Natural language chatbots have been touted as the future of customer service, support and sales. And while they can certainly be helpful toward those ends, leading brands are finding innovative new ways to marry chatbots with initiatives like loyalty to create compelling customer experiences that further the customer relationship, impact specific marketing goals, and enhance the business.

1. Activate Ad Campaigns

One of the biggest challenges faced by chatbots is discovery. Facebook has tried to solve this problem for its Messenger-based bots with a yellow pages of sorts, however this still requires customers to proactively seek out chatbots. Effectively getting around the issue of discovery is Avocados from Mexico which solicited chatbot interaction via its Super Bowl ad campaign.

The Avocados from Mexico #Avosecrets campaign proved the power of ad activation. For weeks prior to the game, the group teased its upcoming commercial with the social trigger #AvoSecrets and a preview video with actor and comedian, Jon Lovitz. And, by the time the commercial aired — also featuring the social trigger — Avocados from Mexico had already driven over 2 billion social media impressions to its chatbot. Ultimately, the brand drove over 3 billion impressions. With this campaign, Entrepreneur magazine said, “The Avocados From Mexico campaign is writing the textbook on how social media can leverage traditional advertising.”

2. Surprise and Delight

Surprise and delight strategies seek to deepen the emotional link between consumers and the brand, in turn driving positive word of mouth. Chatbots can amplify these goals as they provide an easy mechanism for brands to surprise customers with rewards such as loyalty program points, unique content and more, in response to an event or customer action. For example, Marriott has linked its loyalty program to its chatbot experience, recently winning first place as Chief Marketer’s 2017 best loyalty marketing program.

Specifically, Marriott recently launched a new campaign to surprise and delight its loyalty program members to celebrate their anniversary in the Marriott Rewards program. It proactively reached out to members and rewarded them with much coveted Marriott points. By coupling a surprise and delight strategy with its chatbot, Marriott is able to proactively reward its Marriott Rewards members, deepening its relationship with its customers.

3. Native Language & Geo-Fencing

Univision and Walmart teamed up at the Copa America tournament to engage fans with their chatbot via the social media trigger #CopaAmerica. The Copa America campaign featured geo-fencing, with only those fans attending a soccer match at one of the participating stadiums able to use #CopaAmerica #Copa100 or #CopaCentenario. These fans received an automated response from Univision and Walmart with premium, tailored content. In this way Univision and Walmart were assured that their personalized chatbot responses would be well-received.

Moreover, as an event drawing people from across the continent, the chatbot in this campaign further personalized its communications by replying in the person’s native language. Fans could vote for their favorite teams in Spanish or Portuguese, for example, and receive a response in that same language. This campaign proved the power of native language engagement and conversion, especially when coupled with geo-fencing and exclusive content.

4. Mobile Loyalty

Silver Diner, an East Coast restaurant chain, has linked its loyalty program to its chatbot. Its chatbot solution listens for engagement, applies rules, automates responses, and tracks members’ earned points and redeemed rewards in a digital wallet. This means that when a customer checks their loyalty account, the social media points are visible and accounted for. In addition, to fuel more participation, Silver Diner also integrated off-site social registration into its mobile app so members can instantly connect their accounts to begin earning rewards.

Connecting a brand chatbot to the loyalty program is an ideal approach as it allows marketers to identify customers individually and in aggregate and provides the opportunity to offer customers loyalty program points or other valued rewards in exchange for their participation. This value exchange is critical to chatbot adoption and long-term success and in the process also provides brands with significant data that informs the ROI of their chatbot efforts.

5. “Big Event” Marketing

For the Super Bowl, the Marriott Buzz team deployed a bus to the streets of San Francisco. It was wrapped with #50to50 campaign branding and a hashtag call to action that was designed to generate buzz in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Specifically, people were asked to take a picture of the bus and post it to Twitter with #50to50 and #MRpoints in exchange for Marriott Rewards points and the opportunity to enter the contest. When people posted the photo the Marriott chatbot responded to them with different responses based on their membership status. Members recieved different messages letting them know they’ve earned points, and non-members were invited to join.

Furthering Marketing Objectives

Leading brands are seeing success with chatbots beyond customer service, support and sales. While conversational commerce may have begun with an emphasis on commerce, marketers are beginning to focus more and more on the conversational aspects and how they can impact marketing objectives across the customer journey — from new customer acquisition to increased sales, and stronger social advocacy to better business intelligence.

Brands deploying chatbots to enhance the customer experience are seeing greater levels of loyalty and brand trust; customers who were more likely to engage and participate with the brand; greater rates of conversion and new customer acquisition; and customers who are more likely to purchase from the brand, shopping more often and spending more per visit.

Customers want chatbots to be tied to the overall brand experience and provide utility by already knowing who they are and making it incredibly easy to take the next step in participating or interacting with the brand. The brands discussed here have successfully done so by connecting the chatbot interface to meaningful experiences, back end business processes, and consumer programs that already exist within the organization. Loyalty programs are an ideal example as they are designed for utility, are supported by a deep customer database, and are home to the brand’s most loyal customers.