Thinking About Chatbots For Marketing? Consider This

Erin Hintz is CMO at Urban Airship, overseeing the company’s marketing strategy and driving growth globally.


As early as 2015, brands were experimenting with chatbots on Facebook Messenger to communicate with consumers. Today, brands from Estée Lauder to AmEx are investing in chatbots to help customers make purchases – or choose a shade of makeup that is just right. On the horizon, brands will experiment with group chatbots, a new Facebook Messenger functionality. Imagine being able to chat with friends, decide on a film or restaurant, and buy tickets or make reservations directly in the chatbot environment.

Chatbots – the digital boxes that allow consumers to converse one-on-one with a human representative or an AI-enabled bot – are a great way for brands and businesses to engage in natural conversations with consumers.

We’re still in the early days of chatbots, and the entirely non-human ones can still get hung up, not understanding a question or not having the right answer ready to go. But despite these challenges, there are many reasons why brands are exploring this new technology:

  • Maintain Utility And Customer Service: A chatbot is a convenient channel for customers to get answers to frequently-asked questions, sign up for interest-based media subscriptions and gain insights on product details from a human chat assistant. 
  • Engage In Deeper Conversations With Consumers: People demand individualized, and sometimes immediate, attention from businesses. While they may not pick up the phone to do so, many consumers will ask questions when researching products or services online if given the opportunity through live chat, and now chatbots. Conversations can lead to purchases, sign-ups and appointments, as well as a personal connection to your business.
  • Obtain Consumer Insights: Knowing what types of questions people are asking the most, what responses are prompting more interactions, or even simply what time of day and how often consumers are chatting with your brand can provide otherwise tough-to-retrieve insights. In addition to Facebook’s own bot analytics in its Messenger platform, analytics startups like Dashbot and botmetrics offer tools for measuring user interactions with bots built on Kik, Slack and other platforms.

So, who’s got a bot? All sorts of brands are building bots, including CoverGirl, TD Ameritrade, The Washington Post, Kia and the NBA, just to name a few. In fact, according to Forrester’s H2 2016 Global Mobile Executive Online Survey, 49% of marketers and digital business executives surveyed said they are currently using, testing or planning to use bots. For a view of bot adoption to other mobile marketing tactics, download Forrester Research’s April 2017 report, “The State of Mobile Marketer Tactics” (registration required