Are Chatbots the Next Big Thing Your Business Should Get Behind?

Maybe you’ve heard the news: chatbots are becoming ultra-popular among e-commerce businesses. The dawning of the chatbot era may very well be upon us. More and more companies have begun developing chatbots of their own, customizing their behavior to increase sales, solve customer support challenges, and try to get closer to the customer.

This is happening not just among e-commerce companies, but across almost all other verticals. From health insurance companies to automotive manufacturers, chatbots appear to be invading the digital landscape. But are they here to stay? And, if they are, should your business get going on having your chatbot developed? We probably wouldn’t be asking these kinds of questions if chatbots hadn’t already proven themselves to be effective tools for so many; they’re here to stay.

A.I., Purposefully Repurposed

Since the term ‘chatbot’ was coined in 1994, this unique method of interfacing with customers has spawned a thriving cottage industry complete with niche companies dedicated to the strategic use of AI-assisted conversational programs that mimic the function of a human being. Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana represent two fantastic examples of high-quality chatbot-based customer interaction systems that have enjoyed broad adoption among their target user base. What has made them such exemplary successes has to do with their usefulness for the customer combined with their integration with so many different platforms and applications for use.

  • “Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?”
  • “Cortana, find me a good recipe for banana bread.”
  • “Ok, Google – what was the top pop song in the summer of 1997?”

With the advent of fancy AI programs, conversations between humans and computers are taking off with unprecedented velocity. Digital marketers are falling all over themselves trying to get in on the action, too, because chatbots and AI-assisted customer portals are easy to sell. They’re still fairly new within the overall timeline of the internet, so they’re still drawing quite a bit of attention from companies who want to gain an edge with their online presence.

Charting New Territory

Should you consider developing a chatbot for your business? Is it worth the investment? Building chatbots for a specific purpose can be a complex and time-intensive effort, or it can be remarkably simple, depending on what you’re after. The most common kinds of chatbots used today are inbound message handlers, set up with four goals in mind:

  • Connect. Good chatbots facilitate a connection between a business and its customers.
  • Understand. The chatbot must be able to obtain user input from the user effectively.
  • Refine. Based on preset conversation paths, the chatbot should be able to refine its communication based on continued user input.
  • Deliver. Chatbots need to be able to provide real utility to the user through the delivery of information or the completion of a task, like booking a reservation or scheduling an in-person meeting.

There are chatbot builders that can be used to develop chatbots on the cheap, but their functionality is limited, and you might be less than impressed with the final product. If you do decide to invest in a chatbot for your business, know that you’re not alone – chatbot development and adoption has increased more than five times from January 2017 to January 2018. It’s time to get on board with chatbots or be left behind.

We are living in exciting times, and Altitude Agency is committed to staying abreast of the latest and greatest developments and leading-edge ideas in digital marketing. To begin crafting your online branding strategy, contact us today.

What is Influencer Marketing and Is It Worth Doing?

In 1998, when the manufacturer of a breakfast cereal needed a way to appeal to more families throughout the country, they looked to then-superstar NFL quarterback Doug Flutie. The result was Flutie Flakes, a Doug Flutie-branded breakfast cereal that used the popular sportsman as a clever way to get more market share. It worked incredibly well.

This is an excellent example of Influencer Marketing, which is a decades-old marketing technique aimed at tapping into the power that well-connected social influencers have within their follower, reader, or fan base. This tactic is almost as old as advertising itself, and recently, many influencer marketing successes are seen by using Internet-based platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

What Exactly Is an Influencer and Influencer Marketing?

An influencer can be said to be any person or organization that has access to an established audience. Radio hosts are influencers. Twitch.TV streamers are influencers (in fact, some of them make up to $10,000 an hour for their paid promotions). YouTube creators are also influencers. It could be said that there are millions of influencers currently providing content for their audiences. The better influencers are the ones with credibility among that audience, and the best influencers not only have credibility but persuasiveness as well.

So, who do you know that has access to a large number of captive consumers who also view the influencer as credible? Is this person or business capable of selling an idea or experience to their audience? If so, you’ve found yourself an ideal influencer to work with as part of your overall marketing strategy. You might think that the next step is to start writing checks to them in exchange for their promotion of your product or service.

But, there’s a better way to approach influencer marketing.

Help Influencers Help Themselves

There’s a difference between celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing. Endorsements only deliver as much in results as the money will afford. Alternatively, influencer marketing is more of an ongoing partnership that seeks to lift both parties up – the influencer and the product or service provider.

Influencers know that to curate and grow their subscribers, viewers, listeners, or readers, they need to provide them with thoughtful, valuable content. If you can work with them to achieve this, financial compensation might not even need to be a part of the discussion.

Here’s an example: let’s say you’re a manufacturer of hiking gear. Boots, backpacks, camping stoves, that sort of thing. A quick search on Twitter reveals thousands of outdoorsy types like to connect with that would be interested in your brand. By engaging influencers like this, offering to have them review products or mention brands in exchange for cross-promotion, an organic business relationship can be forged.

Before long, tweets about your product can be retweeted three times over. YouTube views of videos praising the build quality of your sleeping bags can reach into the thousands. People start talking more and more about your products, and the next thing you know, your website traffic skyrockets.

All the while, the influencer grows in her credibility, content value perception, and overall social media presence. It truly is a win-win.

Want to learn more about influencer marketing and other best practices related to growing your business online? Get in touch with Altitude Agency today.