As technology continues to evolve at break-neck speed, small business owners have many options for marketing their bands and improving customer experience. This year’s fastest-rising star is undeniably the chatbot.
Although chatbots  have been around for decades, brands have only recently learned how to effectively deploy them for business purposes. In essence, a chatbot is a simple computer program designed to mimic conversation with the aid of artificial intelligence. Multinational companies are already using chatbots to sort out customer queries, simplify the sales process and produce new sales leads.
But the truth is, you don’t have to be a huge corporation in order to benefit from using chatbots. To help you get started, here are six ways you could be deploying the technology in order to boost your overall small business strategy.
Creative Example of Using a Chatbot for Business
1. Create a Consumer Resource
Chatbots might seem simple, but they’re actually pretty smart. Better yet, they remember what users tell them. For example, the Weather Channel’s chatbot  is designed to remember a user’s ZIP code so that they can ask the bot an extremely broad question and still receive information relevant to their specific location. Not only does the passing on of this sort of information assist users in getting the answers they’re after, but it also provides brands with crucial research data concerning the geographical spread of their target consumer base.
2. Streamline Sales
Chatbots aren’t simply about passing on or gathering information. They can also directly influence sales. Earlier this year, fast-food chain Taco Bell unleashed a bot of its own designed to automate the sales process. Unsurprisingly dubbed the TacoBot , it allows users to make very real restaurant orders by firing off a quick message via messaging platform Slack.
3. Influence Buying Decisions
Most small business owners don’t have the time or the staff to give every customer the undivided attention and professional sales advice they deserve. Chatbots provide a dynamic solution to that problem — and the bot at clothing retailer H&M  is a prime example. It starts by quizzing users about their style, asking them to choose between various looks. Then, the chatbot goes on to recommend particular outfits and items based upon those answers.
Not only does that free up the time of company employees, but it also provides customers with access to an inquisitive, brand-driven sales advisor 24/7.
4. Answer Customer Queries
One of the simplest and most effective ways small businesses can deploy a chatbot is in the form of a first point of contact for answering customer queries. If you operate within an industry that includes lots of jargon or legal mumbo-jumbo, chances are you get lots of phone calls or emails with very basic questions. Before allowing users to clog up your inbox with queries, try loading a chatbot up with all of your most frequently asked questions. That way customers can have their questions answered immediately, and you reclaim hours of your day.
5. Boost Social Media Engagement
In April, Facebook announced it would be opening up its increasingly influential Messenger platform in beta — and allowing brands to start using chatbots  there. Not only can this help brands to achieve better sales, but it’s also a natural way with which to bolster social media engagement. By deploying a useful chatbot on Facebook, you’ll be far more likely to attract users on to your business page – where you are hopefully already bending over backwards in order to drive sales and engage with consumers on a personal level.
6. Simplify Payments
It’s one thing to try and get people to order food via chatbot. It’s another thing to make sure that customers show up and pay. By embracing cutting edge, bot-driven payment options, you can have your cake and eat it, too. Last year, rising social media star Snapchat introduced — Snapcash . The tool is essentially a virtual wallet that stores a user’s card details, and allows individuals to send money off to friends or brands with a simple message.
Bearing in mind Snapchat generates some of the social media world’s highest levels of consumer engagement, it stands to reason that embracing tools like Snapcash could drastically improve online sales amongst younger demographics.
As always, this list is by no means exhaustive. As developers and big brands continue to push the concept of chatbots further still, more applications of this technology are emerging daily.
If you’re eager to embrace chatbots and introduce them into your small business strategy, just remember to do your research. Do some brainstorming about how customers could benefit from the introduction to a chatbot, how you would deploy it and how or where it will be created. Nothing can replace quality, one-on-one customer service — but that’s no reason to shy away from injecting a bit of artificial intelligence into your overall marketing mix.
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