Monday, May 9th, 2016 | 11 min read
“Bot” doesn’t have to be a dirty word. While many might think of email spam and dystopian sci-fi movies when they hear it, there are actually two kinds of bots: good bots (like marketing research tools) and bad bots (like hackers).
Thanks to messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Kik, and LINE, brands have more opportunities than ever to use good bots and reach customers at scale.
If brands take into account that messaging apps were used by over 1.4 billion people worldwide in 2015—with that number expected to hit 2 billion by 2018—then it is clear that bots will play a leading role in the future of e-commerce, customer service, and online chatting.
While businesses may not have the human power to respond to the mass influx of messages from customers, they can use bots to register requests, answer frequently-asked questions, and send automated replies. Bots have the profound potential to open doors for new content marketing opportunities, since they provide a way for brands to offer personalized experiences and deliver customized content to their audiences.
While there’s no need to freak out over some bad bot dystopian nightmare (yet), the good bot takeover is already here, and it’s great news for marketers.
To prove it, here are the top seven messaging app bots by brands and why they’re so awesome.
On Facebook Messenger, you can now go from chatting with your loved one about their upcoming birthday to ordering flowers for them all in the same app.
“You never have to call 1-800-FLOWERS again,” Mark Zuckerberg said at the 2016 F8 Developer Conference, where he announced that developers can build their own chat bots for Messenger. In fact, the rise of bots could eventually mean the end of 1-800 numbers altogether.
After all, who would want to wait on hold when they could just make their purchase with a few taps of their thumb? As Tess Townsend wrote for Inc:
“When I typed ‘hi’ to 1-800-Flowers.com, the bot immediately responded, ‘Tess, please enter the delivery address for these flowers. Include apartment # if needed.’ 1-800-Flowers’ bot means business.”
What it means for marketers: 1-800-FLOWERS is basically defying its own brand by giving customers an alternative to calling their 1-800 number. As such, if customers start to catch onto the efficiency of bots, they might grow intolerant of 1-800 numbers and come to expect such brands to let them make purchases through apps like Facebook Messenger. Customers might even grow intolerant of using brands’ websites. As opposed to many websites, messaging apps are always designed for mobile use and they include all communications with the brand in a single thread.
Over 2 million people use Slack every day, ditching their email inboxes in favor of communicating with their colleagues directly on the messaging platform. Now, thanks to a new bot, Slack users can also start ditching their news apps.
By installing NBC’s Breaking News app on Slack, users can follow more than 90,000 topics and receive personalized breaking news alerts. As Nieman Lab reports, this feature has been especially helpful for news organizations, “where staffers spend much of their day in Slack.”
Instead of flipping between their work email and relevant news sites, Slack users now have all of this information in one place.
What it means for marketers: It’s no longer enough to have a great destination (like a landing page or blog) where users can access your content. Brands will have to start bringing the content to their audiences. A good place to start is with these messaging apps, which are already being used by over 1 billion people.
Gone are the days when consumers have to go into a store to get personalized makeup tips and product recommendations. With Sephora’s new chatbot on Kik, users can ask for beauty advice and take a short quiz about their preferences in exchange for customized product suggestions and reviews. As Adweek reported, the brand chose Kik because of its predominantly young audience: Roughly 70% of Kik users aged 12-24, and 40% of all US teens use the messaging app.
Want to know which contouring technique is best for your face shape? Done. Need recommendations for new mascara? Coming right up.
As Forbes points out, if users want to purchase products, they can just click on the suggested item and be transported to Sephora’s mobile site, which opens directly in the app.
What it means for marketers: This year, over 53% of Internet users are expected to make purchases online. If retail brands want to offer customized experiences for their buyers, they can’t just wait for people to come into the store and seek help. They’ll have to look into building an online service that offers personalized tips and product recommendations.
Trying to finish your team meeting on Slack but can’t stop thinking about what you want to eat for lunch? Just order some Taco Bell directly on the platform! By chatting with the TacoBot, users can make a purchase, customize their order, check out, and receive order confirmations all without leaving Slack.
As Fast Company put it, “Now you can discuss this month’s sales figures and order a Quesalupa combo at the same time.” When you’re stuck at your desk come lunchtime, it doesn’t get much better than that.
What it means for marketers: Ordering food online is already incredibly easy, especially with delivery services like Seamless and Grubhub. Still, Taco Bell saw an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and make the process even simpler for customers. If anything, bots should show brands that is always room for growth and experimentation as new tools become available.
With Uber’s Facebook Messenger bot, you can tell your friend you’ll meet them in 15 minutes and order your ride in the same app. All you have to do is choose the Transportation tab on Messenger and tap the car icon to request a ride from Uber.
The app will then send updates on your driver’s status and even let your friends know you have a ride. So, no lying and saying you’re five minutes away when you’re still trying to make your way out the door!
What it means for marketers: As with the Taco Bell example, Uber found a way to make an already easy process even easier. Now, instead of having to open an entirely different app to order a ride, users can order one right in the app they’re using. It might make a difference of just a few seconds, but in that time, the user can get distracted, change their mind, open up other apps, or maybe even find that their smartphone loses battery and shuts off. So those few seconds can make a huge difference.
Mobile fashion marketplace Spring is less than two years old and already revolutionizing e-commerce. Spring Bot, a virtual concierge on Facebook Messenger, invites users to shop the retailer’s 800+ brands and receive personalized recommendations in the app.
All customers have to do is answer some multiple-choice questions about their preferences and price range, and the digital shopping assistant will provide relevant suggestions. Users can then click the product images and make their purchases right on the platform.
After a purchase is made, consumers can follow up with the Spring Bot to access receipts and shipping information and ask questions about their order.
What it means for marketers: On messaging apps, customer interaction shouldn’t end with a purchase. Brands should take the initiative to follow up with buyers, offering efficient ways for them to provide feedback and even change their orders if need be. If this bot takes off, it also could inspire some of Spring’s retailers (like Uniqlo and Marc Jacobs) to get in on the action and launch their own digital shopping assistants.
Picture this: It’s supposed to rain, but you’re not sure if you need an umbrella today, and you’re too busy getting ready to check different apps and find out.
That’s why The Weather Channel teamed up with Kik to provide a personal weather bot that sends current weather conditions and customized daily forecasts right to the messaging app.
With the weather bot, Customers can set a time to automatically receive the daily forecast each morning and even choose whether they want the three or seven-day forecasts sent to them.
What is means for marketers: The Weather Channel’s bot is a great example of how brands can offer customized options for users, even through an automated service. For instance, the company offers options of three or seven-day forecasts. Even a choice as simple as that can help customers enjoy a tailored experience.
If the beginning of 2016 is any indication, this year should be huge for bot-based marketing. Within just the past few months, Facebook Messenger, Kik, and LINE opened up their platforms to let developers build their own bots. Facebook is also creating a stir with M, its new virtual assistant, which is set to take on Apple’s Siri and show brands how customers can have productive conversations with… well, machines.
As competition in the space heats up, marketers will need to keep their eyes on branded bots. Whether you sell flowers, tacos, or weather updates, these virtual assistants could have an impact on your industry. After all, they’re already transforming the way consumers are gathering information, making purchases, and interacting with some of the biggest brands online.