Social media monitoring service amaSocial says that chatbots are computer programmes designed to simulate conversation with human users. Their focus on conversations has seen them grow in popularity over the past few years, especially on social media.

According to Gary Nealon in a post for Forbes, there are over 300 000 chatbots active on Facebook Messenger, and by 2020, 85% of all consumer engagement will be done without interacting with another human being.

Chatbots can help brands achieve various marketing goals. Some bots merely create awareness of your brand, while others can help to make your brand’s social media page a go-to destination for assistance or advice.

Bot technology on messaging platforms is now going as far as promoting products to consumers and directing them to e-commerce websites. Some brands even allow customers to order and pay for products — all in a simple conversation with a chatbot!

So what types of chatbots are out there?

1. The entertaining chatbot

One of the ways in which brands can use chatbots is as ‘entertainers’. Entertainment and media companies have, for instance, started to use these bots to promote new films to social media users.

In 2016, entertainment company Lionsgate launched a chatbot game on Messenger and Kik to promote the movie Now You See Me 2. Its creators call it “a magically intriguing interactive story game”.

The marketing-focussed publication a.listdaily reviewed the chatbot game, explaining that it helps to immerse fans in the film’s story. The publication notes that the “bot gaming experience” lets users solve puzzles and interact with characters from the Now You See Me universe.

Disney also used a chatbot on Messenger to promote its film Zootopia and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment brought to life the Doc Brown character from its Back To The Future Trilogy on Messenger.

These bots invite social media users to feel part of the story, which helps to create interest in films and, ideally, sell more movie tickets.

2. The customer service chatbot

This type of bot answer customers’ service-related questions and, because they are always active, customers can receive answers immediately — no matter the time of day.

In 2017, Vodafone Italy launched a customer service chatbot, which is available through Messenger or the company’s private chat option.

The bot can answer basic questions and puts customers in touch with a human operator when they need one. A report by a research and publishing company, Fast Mode, also explains that almost 90% of Vodafone Italy’s monthly total interactions happen digitally. 

This makes the chatbot an efficient solution that helps customers when they need it – without the hassle of waiting for a response.

3. The assistant chatbot

These chatbots build on the abilities of customer service bots to provide their users with valuable information. For example, assistant chatbots can make recommendations based on consumer preferences. While these bots are connected to brands, they don’t exist solely to sell the brand’s products.

British Airways’ emoji-bot can recommend a holiday destination to suit people’s personality and mood. Even though the company created it to generate interest in its ‘Unforgettable Sale’, people could also simply use it for holiday advice or to find inspiration for their next holiday destination.

Assistant chatbots are a marketing tool that can help brands play a larger role in consumers’ lives, without coming across as a ‘hard sell’ technique.

4. The branded chatbot

Branded bots are like ‘modern concierges’, helping consumers find new products that suit their preferences. They’re different from assistant chatbots in that they steer consumers more directly to a brand’s products.

Tommy Hilfiger’s Messenger chatbot, TMY.GRL, helps consumers find a Tommy Hilfiger outfit to suit their personal fashion style. When users choose the option ‘Find Your New Look’ on the chat, the bot asks a series of questions about your style. It then displays three Tommy Hilfiger outfits that match your preferences.

Consumers in selected countries can add the items they want to buy to a virtual shopping cart while they are still in the chat. When they are ready to pay, the bot provides a link to the checkout page on the company’s website.

Rachel Arthur wrote in an article for Forbes that a bot is a playful tool that “could prove relevant for the brand and its aim to target the younger, millennial audience”.

5. The e-commerce chatbot

With the use of bots, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and Instagram’s DMs are proving to be ideal platforms for e-commerce. Based on this, Domino’s Pizza in the US launched ‘Messenger Ordering’ in September 2016, bringing together bot technology and e-commerce in a chat app.

The chatbot allows customers to order food through Messenger. It’s a step up from branded bots like TMY.GRL, as users don’t have to leave the chat to pay for their order. Customers do, however, have to create a profile on the company’s website and enter their credit card details before using the bot.

After setting up a profile, it’s as simple as starting a chat with the bot and requesting either a pre-set order or the most recent order the customer made. Custom orders are also possible.

As one of the more advanced applications of bot technology on social media platforms, the Domino’s Pizza example shows how the use of bot technology for e-commerce is growing.

The evolution of these different types of bots is good news for marketers. With chatbots, businesses can come close to having a presence in the everyday lives of prospective and current customers — no matter the time of day. Bot technology also allows these brands to reach consumers in the language that comes naturally to them.

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