Should You Add a VUI or Chatbot to Your Marketing Strategy?

We look at the pros and cons of providing customers with an automated customer service agent, either through your site, Google Home, Slack, Alexa, or elsewhere.

Competitors have a way of doing what you do not have time to do. The chances are high that someone in your vertical is using voice-activated chat support to reach new customers. Is it time to adjust your marketing strategy to include a VUI or chatbot?

The Case for VUI

Back in 2011, Gartner predicted that within a decade most customers would conduct all brand communication without interacting with a human. We’re well on our way.

Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple all have a stake in the digital personal assistant market. They want you to be involved, too. Your program will help make the industry grow, which is good for everyone. That’s why Amazon is offering free, local classes to teach you how to build a VUI (voice user interface).

Since the market is still young, reaching your audience through VUI is easier than through other channels. The competition isn’t as fierce as what you’ll find in an app store.

It takes less time to build a VUI than you might imagine. Whether you’re building it for your site (unlikely) or to add to Alexa or Google Home, the application won’t require an intricate user interface. The user simply needs to say a phrase and hear your reply.

The hardest part of the process will be marketing your new marketing tool. You will have to figure out how to tell potential customers that they can ask their smart device to request a loan through your program.

The Case for Chatbots

Many people without any coding experience have successfully built interactive programs that can integrate with messaging platforms. Back in April 2016, Facebook said that companies could integrate their chatbots into Facebook’s messenger app. According to, tens of thousands of chatbots are pouring in.  

We tried a few of them and were impressed. HealthTap lets you ask health questions and instantly get a relevant answer from a real doctor. We asked the bot if it was bad to stare at a computer screen all day. Two of the doctors’ stored responses said it shouldn’t cause vision loss.

Other companies took a different approach to the chatbot concept. Wingstop answered every one of our inquiries with the same message, telling us that it “looks like you may need to chat with one of our helpful agents.” Then, it tried to connect us with a live customer service representative.

Chatbots are being added to other messaging apps, too. CoverGirl developed a bot for Kik, a Canadian messaging app that’s exchanged two billion messages since inception. The bot greatly increased customer engagement, generating 14 times more conversations than the company’s blog posts. Customers were overwhelmingly positive about the bot – nearly half of the conversations taking place through the bot resulted in the customer accepting a coupon.

Nordstrom’s chatbot offers interactive shopping lists. Around the holidays, the bot will help customers choose a gift for friends and family members. The 1-800 Flowers bot remembers anniversaries and other important days and will remind you of them ahead of time. This a good example of using chatbots for remarketing purposes, either through outgoing messages from the bot or through email addresses collected during the bot conversation.

You can use the information you gain from chats for future marketing campaigns. The text from each of the bot conversations will show customer insights that will help you personalize your marketing. And during the conversation, you can qualify your leads by asking what product type the customer is interested in.

Many companies are finding success through integrating a chatbot into a messaging app that already exists.

How to Make Yours Successful

SEO analyst Robin Lord recently blogged about chatbots, and he outlined what his bot needed to be able to do:

  • It needed a real-world application – Your bot should respond to at least one of your customer’s basic needs.
  • It needed to be distributable – Your program should be able to plug into different interfaces with only slight modifications (not complete rewrites).
  • It had to send messages – It’s important to set triggers up so that the bot communicates with the customer correctly.

At the conclusion of his blog, Lord says that your bot could be up and running within a few hours. An intricate bot will take longer, but the groundwork might be simpler than you would think.

If you do decide to develop a chatbot or a VUI, consider how it will be unique from the other options available.

CoverGirl’s bot was designed to mimic the customer’s conversational style, making them feel more comfortable chatting with the bot. Over 90 percent of the customers who conversed with the bot reported a positive experience.

As we said earlier, competition is minimal in this area. You should be able to come up with a unique angle for your service.

Why You Shouldn’t Bother

According to Kik, 60 percent of bot users are 13 to 19 years old. That’s young. In our industry, we typically work with people 18 years and older. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to invest time into a marketing strategy geared toward teenagers.

The older generations are still hesitant to use this kind of technology. While that might not be true in the future, it is unintuitive to develop technology to reach customers who do not exist yet.

While we have primarily been talking about chatbot implementation into other services, we should also mention onsite bots.

In our industry customers don’t spend a lot of time on the landing page. They either fill out the form or they leave. If only a small fraction of customers visit a “How It Works” page, what are the chances they’ll hash out their concerns with a chatbot?

Some loan customers will take advantage of a chatbot, but whether it’s enough to justify the time your development team would spend implementing it is hard to say.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to know if your customers will respond to a chatbot or VUI until you try it out. If you have any questions about implementing this technology, please feel free to reach out. We’d be happy to help in any way we can.