5 ways chatbots can help drive sales

By Tim Deeson, author and CEO of chatbot/applied AI agency GreenShoot Labs.

Conversational interfaces are revolutionising sales by offering customers 24/7 product information - boosting customer acquisition, conversion and retention.

As stated in a recent report by Accenture, chatbots are here to stay. Surveying over 350 CIOs and CTOs across 12 different countries, they found that 56% say conversational bots are driving disruption in their industry. One of the most cited benefits of conversational interfaces is the ability to deliver personalised attention to customers, and potential customers, via a company’s website or social media profile.

Of course, your chatbot will need to offer the audience something of value to hook them in the first place - whether that value is in the form of entertainment or help with a problem. This is where conversational design needs to get inventive.

So how exactly can companies use chatbots to boost sales? Here are just five examples: 

Be a source of inspiration

Whole Foods’ Facebook Messenger bot helps users find inspiration for their next meal by suggesting recipes based on direct requests, filters, or even emojis. The bot then drives users from the platform (where the average user spends 50 minutes per day) to the Whole Foods website, or to their nearest store to purchase the necessary ingredients

Incentivise sales with compelling experiences

The explosion of the ‘experience economy’ has seen consumer spending on live events and happenings soar at the same time as money spent on products has fallen. The lesson for marketers: sell the experience, not the product.

Teens are a notoriously tricky audience to engage so when a leading cinema chain and soft drink company wanted to bring more teenage movie-goers into the cinema to hang out pre-movie, they knew they needed to provide a compelling experience. We helped them build a 'Marvel chatbot quiz' for Facebook Messenger, accessed by scanning a code in the cinema foyer. Success in the quiz won the teen participant a free drink, and boosted pre-film attendance

Increase conversions by assisting purchase decisions

The time and attention of modern consumers is a highly sought-after commodity. Every second they spend trawling through product options on your website increases the likelihood that something will pull them away before they’ve made a purchase. Conversational interfaces can dramatically shorten the time it takes for unsure customers to arrive at the right product.

That’s just what the H&M chatbot does: by asking users some simple questions about their style, it then presents a series of outfit options, along with the total price, for users to like or dislike, guiding them through as many iterations as it takes to arrive at their perfect combination before sending them to the checkout.

Improve customer retention with service bots

Offering timely customer support to a huge user base is a major challenge when you rely on human customer service agents alone. Conversational assistants can dramatically improve the speed of customer service, and thereby customer retention, by answering the questions of customers directly instead of making them navigate through FAQs, support forums and blog posts.

Dutch airline KLM use a mixture of virtual and human customer service agents to help passengers check information and get answers to crucial questions. The bot, available via Messenger and WeChat, handles first-line support, integrating with the company’s CRM system so that more complex enquiries can be picked up by staff.

Scale lead qualification with instant responses, 24/7

A perennial problem in the B2B sales pipeline is sorting the signal from the noise: disqualifying unsuitable leads takes up valuable time that could be spent reacting more quickly to higher-value enquiries. But what if you use a conversational interface to qualify leads for you?

That’s exactly what database and development platform MongoDB did, implementing a sales bot on their website to qualify initial sales enquiries and even schedule appointments with suitable sales representatives right in the chat window. The bot not only frees up sales staff to concentrate on selling rather than lead qualification, it can also respond to enquiries and schedule sales appointments around the clock. The results: a 70% increase in new leads and 170% more sales opportunities.

Conversational interfaces harness the power of messaging apps and AI to help boost sales and engagement at every stage of the traditional sales funnel - from generating awareness to assisting purchase decisions to after sales support and offers. And because they’re always available, via as many instances as necessary, they can free up your sales and marketing staff to concentrate on more valuable activities. 

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