Are you planning a marketing campaign?
If so, it’s a wonderful time to be alive.
If you were planning a marketing campaign 30 years ago, you would have had tools such as colored markers, poster boards, and Apple Macintosh computers (without an internet connection, mind you) at your disposal.
But now it’s 2017, and the world is a much more magical place.
Not only is there software that’s designed to help run and manage your marketing campaign, there are also futuristic-sounding tools available, such as bots and apps, that make it sound as though you’re battling against Skynet rather than promoting your latest product.
Apps have been an important part of marketing campaigns for about a decade now, but bots—the buzzy new technology on the block—are quickly gaining momentum.
The bots vs. apps debate is growing, and the implications could have a major impact on your next marketing campaign. Here, we’re breaking down both technologies to help you decide if one of them could give your marketing efforts a boost.
What are bots?
Bots (short for chatbots) are a simple concept. If you understand the basic idea of having a conversation with a human, then you already have a working understanding of what a bot is.
Bots are computer programs that simulate conversations with humans, only with no direct human involvement. In other words, there is no “man behind the curtain.” Everything the bot needs to know to converse with a real human is built into its algorithm. This concept is also known as artificial intelligence, or AI.
How bots can be used for marketing: Say someone checks out the Facebook page for your new product and wants to know more about it. Rather than deploying a human representative to sit on Facebook Messenger waiting to field questions, your bot can answer almost any question an interested visitor has, anytime, day or night.
Large-scale examples of bots in marketing campaigns
- Domino’s Pizza’s automated ordering bot, Dom, began accepting full-menu orders in the days leading up to Super Bowl LI.
- Burger King’s chatbot lets customers order, pay, and get an estimate of when their Whopper will be ready for pickup at a chosen location, all through Facebook Messenger.
- Bank of America’s chatbot, Erica, offers financial advice, checks balances, and helps make payments.
How smaller businesses can use bots for marketing
Smaller businesses may not have the resources to create a chatbot with the enterprise capabilities of those listed above, but even a small outfit can use a simple Facebook Messenger bot to advertise special promotions or sales, or answer basic customer service queries.
What are apps?
Unless you’ve been living in a hot air balloon for the last decade, you already know exactly what apps are; you probably have dozens of them on your phone (even if you’re still rocking a first-generation Droid Razr).
Essentially, an app (short for application) is any program on a hand-held device. But as the line has blurred between computers and phones, and as almost every type of device has become portable, the term “app” has broadened to describe almost any software program.
Web apps, for example, are programs that you only use online and are hosted by the site you’re visiting, while mobile apps are programs that a user must download to their device.
How apps can be used for marketing: A mobile app can be a key component of your marketing campaign, because once someone downloads your app, you have a platform to market your product to them directly (until they delete your app, that is, so go easy on the push notifications).
Large-scale examples of apps in marketing campaigns
- The Starbucks mobile pay app revolutionized mobile payment and loyalty programs.
- The Nike+ App suite not only encourages consumers to purchase Nike products, but also to use them to improve their fitness level.
- The Ikea catalog app, which allows users to virtually place Ikea furniture in their home to see how it will look without even setting foot in the store.
How smaller businesses can use apps for marketing
Bots vs. apps: Which one is best for your marketing campaign?
In the Gartner article, “Four Use Cases for Chatbots in the Enterprise Now,” (full content available to Gartner clients) analysts Van L. Baker and Magnus Revang report that:
“Bots are rapidly entering the market and capturing industry hype … Application leaders need to include bots in their mobile app strategies to get ahead of this trend.”
In other words, apps are already so entrenched that it would be shortsighted to eschew them as a reaction to the burgeoning chatbot movement, but it would also be foolish to exclude bots from future marketing plans.
Rather, integrating chatbots into an existing mobile and web app strategy is the wisest path.
Bank of America’s chatbot, Erica, running in their mobile app
The Gartner report also identifies two key advantages for marketers related to the rapid spread of chatbots :
- Chatbots are quickly spreading through the market, and have wide consumer appeal because of how user friendly they are.
- The proliferation of open-source bot frameworks will lead to a bumper crop of chatbots ready to be deployed by businesses large and small.
To use simpler terms, bots have an extremely shallow learning curve (if you can have a conversation, you can use a bot), and they’re becoming easier for programmers to develop.
So at least for now, while apps are still loved and embraced by everyone from your little brother to your grandmother, and bots are the groundbreaking evolution that programmers are starting to harness, a two-pronged approach is the best strategy for marketers.
An article by Chatbots Magazine reached a similar conclusion, summarizing that “bots won’t replace apps,” as much as they will enhance them.
What do you think about the bots vs. apps debate when it comes to marketing campaigns? Have you seen any great examples of smaller businesses using apps or bots or both in marketing campaigns? If so, please share them in the comments, and let us know your thoughts! And if you’re interested in artificial intelligence and sales, be sure to check out these pieces for further reading:
- What Is Artificial Intelligence Software? (And Do You Need It?)
- How Businesses are Using Machine Learning and AI in 2017
- How AI Is Impacting Sales
Looking for Marketing Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Marketing Automation software solutions.