In 2019, chat will take over as the main marketing and communication channel across numerous major industries. The intelligent, scaled, direct messaging capabilities unleashed by chat channels like Facebook Messenger have already enhanced many industries, but this year, the revolution will mature and chat will emerge as they key new channel for customer acquisition and retention, and therefore will become a top driver of new revenue.
Here are the four industries that represent the best opportunities for chatbot tech to transform how customers engage with companies, brands, and each other:
Chatbots are a natural fit for the retail sector, which is struggling with mobile conversion even as physical stores close. Bots provide a key channel through which brands can grow their e-commerce presence, from top-of-funnel branding all the way through sales and retargeting.
The most effective bot experiences for retail fuse marketing, customer service and sales with an AI engine that can optimize the user experience depending on which function the user needs and the user’s past behavior and purchase history.
What this looks like is an interactive, hyper-personalized shopping experience that replaces combing through endless tiny thumbnails with AI-powered guided selling, personal styling, and even virtual try-on, reducing the number of decisions a customer has to make. Post-conversion, bots are a powerful remarketing tool, sending out segmented messages that are hyper-relevant and received inside of a customer’s messaging app, where they actually read them. At Headliner, we see a 98% open rate and 35% click through rate on messages across our retail bots, which blow average email marketing open and click-through rates out of the water.
Retail companies are leveraging chat technology and chatbots in numerous innovative ways. We worked with Saks Fifth Avenue on a highly successful Holiday Gift Guide bot, which asked users several questions about the people on their holiday list and then recommended gifts from among Saks’ product inventory, opening the Saks mobile site inside of the chat for frictionless purchasing. As another example, we work with brands like Cole Haan and Sally Beauty to power high-conversion reminders delivered to customers through chat, such as abandoned cart and refill alerts.
Say goodbye to the days of hotel room staples like clunky binders with print-outs of activity brochures and relevant phone extensions. Hospitality is an industry where success is directly correlated to a level of service, and in this mobile-first era, hotels must be accessible via their guests’ most native communication tool: smartphones. Messaging bots can power everything from check-in to a wide array of concierge services to booking restaurant and activity reservations and providing amenities info — all of which is currently being handled by human staff in the average hotel.
A number of well-known bots have been rolled out in the travel industry, but they mostly power bookings. Hipmunk, Kayak, Snaptravel, and Istalocate (which helps you track flights) are among some of the most popular. But some hotel chains are experimenting with bots for the on-site experience, and that’s where we see major opportunity to redefine hospitality service to include bot-first solutions. The most notable of these are virtual concierges for at-your-fingertips resources during a hotel stay. This takes pressure off human agents to answer basic questions about amenities and also offers guests 24/7 service rather than only during certain hours, and with zero wait time as bots they don’t get overwhelmed by high volumes of inquiries.
At Headliner, we have also been utilizing Facebook Messenger’s parametric codes and QR codes, which guests can scan at different locations in a facility to access information and services specific to that place, i.e, a guest entering the pool deck of a resort scans a parametric code near the entrance, prompting the bot to offer information about cabana rentals, pool deck maps, and requesting seats or towels.
The banking and financial industry is on the brink of disruption by chatbots, as the transactional nature of most banking tasks provides an almost perfect use case for chatbot interfaces. Bots function best when they are designed to handle a discrete task. Everyday banking transactions are just those: specific, clearly-defined tasks that require a command and a resulting action that with minimal supplemental intelligence needed. Users can accomplish things like checking balances, transferring money to friends, viewing a history of recent transactions or locating the nearest ATM.
Several banks have been pioneering with chatbots. TD Bank just launched an AI-powered assistant called TD Clari to communicate with customers inside the TD Bank app. It will provide insights on spending, offer information on TD credit cards, assist with transactions and answer FAQs. Bank of America launched Erica, a bot to assist with most of the tasks described above. Western Union’s Messenger bot offers options such as “send money,” “track transfer” and “transfer again.” American Express allows users to connect their accounts for purchase tracking and card information. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Apple Pay has considerably desensitized people from innate discomfort with handling sensitive private financial information on mobile, so we expect to see a swift rollout of finance and banking bots coming up the pipeline.
As chatbot technology becomes more robust, no industry will remain untouched by its reach. To us at Headliner, the four described above are the low-hanging fruit, where chatbots can be easily plugged into existing operations to effectuate increased revenue and cost savings.
About the author
Dana Gibber is the Co-Founder and COO of Headliner Labs, the leading technology platform in chat marketing, enabling hundreds of retail brands to market to their customers via chat channels. Platform partners like Saks Fifth Avenue, Cole Haan, Sally Beauty and Kenneth Cole use Headliner to power AI-infused smart messages to their customers through channels like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Dana also writes a regular column on digital marketing for retail for Women’s Wear Daily. Dana worked as a law clerk on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, as well as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. Dana received a J.D. from Yale Law School, and her A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard College.