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Introduction To Chatbots For eCommerce


Bryan Jiang

What exactly is a “chatbot?” Why should I care? How do I leverage one for my eCommerce business?

These are questions that I get a lot of nowadays. Especially since chatbots and conversational marketing is on the rise.

First, let’s define what these key terminologies mean from a practical point of view, because there are lots of ways we can define these words:

Chatbot — an automated chat assistant that exists to provide value with prospects and customers, and is not intended to replace an actual human input

Conversational marketing — using two-way conversations to nurture a prospect or customer to a sale, typically on a messenger app platform such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or SMS text messages. Also a synonym for chat marketing

The above definitions are how I define the terms, and are pretty commonly known between my peers and I. Now, the key words to keep in mind are value and nurture. These are two words/concepts that a lot of marketers fail to understand or implement, regardless of the type of marketing.

Typically when people hear the word “chatbot,” they snark at the concept because they recall times when they interacted with a poorly designed one. They see these little widgets at the bottom-right-hand-corner of a website, and think that these “bots” are only capable of basic functions. I’m here to tell you this is far from the actual truth.

A chatbot starts out as an automated chat assistant, yes. Below is a screenshot of a little blue chat widget, and what happens when you click on it:

As you can see, at the top, it tells you who you are chatting with. In this case, it is my own Facebook page. You can type your message at the bottom of the box to start a conversation with me, or depending on the words and phrases you send me, my chat assistant will respond back with certain messages.

However, a chatbot can be amplified into so much more.

What you see in the image above is a mind map of a lead qualification flow. (It is grainy on purpose, since it has information I would like to keep private.)

A flow is essentially a sequence of events that occur and takes the user on a journey based on what you create.

Think of it this way. With a chatbot, you can learn more about your customers so you can provide them with more relevant marketing messages. If a customer (let’s call him Bob) is a Male, buys a Blue shirt, in a size Large, for the price of $49.99, lives in Vancouver, and tells you he is looking for jeans to match his shirt, you can save all this information within your chatbot ecosystem. Then, you send Bob information about jeans that matches the shirt he bought, or different outfit ideas, or different accessories to complement the shirt, etc. Now THAT is powerful stuff.

As you can see, a chatbot can be extremely versatile when set up the right way. However, we are really only scratching the surface, because there is something else I’d like to emphasize to REALLY blow your socks off.

There are 3 main reasons to execute omnichannel communication (let’s call this “going omnichannel” from now on):

#1: Staying top of mind with omnichannel marketing

#2: Allowing your target audience to communicate with you on their terms

#3: “Owning” your audience and not being restricted by Messenger’s rules

(Image courtesy of ManyChat, the best platform for conversational marketing)

In the above image, it illustrates the most significant reason to pay attention to chatbots: it opens the doors to omnichannel capability. Let’s quickly define what “omnichannel” means:

Omnichannel — using numerous channels to communicate with your audience so that they can communicate with your brand on their terms

The key phrase is on their terms. If you only offer one or two channels — such as email marketing and Instagram Direct Messages like most eCommerce brands — you’re providing communication on your terms, not theirs. The ability to provide customer support and marketing on multiple channels allows your brand to stay top of mind. Wherever your audience “hangs out” online, you’re there, whether that is Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, email, or your website.

Now, this is why I am so excited for the potential of chatbots.

Another reason to go omnichannel with your conversational marketing is that because Messenger is owned by Facebook, there will be an ever-changing set of rules you have to abide by. No matter what platform you use, you do have to make sure you are not crossing any legal or ethical lines obviously. But, the main reason why you shouldn’t rely on just Messenger, is because there is a rule that you are not allowed to continuously send messages to your users beyond 24 hours after they have engaged with your bot. Facebook created this rule to prevent people spamming their subscribers and to keep the platform clean. There are legitimate ways around this and Facebook does allow 1 extra message to be sent after 24 hours if users give you permission, but I’ll save that for a future article.

A properly integrated chatbot that can do omnichannel marketing has this amazing ability to make your store more sales, while reducing your costs. Let me explain.

Let’s assume that the majority of your chatbot ecosystem begins on Facebook Messenger. Users begin using your chatbot and interacting with your brand. This can range from seeing what products you have for sale, learning more about your brand and products, getting their frequently asked questions answered, conducting an interactive quiz to find out what “watch type” (or whatever product you happen to sell) they are, or numerous other things. These same users will also be subscribed to your SMS list, email list, or hopefully both. The more points of contacts you have, the better, since you are able to send hyper-targeted messages on the platform(s) that your users are most likely to buy from.

Next, think of different scenarios when you would want to re-engage with your subscribers. This could be something like when you have new products to introduce, or when you want to announce a flash sale, or even special events and giveaways that you periodically run. Regardless of the reason, you now have a minimum of 3 channels of communicating to this your subscribers, right to their inbox. Because conversational marketing is much more interactive and engaging, expect to see much higher open and click-through rates than you are used to with social media or just email as a channel. Plus, your customer service department won’t be bombarded with as many common questions because you will have all of this automated!

There are many more things I can discuss about chatbots and conversational marketing, especially when it comes to the application for eCommerce. I don’t want to overwhelm you with this just yet, so I’ll wait for future articles to talk about those.

Please let me know what you thought of this article; it’s my first one, and I’d love to hear your feedback! In the mean time, stay tuned for more articles coming your way.

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