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How one marketer uses a chatbot to retain customers

Barry Levine on
  • Categories: A-Post to Marketing Land, Channel: Martech: Marketing, Chat & Text Messaging Apps
  • A conversational flow for a TriNova customer on Facebook Messenger. (Click to expand)

    Marketers are employing chatbots for many uses, but one Chicago-based company has found success in using a chatbot for customer retention.

    Gold Eagle owns several brands, including products for cleaning household surfaces like granite countertops and hardwood floors, through its TriNova brand.

    Ad to chatbot survey

    TriNova sells its products largely through Amazon, brand manager Steve Wimmer told me, but that giant retailer doesn’t provide brands with a lot of information about customers.

    However, TriNova does get the shipping addresses of customers, even though the orders are fulfilled by Amazon. TriNova uploads those street addresses to Facebook’s Custom Audiences, so it can target its customers on that social network. Wimmer says he can match about half of the Amazon shipping addresses with Facebook profiles.

    Those Facebook members who have previously purchased a TriNova product are then targeted with one of several in-feed ads that ask if the user will take a survey in exchange for a free TriNova product.

    When the Facebook user clicks to take the survey, a Facebook Messenger window appears with the survey in the form of a conversation with the TriNova chatbot. The chatbot, built by TriNova with popular bot-development platform ManyChat, immediately informs the user that it is, indeed, a bot.

    ‘Instant focus group’

    TriNova segments users by their answers to the survey questions, which include one or more about which TriNova product was purchased, since the brand hasn’t crunched its data beforehand to determine that answer.

    Once the survey has begun, though, the bot addresses the user by name and asks about such things as whether the user is pleased with the purchase. Wimmer noted that, since his company is not in control of the shipping, it wants to make sure there was no problem.

    If the survey indicates there was a problem with shipping or some other issue, the bot asks the user if they’d like to speak with a customer service rep, who is available during business hours or who can get in touch via Messenger or email if the request is made outside normal business hours.

    Other survey questions constitute a kind of “instant focus group” on product development, he said. For instance, a user might be told of a new kind of product in development and asked for ideas about desired features or qualities.

    ‘Tons of engagement’

    This kind of question “generates tons of engagement,” he said, “because people feel they’re part of the brand.”

    The bot can also ask follow-up, post-survey questions through Messenger to generate content — and engagement — such as: “What’s your favorite cleaning tip that you’d like to share?”

    “The trick is to make [the customer] feel engaged so it doesn’t seem promotional,” Wimmer said, “like interacting with a friend.”

    The Messenger bot can also send out information that is relevant to that customer segment, such as blog content about “when you should refinish hardwood floors.” Additionally, TriNova sometimes offers “flash sales” that it wouldn’t offer to the general public, such as a product for $1.

    Although Wimmer doesn’t have any data showing that TriNova’s chatbot-conversing Facebook customers are more likely to remain customers, he said this group — about 3500 customers on Facebook — repeatedly buy more products from his company than do other customers.

    “Intuitively,” he said, “I believe they like the brand more” because of the engagement-inducing conversations with the Messenger chatbot.


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    About The Author

    Barry Levine
    Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.