Mobile messaging platforms are redefining customer experience, allowing us to interact with people in a space where they feel chatty and comfortable. This is exciting – but a word of caution; there is a fine line between valuable and bothersome when it comes to messaging your customers. Here’s how to walk the right side of it.

How many texts have you sent and received today? How many emoji? How many perfectly sarcastic memes have surfaced in the group chat?

According to Mark Zuckerberg, “messaging is one of few things that people do more than social networking.”

Relax, we’re friends
He’s not wrong. Most of us use messaging platforms daily to chat with friends and family members (many of whom we speak to more via apps than we do IRL). It’s this which makes them such a powerful marketing tool. Delivering valuable content in a relaxed, informal space sends your customers a very clear message (sorry not sorry). You’re saying, we’re friends.

Messaging your customers allows you to offer value in a friendly, non-pressured environment. Get it right, and often you’ll find that they will come to you – through Facebook Messenger for example.

Of course, most brands don’t have the resources to interact with each customer individually. Enter chatbots.

What do chatbots look like in 2018?
Advances in AI technology have seen bots come into their own over the past couple of years, offering brands unprecedented levels of scale and personalisation.

Chatbots streamline interactions with customers via text (e.g. Facebook Messenger), voice command (à la natural language processing platforms like Alexa) or hybrids like Siri. They communicate with the customer quickly and efficiently, solving queries, performing basic tasks and delivering ‘rich’ content replies.

In a world where customers are demanding ever more simple digital conversations, brands are looking to develop chatbots that bear less resemblance to the pushy “Hello, can I help you?” types found on company homepages, and more to the ‘digital assistants’ found on sites like Amazon and eBay.

A chatbot is a computer program that mimics human conversation, based on either rules or machine learning (AI). With the technology moving faster than imagined, it would seem that the more we ask of chatbots, the more they can deliver.

Who’s using them?
Everyone. At present it’s estimated that there are 60 million business conversations taking place on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp every day.

Skyscanner’s Facebook Messenger bot allows its customers to search for flights in a convenient and fun way – price-checking, searching times and dates, and offering tips on new and exciting destinations.

Playful utility
The fun doesn’t stop there. Chatbots can be used for any number of other things, from promoting boxfresh content to inviting people to your next big event.

It’s all about playful usefulness – bots that make the things you do every day easier, and even fun. There are bots out there that can order your favourite pizza, hail you a cab, keep you in the loop with news, and deliver delicious recipes.

Spotify uses what it has learned about you and your musical preferences to recommend playlists based on your mood. Amazon recommends that you restock on printer ink when the time draws near. Smashbox has created a bot that lets its customers try on new products.

Botever next?
The sky’s the limit for chatbots in 2018. With so many options available to brands looking to bring a chatbot to life, we’ll see more and more embracing trends like in-platform mechanisms, off-the-shelf bots that require no coding, and those all-singing, all-dancing bots with bespoke functionality.

The main problem with front-end chatbots? Well, they’re not human are they? For one thing, they can barely tell a decent joke (although if I’m honest with myself, neither can I). More importantly, they lack genuine empathy. Are customers ever going to buy that a bot is sorry that they are experiencing problems with their service? Are bots likely to able to competently solve problems without getting a human involved?

Probably. Our machine overlords can already beat us at chess, perform open heart surgery and write a semi-decent article.

In the meantime, you always have us. We’d love to help you positively affect your bottom line and add value for your customers. Whether you need help creating compelling content, promoting an offer in social media, or showcasing your services in a more efficient manner, drop us a line and let’s send your customers the right message.