Chatbots and the Future of Instant Messaging: “Be where your customers are”

DigitalGO explores the world of Instant messaging, focusing on Chatbots as a perfect tool for brand promotion and customer satisfaction

Communication one-to-one

Chatbot is one of the hottest trends of the moment, and we often find ourselves interacting with a virtual assistant instead of a customer service operator. The opinions are divided, some consider them as “new apps”, and some think that they are an overrated phenomenon. At the beginning of the new millennium, marketing was dominated by the rise of SEO and SEM, then social networks and social ads took over; in recent years we have witnessed the transition from desktop to mobile. After being invaded by apps (there are apps for everything, including apps to manage other apps), today we have reched the “app fatigue”, or the market saturation.

However the apps that are still growing strongly are related to messaging services. Let’s take a closer look at some recent numbers, in April 2018 WhatsApp was the most downloaded app on the Google Play Store,(66.34 million downloads globally, over 1 million times in Italy), followed by Facebook Messenger (51.5 million downloads globally, 600 thousand in Italy). Social networks have been overtaken by messaging apps: for example, “only” 336 thousand people in Italy have downloaded Instagram, 25 million globally. [1]According to the Economist, half of humanity will have at least one messaging app on their smartphone within a couple of years. [2]

The need to communicate is part of human nature and will continue to persist over time; still we tend to prefer private communication: compared to a Facebook post visible to anyone, we prefer one-to-one message or a group chat on WhatsApp or Messenger. Think of your own habits: how many times a day on average do you open WhatsApp? Unless you old fashioned, or a fan of good old SMS (and if you are I need to wonder how so, since it doesn’t allow you to send photos, videos, audio messages, or locations, that can be so useful sometimes), the answer is: so many.

“Be where your customers are” therefore represents much more than a trendy marketing phrase. Unless you are Ferrero or Coca-Cola, and do not own a product that sells itself, communication is essential. And even the strong brands must struggle to protect their reputation, just like Nutella is promoting the sustainable palm oil used in their products.

Communication has various levels and touchpoints: from communication aimed at brand or product/service awareness, to a communication aimed at increasing sales. The media are constantly evolving: from print to radio, from TV to the web, from social media to instant messaging.

None of the historical mass-media has fallen into disuse, we simply try to optimize the usage according to the new goals.

The evolution of instant messaging

Instant messaging is an incredible tool, so close to users nowadays, but has one flaw: it is not scalable. Once you reach certain volumes, one-to-one communication becomes too expensive. And it is precisely here that the chatbots take over: they allow automation and scalability.

Chatbots can be an important ally for lead generation, for converting, or simply for stimulating user engagement or brand awareness.

So when should you develop a chatbot, and what kind is most suitable for your needs?

To paraphrase a famous slogan of Apple, soon there will be a bot for everything. Developing a chatbot to communicate with customers has many advantages, but it is not always necessary and above all, it must be based of the goal we need to achieve.

We identify specific goals (and the most appropriate tools to achieve them), depending on the phase of the Customer Journey:

Awareness – make our brand or product known;
Consideration – presence on different touch points (multichannel), to ensure that the user evaluates the idea of ​​buying the product/service;
Purchase – it is important to know how to manage this delicate phase, facilitating the buying experience and monitoring friction points;
Service – once a user becomes a Customer, we need to offer him an excellent after-sales assistance, so that the overall experience is positive;
Loyalty – if all the previous phases have been satisfactory, the customer will tend to reacquire the product/service, an eventually become the Brand ambassador.

Chatbots can be used for different stages of the Customer Journey. We will examine in depth this topic in the following articles.

Finally the chatbots have enormous potential, being efficient, fast and cheap. Of course, “human touch” is irreplaceable, and if there is a possibility for human intervention, the experience can become even more personalized for each single user, and above it can allow the optimal management of complex issues. The future of instant messaging moves in this direction, aspiring to a perfect human & robot combination, where human capabilities are enhanced and facilitated by the learning ability of machines, thanks to developments in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. The goal is very clear: offer extraordinary experiences to end users.

In the coming months we will talk about hybrid chatbot solutions to promote the brand and products awareness.

Erika Menchinelli

Strategic Marketing – Digital Solutions BU


Passionate about all things Digital | Proud geek

Find me on Twitter & LinkedIN

[1] Bots, the next frontier, Economist

[2] Most popular global mobile messenger apps as of April 2018, based on number of monthly active users (in millions), Statista


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