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Sure, chatbots offer great opportunities — if they provide value to your customers PHOTO: Pixabay

Chatbots have been the talk of the content marketing world recently, with many brands out there developing and testing their own.

The opportunities that chatbots offer are undeniable and chatbots can be implemented in various ways to suit a range of businesses and customer needs.

A Look at Chatbot Capabilities

A simply programmed FAQ chatbot, for example, is easy to configure using the QnA Maker from Microsoft or numerous other software development kits out there.

Messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype offer even more sophisticated opportunities to interact with your users in unique ways. Direct and consensual access to your customer through an app usually reserved for friends and family? Yes please!

But things get more complicated when it comes to chatbots using artificial intelligence, although the marketing possibilities that AI presents are correspondingly huge.

Differentiate Your Chatbot

Regardless of what chatbot capabilities your company decides to implement, how can you ensure your efforts get noticed? First and foremost, follow the most important rule of content marketing, namely ensuring that you’re providing true value to your customers.

Over and above that, consider the following three points to decide whether you should be implementing a bot and how you can differentiate your strategy to stand out from your competitors:

3 Factors to Consider When Implementing Your Bot

Integration

The popularity of chatbots has caused some to say that they're taking over apps. However, the real question is whether chatbots are good for every brand. 

Sure, they provide customers with seemingly personalized interactions, but if every brand has its own chatbot within a platform such as WhatsApp, does that really create a new experience for users when they look at their screens?

After all, different services that are only accessible from separate applications don’t scream ‘seamless user experience.’ If your chatbot doesn’t improve an existing experience or process, then it doesn’t qualify as a technological innovation, which is why integration becomes key.

Consider that users already have essentially any service they could ask for at their fingertips. What will make your service truly worthwhile, therefore, is providing your users with everything they need without forcing them to leave your chatbot conversation.

For instance, this might mean proactively asking a customer whether they'd like to order an Uber when they ask where your venue is or integrating with AccuWeather to tell your customer that it's raining if they've ordered a coffee to pick up at your café.

Remember that the instant your customers have to leave your screen, you increase the odds that they will abandon your transaction altogether, so think about which services someone might use in conjunction with yours.

Even better, if you can think of a service to integrate with your chatbot that your customers don’t even know they need, then you're onto a real winner.

Innovation

Many chatbots out there currently use apps to push their own content. For example, chatbots are increasingly delivering personalized news based on your interests directly to your inbox or Facebook feed.

This can be great, especially for businesses that produce large amounts of content, but chatbots must be leveraged in a way that furthers your entire marketing strategy, not just the digital portion.

How can chatbots help to achieve such offline conversions? A great example is a campaign from Absolut Vodka to celebrate a new beverage launch. The brand invented a chatbot named Sven who handed out tickets to a real-world event based on YouTube viewers’ creative engagement with the chatbot.

User privacy

A logical extension for future chatbots will be for marketers to use them as marketing automation vehicles for conversion funnel processes such as lead nurturing. The big problem that arises, however, is how marketers would access the customer conversation data needed to effectively implement this strategy.

That’s because most messaging apps use end-to-end encryption, and chatbot conversations constitute some of the most private areas of a user's online presence. Eventually, chatbots using deep learning should be able to adapt their own behavior to some extent, but meanwhile, ethical issues around applying AI to sensitive data remain.

Microsoft has emerged as a leader here with its work on CrypoNets, neural networks that apply machine learning to encrypted data so as to protect customer privacy.

Welcome a Chatbot to Your Marketing Team

In the near future, your chatbot just may become one of the most effective members of your marketing team, effortlessly automating processes while remaining cheerfully accessible to your users 24/7.

Whether your business is planning to start with repetitive processes such as answering FAQs and logging customer complaints, for example or you are seriously contemplating investing in an AI chatbot, integration, innovation and user privacy will be three main points to consider when undertaking this exciting marketing venture.