The newest generation of business-to-business (B2B) buyers is increasingly dominating the two-way conversation between marketers and buyers. They prefer to gather purchasing information on their own — overwhelmingly via online searches, vendor websites, and peers and colleagues — rather than talking to sales representatives. They are unsubscribing from marketing emails at alarming rates, citing over-communication as the number-one reason why. In addition, they are using messaging platforms to speak directly with brands when they have questions or problems.
At the same time, buyers are demanding more personalized communications, faster response times, and an improved, cohesive user experience on all of a vendor’s digital channels.
All these factors are driving the growing popularity of chatbots as a lead generation and customer service tool. Clearly, it’s time to stop viewing them as a trendy communication mechanism and more as a necessary part of a supply chain operation’s marketing strategy.
Chatbot applications for the supply chain
I’ve written before about the impressive implications that automation has for supply chain marketing and sales efforts. (HubSpot reports that businesses using marketing automation receive a 451% increase in qualified leads.) We’re seeing chatbots as one of the most successful and easy-to-implement marketing automation tools in the current marketplace.
Chatbots are relatively inexpensive, inherently low-maintenance, and surprisingly user-friendly — to both the buyers interacting with them and the vendors setting them up. They help website visitors find the information they need quickly, while gathering user data that is useful in marketing and sales efforts, all without taxing human resources. In fact, Chatbots Life reports that businesses can save up to 30% of costs associated with servicing customer requests by using a chatbot.
Millennials, in particular, appreciate the quick, easy, and unobtrusive communication option that chatbots offer. And, as we all know, this generation comprises an increasing percentage of the B2B purchasing landscape. In a crowded marketplace, vendors that offer a pleasing user experience will have the competitive edge when it comes to winning business and growing a base of loyal customers.
A real-life example
We are recommending chatbots to clients because we have seen firsthand how effective they can be. I’ll give you an example from our own experience.
We recently implemented a chatbot on our website that we synced with my calendar, allowing users to schedule a time to speak with me about our services. I am not exaggerating when I say that within 24 hours, we had a lead come through the bot. I spoke with that lead at the time he scheduled, the next morning, and delivered a proposal to him the next day.
Chatbots are here — in a big way. If you’re not using one, your competitors certainly are (or will be soon). Having a chat mechanism on your website will soon be the difference between winning more business and missing out… if it’s not already.