4 things I learned building chatbots for major brands in 2017

In 2017, my team powered chatbots and voice skills for leading brands like Nike, Vice, Jameson, Marriott Rewards, Simon, Gatorade, and more. We witnessed new user behaviors and uncovered an evolved set of best practices to build a chatbot. Here are four actionable learnings from our work that you should consider when launching your own chatbot in 2018.

1. Personalization drives engagement

Bots that are designed to segment and engage customers throughout the entire conversation drive higher metrics than chatbots that do not personalize the conversation. For example, in our testing, personalized results yielded the highest click-through to website, up to 74 percent in some cases.

This year, a leading athletic brand set out to inspire a sneaker style for girls across the globe. The brand launched a customized sneaker builder where the user uploads of a photo of her outfit, and magically, in an instant, the bot pulls up a pair of shoes that matches the uploaded picture. This experience drove a click-through rate 12.5X higher than the global brand average.

Bud Light launched a chatbot with the goal of driving demand and purchase of Bud Light’s team cans on game day throughout the NFL season. A personalized data model and chatbot powered the ordering and delivery of team cans every game day during the NFL season. The Bud Light chatbot acted as a utility to remind fans that it was game time, and to order Bud Light before the game. Bud Light saw an 83 percent engagement rate with personalization.

2. Get to the point quickly

Across multiple chatbots, about half of the first actions that users take is free text entry. Updating the onboarding copy to manage expectations — “this is a bot that can do X and Y,” for example — lowers that initial friction. If the first intent is help-related or a long-form text entry, you can provide a customer service number, FAQs, or an option to “talk to a human” from the very beginning.

When users get into the designed experience, point of sale should be within five clicks. For example, after A/B testing a chatbot across 250,000 users, we noticed a significant drop-off occured when the core focus (click to purchase, etc.) was beyond five clicks.

3. Chatbots go beyond mobile devices

Bots are an effective tool to drive real-world activities or offline conversions, with coupon redemption rates as high as 30 percent.

A leading quick-service restaurant brand launched a new bot that drove users through an immersive content experience with videos, quizzes, recipes, and coupons. This high engagement led to over 71,000 coupons redeemed from the chatbot.

The Jordan Brand aimed to reach elite high school football, basketball, and baseball athletes with an ongoing training chatbot experience for pre-season training. Jordan delivered nightly prep videos and daily workout series to a targeted group of high school athletes in advance of basketball season on Facebook Messenger. Athletes loved receiving push notifications reminding them to work out. Jordan saw an extremely high completion rate as well as a high re-engagement rate compared to regular customer relationship management programs: Over 70 percent of users surveyed enjoyed the experience.

4. Truly understand your users

Understanding why people did or did not enjoy the experience is key. One way to do this is using free text analysis to understand sentiment and drop-off. For example, we launched a new bot with a leading shoe retailer. Most people came to the bot knowing what specific shoe they wanted to buy or with a question about the shoe they already bought. Cater to the specific pain points and make sure your bot handles customer intent at every stage.

Finally, make sure to survey users and learn from both your best purchasers as well as your qualified no’s. One way to do this by asking your users directly. You can use a chatbot for net promoter score surveying.

Jonathan Shriftman is the director of business development at Snaps, a mobile messaging service.

2017: Year of the podcast

The year 2017 will likely be remembered for many things across the technology spectrum, from major breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) and milestone moments in autonomous vehicles to Amazon conceding that a major offline presence in groceries was needed to compete in retail.

But buried within the big headline-grabbing stories of the year were microtrends that sprang up almost by surprise. And one of those relates to the humble podcast. Continue reading “2017: Year of the podcast”

Germany: Facebook abuses dominance in the way it harvests and monetizes user data

(Reuters) — Germany’s cartel office has found that Facebook abused its dominant market position, in a ruling that questioned the U.S. social network’s model of monetizing the personal data of its 2 billion users through targeted advertising. Presenting preliminary findings of its 20-month-old probe, the Federal Cartel Office said Facebook held a dominant position among social networks – a characterization that Facebook repudiated as “inaccurate”. Continue reading “Germany: Facebook abuses dominance in the way it harvests and monetizes user data”

Apple is rattling ad tech with Safari’s anti-tracking moves

On its earnings call last week, retargeting firm Criteo revealed that Apple’s crackdown on ad tracking hurt its business more than expected. In the wake of the announcement, the performance of Criteo’s stock resembled its downward swooping logo as its shares tumbled 26 percent within hours. Since Criteo’s entire business is driven by retargeting and they are the most recognizable vendor in that category, the company is the poster child for how Apple’s ad-tracking changes affect ad tech. But while Apple’s anti-tracking moves may hit Criteo the hardest, other vendors like attribution companies and data platforms that also rely on ad targeting for portions of their business are caught in the crossfire of Apple’s customer privacy campaign. Continue reading “Apple is rattling ad tech with Safari’s anti-tracking moves”

5 best practices for implementing voice marketing in 2018

Hey Alexa, play some music.
Ok, Google, turn on the lights.

Five years ago, these commands would have made no sense. But for the past two and a half years, voice-enabled speakers have steadily gained traction, introducing the world to voice-activated technologies. As we approach 2018, there’s no sign of slowing down the smart speaker revolution. Continue reading “5 best practices for implementing voice marketing in 2018”

Viewpoint: Platforms are the new context that matter

Barry Lowenthal is president of The Media Kitchen.

I’ve always believed context counts. It helps consumers understand why one brand is different from another. When a brand chooses a particular environment, it’s an indication of the brand’s values and beliefs. If a brand advertises in Vogue, it says the brand is very fashionable. It says a lot about a brand if they decide to run on Rush Limbaugh’s show, et cetera. But context is changing, partly because where we consume media and the media format most brands use has changed, namely, to video on platforms like Facebook. Continue reading “Viewpoint: Platforms are the new context that matter”

15-second countdown ads could be the new killer format

Luxury Italian retailer Yoox has announced it is running an exciting new type of pre-roll ad on YouTube: 15-second buy-it-or-lose-it offers. The company will be runnign the ads until mid-December in a few regions globally.

The ads are 15-second countdowns featuring a unique product, so. The user has to make a decision to buy on the spot or they will lose out and the item will be offered to someone else. Even if they go looking for it later, they won’t be able to find the product on the Yoox website, as it will have been exclusive to the pre-roll ad. To add to the tension, the creative depicts impending threats to the product to bring the countdown to life, so the ad positions the item as needing “saving” from dangers such as laser beams creeping towards it.

Continue reading “15-second countdown ads could be the new killer format”

Chrome for Windows will start blocking third-party software injections in 2018


Next year is going to be big for Chrome, if you believe everything Google has announced so far: going to war against low-quality ads, autoplaying content with sound, and unwanted redirects. The company today added a smaller, but still significant, initiative to its to-do list: reducing Chrome crashes caused by third-party software on Windows.

Continue reading “Chrome for Windows will start blocking third-party software injections in 2018”

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