buyer to a live associate for an immediate close.

Once you’ve steered the lead on to decision making, the chatbot can help the lead navigate your website to find the right product or service.

H&M uses this method to help shoppers build a wardrobe or purchase accessories based on information gathered as customers browse their websites.

5. Deploy Chatbots for Aftersales Customer Care

The customer journey doesn’t end when the transaction is concluded. Chatbots can upsell a customer, increasing both value and the dollar amount per sale. It can also help customers get updates or track shipping after the sale is completed.

This goes beyond simply deploying GPS-powered tracking information or providing an order number and sending them to the shipping company’s website.

Your chatbot can be programmed to answer direct queries about order status, delivery times, or current location. The customer can also use the chatbot to direct the shipment to a specific location, set a date for shipping, or engage a shipping company.

Final Thoughts

Customer engagement is one of the best ways to attract new business and keep the customers you have. One of the most effective ways to support engagement and increase conversions is also among the easiest and most passive:

Let the technology do the work for you.

Chatbots will take your customer service game to the next level with insightful, data-driven planning and strategic placement.

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