At Sparrow, we are always looking for innovative – and affordable – ways to help our members achieve more. While it doesn’t have to do with PR per se, we know many of our members also handle marketing for their destination. So with that in mind, we wanted to talk about an emerging technology we are noticing pop up everywhere.
From startups to blue chip travel brands, we have been noticing a rise in the use of “chatbots.”
I know I just said a big, scary tech word but don’t be alarmed! Chatbots are essentially a way to instant message or text with potential visitors 24/7. They create automated responses to FAQs that people commonly have, giving them the instant answers they crave. Chatbots have a place at all size destinations, and we will break that down below. We promise to be gentle 😉
We connected with Jeff Howard, Founder of WhereToBot to help solve some of the myths destination marketers have about the emerging technology of automated chat. Over the past year Jeff has worked with Aspen, CO and Traverse City to develop and deploy successful chatbots that are accountable for email collection and hotel partners clicks.
Wanting to learn more about chatbots? Jeff has graciously offered a free ebook to Sparrow subscribers – find out more about at the bottom of this post.
With that, I’ll let Jeff take it away:
Here is a problem we are all facing in the destination marketing space…
Websites, videos and ads do a great job of bringing in traffic and piquing traveler curiosity for a short period. However, optimizing websites, especially for a mobile phone, has become one of the most taxing marketing activities, and today those websites leave buyers searching for information on a slow device.
Here is why chatbots are NOT a passing fad and instead are an emerging technology.
Think about the amount of time you spend on your phone messaging and having conversations. Messaging is a preferred method of communication and this is a profound shift in the way we communicate with one another.
Travelers today want instant answers to their questions, and instant conversations instead of filling out a form and waiting for an answer. They want personalized attention and direct responses – conversational Marketing (AKA Chatbots) enables this.
6 Myths Destination Marketers Have About Chatbots
Myth 1: Chatbots are expensive and we don’t have the budget.
Smart destinations start small and build their bots in small iterations over time. This makes chatbot development a small piece of the month-to-month marketing budget. Chatbots are a lot like building a website in terms of defining project scope. The most successful chatbots are routinely developed based on user feedback in small iterations.
Myth 2: Chatbots will clog our staff with more work.
Building bots in small chunks enables your staff to take on this new technology in stride and keeps everyone happy. Chatbots can be launched in private for feedback and then deployed on specific pages of the website. The best chatbot companies have a proven process that enables your DMO to have creative input without becoming a burden on the staff.
Think about the amount of time you or your staff spends answering questions from potential visitors about where to stay, what to do, etc. – your time could be freed up considerably by having the Chatbot take on these conversations.
Myth 3: Chatbot won’t solve any marketing problems, we can’t measure this.
Launching a bot should never be a purely academic pursuit, the best bots are held accountable to specific metrics and deliver on specific marketing goals. For most destinations chatbot success metrics are centered around email or address capture and clicks to hotel partners.
Myth 4: Chatbots are only for websites.
Facebook Messenger bots are one of the best methods to get more from Facebook, especially if you are doing retargeting through Facebook pixel. Proven bots on your website can be copied to Facebook and used to boost return on ad spend (ROAS).
Myth 5: A chatbot would take a long time to develop, so it’s better to delay.
Bots can be deployed and tested in days. Smart destinations make small investments over time to develop a bot that eventually will be the focal point of major campaigns. Building a bot over time is ideal and the chatbot can be launched on specific pages of your website instead of all.
Myth 6: Chatbots are a complex technology that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and our destination is not ready for this.
Chatbots don’t always require AI to successfully achieve their goals. Most chatbots begin by using simple logic and build in AI skills overtime if it is needed.
Want to know more about Chatbots and how they might help your organization? Head over to WhereToBot and get your hands on their free ebook “Why Chatbots Meet the Needs of Today’s Destinations.”
Note that we receive no commission from you deciding to employ chatbots – we just think this is an awesome service that might make sense for you destination!