By 2021, 47 percent of organizations are expected to implement chatbots for customer support services.

Welcome back to our ongoing series on 2021 digital marketing trends. This week we’re talking about conversational marketing, chatbots and AI. If you’ve ever wished you could have customer service available 24/7 or had the manpower to respond to social inquiries at all hours, this is the trend for you. New advances in AI are set to transform the way businesses interact with new and potential customers in the coming years.

What is Conversational Marketing?

As any business owner with a website or social media presence knows, today’s consumers demand round-the-clock service. Conversational marketing uses the power of AI to allow you to have real-time conversations with your customers—at any time of day or night. These conversations can be deployed on your website, on social channels like Facebook or even via text message.

The Growth of Conversational Marketing and Chatbots

Experts are predicting that AI will be one of the main areas businesses invest in in the coming decade. By 2021, 47 percent of organizations are expected to implement chatbots for customer support services. The reasons for this are twofold. Simply put, automating basic customer service interactions can help save money. Juniper Research predicts that by 2022, chatbots will help businesses save over $8 million every year.

But it’s not just about cost savings. Conversational marketing can help drive leads, meet customer needs and provide a higher, more on-demand level of service. And if you think customers are uncomfortable interacting with a bot, think again. In study after study, consumers, particularly Millennials and Zoomers, have indicated that they are happy to make a purchase and have basic customer service questions answered via bot.

“By 2024, Insider Intelligence predicts that consumer retail spend via chatbots worldwide will reach $142 billion—up from just $2.8 billion in 2019,” according to Business Insider.

“Nearly 40 percent of internet users worldwide prefer interacting with chatbots than virtual agents, and with major industries including retail and healthcare turning to digital technology, chatbots will likely increase in popularity moving forward,” according to Business Insider.

Conversational Marketing Use Cases

Sounds great, right? Cost savings and improved customer service. So how do you put it into practice? Here are a few of our favorite use cases for conversational marketing and chatbots.

Simplify Orders and Reorders

Dominos is chatbot trailblazer. They introduced Dom, their resident chatbot, all the way back in 2014. Today, pizza lovers can easily order or reorder using chatbots on Facebook messenger, Twitter, SMS text message, Alexa, Google Assistant and the Dominos website. By text message, all you need to do is text the pizza emoji to the bot in order to reorder your last pizza. Talk about a frictionless ordering process!

Sign Up for a New Service

Chatbots aren’t just for existing customers. Insurance startup Lemonade uses its chatbot, Maya, to sign new customers up for their insurance and answer common customer service questions. Where traditional insurance companies use tons of tedious forms and paperwork, the Lemonade chatbot handles everything in a simple, conversational exchange. And if the chatbot gets stumped by a user’s questions, they make the hand-off to a real customer service rep seamless.

Get More Customers In Your Lead Pipeline

Databox is a software that allows marketers, sales teams and others to easily create data-driven dashboards that bring their metrics to life. They use a customer service chatbot directly on their homepage to answer questions and turn website visitors into leads.

Respond on Social Media

Hair color company Madison Reed developed a chatbot that can help you find the perfect color and place an order—all directly through Facebook messenger. The bot can also help customers with returns, questions and customer service needs.

How to Get Started 

  1. Pick a Few Use Cases
    Whether it’s customer service, lead generation, or simplifying the order process, pick a couple of situations in which you believe a chatbot could help your business. Then map out what a common interaction looks like between a real customer service agent and a customer. Start with a simple and common interaction as your first foray into chatbots, then build from there. Make sure you include a goal, such as new leads, or reduction in customer service calls, with each use case, so you have something to measure success against.
  2. Choose Your Channels
    Where do your customers commonly interact? Does your website get heavy traffic? Are you always trying to keep up with Facebook messages? Maybe SMS text messages are the best way for you to engage customers. Keep your use cases in mind and identify one or two platforms you want to try out first.
  3. Find a Partner
    There are hundreds of chatbot platforms available. Map out your budget and your needs, and then start doing research and asking for demos. Hubspot has put together a quick list of highly rated Chatbot platforms in 2021.

    Creating a knowledge base with a set of commonly asked questions in a platform like Freshdesk or Zendesk can be a good first step toward eventually automating customer questions.

Have you considered implementing chatbots and conversational marketing in your business? We’d love to hear about it how it went on our social channels. And tune in next week for our fifth and final 2021 marketing trend: The Digital Acceleration Continues.