“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Christian Brucculeri, director and CEO at Snaps.
If you’ve been reading some of the tech trades lately, you would be forgiven for believing that the bots have finally taken over society. Our Skynet moment has arrived, and now we can all talk to the servers of tech’s biggest companies.
There’s a lot of hype around bots, and there have been a few false starts. Once we look past the noise, the opportunity is vast, but consumer-facing brands must tread carefully.
Interest in mobile messaging is primarily driven by scale and engagement. This new media channel hasn’t been saturated by brands, but its scale is fascinating: Every day, consumers send each other more than 270 billion messages and 6 billion emojis around the world. The top four messaging apps see more traffic than the top four social networks.
In terms of engagement, average read rates of mobile messaging currently hover at 90%, compared to 25% for email, which is considered phenomenal.
As artificial intelligence and natural language processing improve, there is great potential for bots to replace or augment many cumbersome consumer experiences. The obvious case involves post-purchase customer service calls that may be sped up with new technology.
With new channels come new creative opportunities. Messaging is a new way to interact with customers, allowing innovative brands to create surprising and (hopefully) delightful branding experiences. As third-party messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Kik continue to build out rich media capabilities, the creative opportunities for brands continue to grow.
For brands, dropping a potential customer into an automation funnel should not be taken lightly. Like any engagement, strategy and creative are what matter. Brands should first determine goals and define users in order to choose the right metrics. Getting to the best metrics starts with answering two questions: Who do you want to interact with, and which part of the customer life cycle are you targeting?
Brands may choose top-of-the-funnel activities to build audiences and create engagement, while others may be focused on down-the-funnel activities like commerce. For brand marketers focused on top-of-the-funnel, key metrics may include audience size and composition or engagement and share rates, which can help brands understand what’s working and where people are falling off or losing interest in content experiences.
For some brands, looking for consumer insights is more important than promoting a product launch. Generating social sharing or driving word of mouth can be meaningful. For others, driving online commerce is the priority. Optimizing toward these down-the-funnel activities should be handled on a case-by-case basis, as a daily utility bot that’s driving for reads should be managed differently than a bot trying to drive conversions.
Brands must deliver value through simple, personalized experiences. One of the bigger opportunities in this space is around storing preference data and personalizing experiences based on a consumer’s responses and engagement. A strong early example of this personalized use case is the H&M bot on Kik Messenger, which takes consumers through a series of visual personalization questions before suggesting outfits based on that user’s responses. A quick link-out takes the consumer directly to an ecommerce page on the H&M site to purchase the whole look or individual pieces.
For a conversion-focused bot like H&M, key metrics likely include successful outfit matching in the chat, number of link-outs to the H&M site and purchases. Additionally, because the bot drives down-the-funnel consumers to their website, there’s an opportunity for retargeting consumers who view the products but don’t convert in the first session.
When personal experiences in bots start to leverage deeper CRM data, such as purchase history, these user experiences will become richer and more valuable to both the brand and the consumer.
Brands should also offer user controls and customization. Another often-overlooked opportunity with bot management is in optimizing push notifications. The first versions of bots didn’t have a clear notification strategy, which resulted in notification spam, impersonal blast messages or no notifications at all. In many ways, acquiring a bot subscriber is no different from acquiring an app install – the experience has to be carefully considered to maximize long-term engagement, prevent churn and encourage sharing.
Messaging is a perfect channel to tell stories and create personalized demand for products, but it’s important that brands get the strategy right.