Today, consumers are bombarded with so much online advertising that it has become important for businesses to stand out. It can be challenging for a business, regardless of its size, to directly appeal to its customers. However, all is not lost. Your business may still be able to appeal to the social media and app messaging generation by combining artificial intelligence and machine learning – aka chatbot.


What are Chatbots?

Before we delve deeper into chatbots and why they may be the future of marketing, here is a brief explanation on chatbots. These bots are not malicious as we often associate a bot with malware. On the contrary, a chatbot is a computer program that is capable of carrying out a coherent conversation with people using artificial intelligence, language-based rules or lightweight messaging app user interface.

In other words, chatbots converse with your prospects when you are not around to answer their queries. They use voice or text to hold a conversation with your leads instead of using the moribund app or website interfaces. A chatbot uses natural language and simulates a real conversation, as though the user is holding a conversation with a human.

Many online marketing experts and guru believe that chatbots are the future of online marketing. They are also one factor of Local SEO. You can refer to my blog on 15 factors of Local SEO.


When Did Chatbots Come into Limelight?

Chatbots have been around from the 1960s! Yes, you read it right. Let’s go back a little more. Alan Turing published an article in 1950 which proposed using a test (what we now know as Turing test) as a condition for intelligence. This condition takes into account the ability of a computer program to write a conversation with a human in real-time so that the human is unable to figure out that they are conversing with a program and not a human.

This led to the creation of ELIZA by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966. It appears that ELIZA had the ability to convince users that they were holding a conversation with a real human. The way ELIZA operated has been copied by chatbot creators and designers since then.

ELIZA was programmed to recognize cue phrases and words and respond with pre-programmed responses based on those phrases and keywords. This helped to keep the conversation going in a meaningful manner, thereby creating an illusion that the person is holding a talk with another person.

It can be said that chatbots came into limelight with Facebook Messenger. However, these bots have been around on AIM and many of you may have had a conversation with a bot called Smarter Child! Today, chatbots are prevalent in Apple iOS (as Siri), Google Android (as Google Assistant), Microsoft Windows (as Cortana) and other online agents that facilitate purchases.

So, should your business be investing in a chatbot? That is the big question.


Chatbots Revolutionizing Online Marketing

Here are some of the ways chatbots are changing online marketing.


Engaging Customers and Prospects Beyond Clicks

Traditional online marketing used to believe that when a prospect clicks on an ad, it is engagement. However, the meaning of engagement has changed with introduction of chatbots. These bots are capable of holding active conversations. Take the example of Officer Judy Hopps bot by Disney which was used on Facebook Messenger to get people talking about the movie and the bot before it was released.

The Disney chatbot encouraged users to join the detective to hunt and experience Detective Hudy Hopps’ story in an interactive manner. The engagement with the bot went through the roof and users kept returning to resume the conversation and play different scenes.

This clearly demonstrates that ads or videos cannot build rapport with your business’ target audience. You need to initiate a conversation and engage users so that they feel good about getting personalized attention and also learn more about your brand.


Catering to Users’ Needs

It is important that you find out more about your users and target audience. The best way to do this is by having personal conversation with them. Chatbots can ask questions about people’s place of residence, their likes and dislikes and even their opinions to find out more about your target audience so that you can then tailor your other marketing endeavors based on the feedback and data analysis.

It is passé to use landing pages where a business is restricted on what to ask. Also, landing pages are so old-school now with chatbots that drive engagement and allow you to understand your audience better so that you can cater to their requirements and fulfill their expectations.


Personalize Your Interaction with Customers and Prospects

In continuation with the above point, chatbots allow you to personalize your conversation with your existing customers and leads. You can share tips with them based on their interest, as long as it is relevant to your business. Also, the information that you glean from users can be used in the future for more targeted and personalized marketing.

Online ads cannot offer this level of personalization even though they have become more targeted. As a brand, you need to appeal to your audience personally, and having personal conversations is the best way to go about this.


In Conclusion

Chatbots are here to stay, whether you like it or not. However, these bots are changing and transforming marketing, and will be the future of marketing. And, with Business Insider reporting that 80 per cent businesses want to use chatbots by 2020, you definitely don’t want your competition to overtake you!


About the Author:

Shishir is an ex-startup entrepreneur currently working on kickstarting inbound marketing for a Silicon Valley startup. Cracked the code of generating 750K monthly traffic in 10 months by using creative content.