Are Chatbots Replacing Email Marketing?
To run a successful business, you only have one job to do.
And that’s to show your target audience that you have a solution to their problems (or aspirations).
That means you must establish an effective and efficient way of communicating with them. In the digital age we’re living in, chatbots are fast becoming one of the main ways brands communicate with their customers.
But does this meteoric rise in popularity mean chatbots are replacing email as the favored marketing channel?
Let’s compare the two and find out.
Chatbots vs. Email in Marketing
The chatbots vs. email marketing debate is an interesting one. That’s because it’s a battle between one of the oldest electronic means of communication and one of the latest.
With all the rave about chatbots, could it be that the “email is dead” prophecy is finally coming to pass?
To answer that question, let’s look at the effectiveness of each in some of the most important facets of marketing.
Access to User Data
User data plays a crucial role in executing personalized marketing campaigns. Quality data equals better personalization, resulting in better conversions.
And this is one area that chatbots trump email marketing.
Chatbots give you access to first-party data as you can quickly collect important data directly from your customers as your bot engages them in conversation. And with more chatbots leveraging AI, data collection and analysis couldn’t be easier. The result is that chatbots will help you create personalized campaigns and messaging much faster.
Email, on the other hand, usually relies on third-party data (like from cookies). Getting first-party data can be slow due to the asynchronous nature of email.
While both means of communication can provide you with a wealth of data you can use to personalize your campaigns, chatbots do it faster.
Effective marketing strategies rely on your ability to use communication channels that your target audience favor. Let’s look at how our two contenders fare in this category.
According to research by Statista, there are over 4 billion active email users globally. And that number keeps growing.
While chatbots are all the rage right now, a report by Acquire shows that only 1.4 billion people use chatbots. That’s way less than the number of email users.
With over half of the world’s population using email, it qualifies to be one of the tools in your marketing toolbox. You get a greater reach with email. Besides, email is more personal, and people check their inboxes regularly.
Engagement is an important metric that has a significant bearing on your campaign’s success. Another important metric that marketers use to gauge the success of their campaigns is engagement.
Sadly, email is on the losing end on this one as engagement has been steadily declining in the past few years. This is despite most people on your mailing list having opted in to receive marketing communications from your brand. But with inboxes being cluttered by marketing communication from different brands and email losing its allure, the decrease in engagement is inevitable. According to data from Constant Contact, the average open rate is 16.03% across all industries. In other words, close to 85% of your email list will not engage with your emails.
The story is quite different, however, with chatbots. While the churn rate can be high for chatbots, those you manage to retain are highly engaged. Research shows that open rates for chatbots can be as high as 80%. This is mainly because those who engage with chatbots have a higher intent of getting your product or service. And they want a platform that’s responsive enough to help them right away.
Another reason chatbots drive higher engagement is that they are versatile. They can be used on many different platforms. You can deploy them on your blog, social media platforms of choice (Facebook, Twitter, Kik, e.t.c), or on your app. Email, on the other hand, is a rigid standalone platform. The flexibility of chatbots makes them very handy for reaching people right where they are.
Whenever marketers discuss a new tool or marketing strategy, the question of conversion rates always arises.
And the conversion rates most marketers see with their chatbot marketing are quite phenomenal. Some see as much as 15% to 60% conversion rates depending on what constitutes a conversion.
In the cases where a sale is the ultimate goal of a campaign, chatbots enjoy high conversion rates as they help speed up the lead nurturing process. This, in turn, results in a shorter sales cycle as you can guide your prospect towards making a purchase in real-time. Designed well, chatbots are a great tool for moving your prospects down your sales funnel efficiently as they can elicit an immediate response.
With email marketing, on the other hand, getting conversion rates of 2.7% is pretty impressive. Of course, that pales in comparison to the conversion rates you get with chatbots.
With conversion rates that are off the charts compared to email, chatbots certainly seem to be on the verge of ousting email as the primary marketing channel.
Return on Investment (ROI)
One of the most important things to look for in any marketing strategy is the ROI it delivers.
And email has been king of the ROI mountain for a long time, delivering ROIs as high as $42 for every $1 spent. That’s an ROI of 4200%.
As for chatbots, some marketers get as much as a 400% ROI. That’s $4 for every $1 spent. Impressive as this may be, it still doesn’t come close to the ROI you’ll get with email marketing. But with chatbots fast gaining popularity, the ROI they bring can only be expected to rise exponentially. However, the most significant advantage of chatbots is that they are a great way to scale your customer service while reducing your costs.
3 Things to Consider Before You Ditch Email for Chatbots
Chatbot marketing seems to be winning the battle against email marketing.
But does this mean you should completely ditch email in favor of chatbots?
Before you do, consider these 3 factors:
Email Gives You Total Control
If there’s one thing many marketers have learned is not to rely too heavily on third-party platforms. That’s because they can disappear overnight.
With social media being the place most chatbots are deployed, it can be tempting to invest all your time and resources on chatbot marketing. However, if your platform of choice sinks or is affected by regulations, you risk losing your audience. For example, Facebook lost a lot of users after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
With email, you own your email list. Nothing can stop you from interacting with your subscribers. In the same vein, email is easier to use as everyone uses the same basic platform. Sure, not all email providers render emails the same way, but with chatbot marketing, you have to design your chatbots to function properly on the different platforms you’ll deploy them on.
Email is More Effective at Delivering Complex Content
Whether you’re solving a problem for a customer or delivering a marketing message, sometimes the content you need to deliver can be complex. In this case, bots are limited in the responses they can give. Sure, they can refer you to a blog post or live agent, but email is still more effective when it comes to delivering larger chunks of content.
Email is Still Relevant
Before you ditch email marketing for chatbots, you must know that it’s still relevant to your marketing strategy. That’s particularly if your target audience consists of an older demographic. Data shows that baby boomers and older generations are more likely to engage with your brand via email than chat-based platforms.
However, if your target audience comprises millennials (currently the biggest spenders), your marketing strategy should lean more heavily towards chatbots. That’s because over 40% of this demographic communicate with brands via chatbot daily.
But what makes email more relevant than chatbots is the way email is the thread that ties all online communication together. From utility bills to signing up for an app to work-related communications, email is at the center of it all.
That’s why people regularly check their email.
The same can’t be said for chatbots, however. People only interact with them when they’re looking for something specific.
So if you want to reach people any time, anywhere, think about that before you ditch email for your chatbot.
It Should Be Chatbots and Email, Not Chatbots vs. Email
I’m sure you’ve probably seen a common thread here. Email marketing and chatbot marketing complement each other.
Email can help you reach demographics and achieve marketing goals chatbots can’t and vice-versa. That’s why an effective marketing strategy doesn’t favor one over the other. An effective marketing strategy involves:
- Understanding your target audience and which channel they prefer.
- Creating a strategy that balances email and chatbots according to your customers’ preferences.
When used together, email and chatbots can help increase the effectiveness of your marketing strategy.
For example, you can use your chatbot to collect email addresses from prospects. The great thing is that you can easily segment your email list with the data you collect from the conversations.
Another example of email and chatbots working in tandem is including a link to your chatbot for faster and more efficient customer support.
Are Chatbots Replacing Email Marketing?
We’ve come full-circle and it’s time to answer the burning question of whether chatbots are replacing email marketing.
The short answer is no. Well, not yet anyway.
While chatbots help you engage with your customers where they hang out the most, email is still the best channel for fostering lasting relationships. That’s why you must use both in your marketing strategy.
Hailey Lucas is a freelance content marketer for B2B SaaS companies, with a focus on sales and sales engagement platforms. Before becoming a content marketer, she spent close to a decade climbing the corporate ladder in a successful sales career. Today, Hailey is a full-time digital nomad and spare time blogger about all things digital marketing, freelancing, and the digital nomad lifestyle at haileylucas.com. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here or tweet/follow her @iamhaileylucas.
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