While there’s been significant interest around chatbots, most bots have significantly under-delivered to date. Industry insiders attribute this to the fact that it’s still a nascent space and refer us to the early days of apps.
Bots are already able to do extraordinary things. If implemented correctly, they hold the potential to drive significant value for brands and consumers alike. While the age-old adage is “content is king,” brands that are able to outline a smart content strategy will be the ones that launch great bots and add value to their customers’ lives. In the bot space, “strategy is king.”
Before brands launch their own bot experience, they should first answer a key question to determine what should drive their overarching strategy: Who are you trying to reach with your bot?
One way to think through this is with the customer purchase funnel. Is the goal conquesting? Are you trying to grow your customer base? Are you thinking about driving engagement and shares from your advocates? Are you looking to drive purchase or some other type of down-funnel action, or maybe trying to help existing customers through ongoing relationships? Each of these goals require different strategies, different layers of complexity, and different levels of long-term investment.
By seeing things through the eyes of the end user, brands can be thoughtful in their approach, delivery, and re-engagement. A branded bot strategy all comes down to who.
Here are a few branded bots that really got their strategy right (along with what they did to do that in parentheses).
1. Macallan (raised awareness)
Macallan launched a chatbot as a way to educate customers. “Macallan has a rich story about how to make its whisky, and people are genuinely interested,” says Samantha Leotta, senior brand manager, digital marketing at Macallan. Macallan wanted to create an evergreen experience targeted to millennials, especially those new to whisky. To do that, Macallan launched a conversational experience that helps new customers find the right scotch through a personalized, guided quiz (i.e., Do you prefer sweet or spicy?). The bot also provided more content for sophisticated Scotch drinkers, like how to create the perfect pairings.
Macallan can now directly reach out to customers who have interacted with the bot. This becomes tremendously valuable when you think about how the brand runs tasting events throughout the country that are attended by millennials — and almost 50 percent women.
2. Trolli (engagement)
Trolli launched a chat experience for the sole purpose of engagement. “Our audience and fans are deeply into messaging apps, so if you can have a conversation with brand, that kind of engagement is so much more valuable than just an impression,” says Rob Peichel, VP and group creative director at Trolli’s agency, Periscope. The Trolli customer was able to have fun in the place where they spend most of their time: messenger apps. The bot asks its users to take care of a virtual crawler — similar to the popular Tamagotchi toys from the ’90s. The bot will push notifications when it’s time for them to feed or pet their digital creature, and also sends funny videos, GIFs, quotes, etc., “for a daily blast of weirdness.” You can imagine how Trolli could activate this channel again in the future as a way to promote new products, do large pushes before Halloween, and more.
3. Absolut (call to action)
Absolut launched a bot to let people experience Absolut vodka firsthand. The goal of Absolut is to drive footfall and brand loyalty. The bot provided a personalized coupon, driving people to try a new bar in their hometown — and get a free drink while there! Absolut can now reach out to these customers to let them know about new product launches, events happening in their city, or special promotions to buy Absolut online (through chat) in the future.
4. Burberry (call to action)
Burberry launched a bot to showcase their newest runway items from London Fashion Week. Fashion aficionados could watch the show live and learn more about the collection. Most interesting from a content perspective is the “maze.” Within the chat, the bot gave people a choice, through guided reply interactions, to navigate a bot maze and find images of the new fashion collection along the way. Finally, customers can shop the look, and there are plenty of opportunities to buy.
Burberry has always been a digital thought-leader among luxury brands. Their strategy is one that consistently engages its users creatively, keeps Burberry top-of-mind as seasons change, and provides unique ways for their customers to shop.
5. Marriott (customer relationship)
Marriott launched a bot in conjunction with its merger with Starwood Hotel Group. For Marriott, its corporate goal was to create a seamless experience for loyal Starwood customers to merge their account with Marriott Rewards. When Starwood consumers engaged with the bot and answered a simple question, the bot was able to personalize the experience for each user, informing them of the benefits of joining Marriott and ultimately giving them a way to link accounts.
This first experience is tremendously valuable not just for having people merge their accounts, but for future interactions. Marriott now has the ability to offer personalized recommendations through 1-to-1 chat, and the brand hopes to introduce daily personalized travel tips through Facebook Messenger, as well as hotel booking and personalized customer support.
Essentially, widespread adoption of chatbots is a possibility if brands are strategic in choosing when and how to implement them. While robots aren’t going to replace humans, they do stand to augment customer experience and provide otherwise unachievable levels of instant, personalized service and fun, educational experiences.