Why Chatbots Won’t Kill Email

In the last couple of years, chatbots have been one of the hottest issues in the world of marketing. Many believe this tool will replace direct mail or even destroy email as a technology. In fact, this is not entirely true and there are reasons to think that rather than wiping out email, chatbots will help make this marketing tool even more efficient.

Image:  Rog01 ,  CC BY   2.0

Image: Rog01, CC BY 2.0

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Complex Chatbots are Ineffective

Despite the hype about the chatbot technology, it’s actually still at an early stage of development. This means there are almost no examples of hi-tech chatbots using AI or machine learning that achieve good results.

On one hand, systems that suggest goods and services to users according to their online behavior and data from side sources (search queries, social media profiles) have been in use for a long time. This works and has been proven to significantly increase sales.

However, robot assistants have been shown to be pretty bad at sales so far, and sales automation is one of the most discussed potential benefits of chatbots. In reality, a chatbot is just a robot that doesn’t have information from different sources and can only get input data from users.

Unfortunately, speech recognition technology hasn’t advanced to a level where bots can understand people well enough to give them suggestions which then lead to real sales on a regular basis. This was the reason behind the shutdown of a smart ecommerce chatbot Quest.ai.

In addition, the development, support, and evolution of a chatbot that uses machine learning and AI for recognition and analysis takes a team of experienced developers, which is too expensive for many companies.

AI Works Well With Email

Marketing specialists know an email technology with which AI can work efficiently. In order to boost open rates, CTR and other indicators, marketing specialists have long been using smart tools to collect databases and segment users for future mailing.

Email marketing tools allow us to break down the visitors of a website into groups according to keywords that led them to the page or even to further analyze their activity. As a result, we are able to not only create letters tailored to the interests of a particular user, but also to understand what kind of messages need to be sent to him — be it a teaser or something to catch the attention of a person who has subscribed for a mailing, but doesn’t read it.

But that’s not all: AI systems (like the one built in the SendPulse service) collect information about the past behavior of subscribers: on which days and times they opened letters and when they clicked on links. This data is compared to information from side sources, like search requests and other activity on websites. Based on this, the system can efficiently forecast the best time to send letters for individual users. All of this increases the open rate — by 40% on average.

Also, such analysis allows us to automatically change sentences in pop-up messages and subscribe widgets depending on the user’s preferences (for example, on the basis of search requests). All of this scales up conversion and allows companies to increase databases of subscribers more rapidly. Adapting sentences in the widgets and pop-up windows shown to users from every group could yield an extremely fast growth of the subscriber base. Along with this, the cost of subscribing to a direct mail service can’t be compared to the costs of developing your own smart bot.

It’s Best to Use Two Approaches at a Time

Despite the lack of successful complex chatbots, there are plenty of useful projects that don’t use cutting-edge technologies. Chatbots can be efficiently used to provide basic information or collect extra data from the client.

This means that chatbots could be a great extra channel for attracting subscribers of a direct mailing service. A chatbot can ask the client about his/her problems and tasks and pass the information to the client or suggest that he/she subscribes to a mailing on the topic.

Products using this approach already exist. For instance, Conversica sales assistants initiate correspondence with a potential client, who may have subscribed to a trial version of the product or service. When the chatbot decides the lead is hot enough to make a purchase, a human sales manager receives a notification, contacts the client and closes the deal.

The process of making a lead hot could be even more efficient if the chatbot not only chats, but also sends useful pieces of information from the mailing. Email marketing tools can also be embedded in popular messengers. For instance, a Slack bot capable of managing mailings without leaving the messenger has recently been announced.

Using these chatbots, which are both simple and inexpensive to develop as well as advanced email marketing tools allows a business to successfully manage multiple tasks. The result is increasing the number of subscribers with no extra costs and working more efficiently with leads, by singling out potential clients before directing them to human employees.