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How ‘utility marketing’ will benefit from chatbots

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Chatbots are truly exciting because they bring with them the promise of a paradigm change. They make it possible to interact with customers — within a trusted environment — in a way that apps or other channels cannot achieve. What we really mean when we say “utility marketing” is that chatbots offer a way to make sure customer needs are met on the spot.

The idea is that consumers receive value from their exchange with a brand because the brand actually gives the consumer something useful (utilitarian), like directions, content, customer service, tickets, or a piece of helpful information, at the precise moment and in the same channel a consumer requests it.

While it’s easy to get energized about this new opportunity, the only way to make it work is to go beyond the hype to focus on the growing demand for something that is actually useful.

Providing utility in the customer relationship is all about when, where, and how consumers demand something. Traditionally, this demand was met through product planning and innovation — for example, having the latest swimsuit styles available in the summer through the convenience of multiple retail locations. This model has certainly expanded in the digital age, and chatbots provide a real opportunity to take a giant step forward, giving consumers the expanded level of practical benefits they’ve come to expect.

Think about it for a minute. As a consumer, how much utility do the businesses that you interact with provide? Are you asked to download a new app every time you turn around, fumble your way around the company website, or even try to wrangle your way to a live agent at a 1-800 service number? Consumers have been aware for some time that we all walk around with a mobile remote control in our pockets that is an ideal mechanism for delivering true utility.

How chatbots connect the dots of utility marketing

I work with a variety of retail and hospitality brands that are embracing the ability to automate one-on-one communications with their customers because it allows them to give those customers the utility they are looking for. One-to-one marketing, a concept pioneered years ago by Peppers & Rogers, is a customer relationship strategy that emphasizes personalized customer interactions as a means of fostering greater loyalty. Chatbots can play an integral role in automating one-on-one consumer marketing communication, especially when coupled with trusted messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or direct messaging on Twitter.

Specifically, the marketing chatbot approach connects the dots between chat and utility marketing by enabling consumers to interact with a bot using natural language at the customer’s convenience. This gives brands the utility to engage in customer service, ecommerce, marketing campaigns, and other marketing moments – all in a personalized manner. By creating and applying rules that respond to certain natural language communication and connecting personally identifiable data points, companies are able to authenticate, or recognize an individual, and respond intelligently with a rules-based system for bots or deep CRM data for one-on-one conversations.

The ability to create this data link is indeed a critical aspect of providing utility through chatbots. A savvy approach is to create a connection to the organization’s loyalty program. This has a double-sided benefit in that it provides information that enables personalized communication and gives companies the ability to simultaneously reward these customers for their participation, reinforcing the utility and benefit of the interaction. Further, the approach creates a virtuous cycle in which the company’s most loyal customers engage more and more deeply inside the brand’s chatbot.

Chatbots — the new social triggers

One of the common critiques of chatbots is that they leave discovery and distribution in the hands of consumers, putting marketers in yet another “build it and they will come” scenario. However, innovative brands are promoting social triggers like hashtags as a way to simultaneously address this concern and connect offline media — like television, events, and in-store calls-to-action — to their marketing chatbot. By activating campaigns and events in this way, the marketing chatbot converts offline marketing via users’ mobile remote control, effectively connecting consumers’ social IDs with their offline ID while giving consumers greater control over when, where, and how they interact.

With this information on hand, marketers can tie chat identity, demographics, and other first-party data to email accounts in CRM and marketing databases for enriched marketing data and an ability to further personalize chatbots moving forward. Finally, this customer-centric approach also allows brands to proactively surprise and delight consumers, giving marketers the ability to listen to people who are talking about them and respond in a personalized manner. Rewarding people proactively for their advocacy or taking an opportunity to address a potential customer service issue helps create a bond that will further grow customer loyalty and ROI.

The new chatbot paradigm is exciting, indeed. Amidst the hype, however, it will be important to not lose sight of what people really want from the organizations they interact with — e.g., the utility. Marketers that focus on giving people the ability to engage with a natural language marketing chatbot in this way will assuredly increase customer loyalty and grow the lifetime value of the relationship. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about? Creating happy customers who want to do business with you.

AI. Messaging. Bots. Arm yourself for the next paradigm shift at MobileBeat 2016. July 12-13 at The Village in San Francisco. Reserve your place here.

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About Ms. A. C. Kennedy

Ms. A. C. Kennedy
My name is Ms A C Kennedy and I am a Health practitioner and Consultant by day and a serial blogger by night. I luv family, life and learning new things. I especially luv learning how to improve my business. I also luv helping and sharing my information with others. Don't forget to ask me anything!

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What we’re watching: ‘Raw’ and ‘Feast of Fiction’

Welcome back to Video IRL, where several of our editors talk about what they've been watching in their spare time. This month we're kicking things off with some seasonally-appropriate horror fare, that you can catch right away on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Then it's time for a Gundam throwback before Kris Naudus points out a couple of YouTube food channels perfect for binge eating or binge watching.

Them / Raw


Timothy J. Seppala

Timothy J. Seppala
Associate Editor

To get into the Halloween spirit, I've been watching at least one horror movie a day since the end of September -- the lower the budget, the better. Problem is, so many of the American low-budget or indie horror offerings on Amazon and Netflix are crappy Paranormal Activity clones, cheap-thrill gore-fests or uninspired found-footage "documentaries." Whether it's by design or coincidence, I've found that French horror movies have held my attention the most lately. Specifically, 2016's Raw, as well as Them, from ten years prior. They're more psychological thrillers than straight-up horror, but that didn't stop me from being more on edge while watching them one afternoon than I was during A Haunting in Saginaw, Michigan, late at night. Both start with a car crash, but they couldn't finish any more differently.

Raw, recently added to Netflix, tells the tale of a vegetarian girl in her first week at a prestigious veterinary school. During a hazing ritual, she's forced to eat a raw rabbit kidney. She immediately gets sick, throws up and wakes herself up that night scratching a full-body rash to near bleeding. This bout with food poisoning is just the beginning, though, and soon protagonist Justine finds out she has a taste for forbidden fruit. As the remaining 70-ish minutes unfolded, I lost track of how many times I clasped my hands over my mouth, agape in shock, to stifle my shouts of "OHMYGODWHATTHEFUCKISEVENHAPPENING?!"

But French director Julia Ducournau balances every body-horror scene either with something pedestrian twisted into being unsettling (like a horse on a treadmill) or with something that makes you ask how far Justine can go before someone confronts her about her new diet. And those questions keep coming right until the credits roll. I can't say I enjoyed watching Raw, but it was a hell of a ride.

The same goes for Them, currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Its focus is narrow, centering on a young couple living in a cavernous farmhouse, terrorized over the course of a night by unseen horrors. The camera never quite gives away who (or what) the perpetrators are, and revealing the twist would be a sin. As with Raw, its atmosphere and overall creepiness won me over straightaway. The scariest part? Realizing that I've probably driven past a shot like the final scene countless times and not thought twice about it. If you're willing to read subtitles, both of these should make you shiver and scream more than The Conjuring 2 on HBO Go could ever hope to.

Mobile Suit Gundam The 08th MS Team


David Lumb

David Lumb
Contributing Editor

I'd heard that a lot of anime had left Hulu, but I scanned their selection anyway looking for classic shows I'd missed, like the original Mobile Suit Gundam. They don't have that -- but they did have a series I didn't finish the first time it aired on Toonami, the 1996 classic Gundam side story The 08th MS Team. Unlike the franchise's other show released the year before, the massively successful Gundam Wing, 08th ditches the brand's typical pretty-boys-in-unbeatable-robots for a grounded and sobering story about the people who get caught up in wars -- desperate soldiers, civilians and guerrillas alike. It's dirty, honest, utterly humane and gorgeously animated.

It's also a little preachy and melodramatic, and it shows its age with odd sexist moments. While it's still the Thin Red Line of the Gundam universe, I remember it far more fondly from when my 14-year-old self grazed the series on its first American airing. There's something sad in seeing an old favorite for the flawed media it always was. Much like Waypoint's Rob Zacny, I've grown up and seen a lot since I first caught the show as a starry-eyed teen. I still think The 08th MS Team is a wonderful little 12-episode miniseries with a big heart, but I won't revere it so highly -- and will think a little harder about who I recommend it to.

Feast of Fiction / Binging with Babish


Kris Naudus

Kris Naudus
Senior Editor, Database

Back in March, I came home from a trip only to discover that my oven didn't work. The cooking gas in my building had been shut off due to a leak. My building management seemed to be on it, so I made do with a combination of microwavables, toaster oven and Seamless. Unfortunately, weeks and months went by, calls to the city were made and permits were issued, but, even as I write this in October, gas still has not been restored to my building. My landlords eventually threw their collective hands in the air and began installing electric ranges in every apartment, so a few weeks ago I was finally able to cook for myself again.

I am so jazzed to be able to make food. Hot food! Scrambled eggs! Steak! Cookies! I started reading food blogs and cookbooks, and shopping to refill my pantry. I'm halfway through Kenji Alt-Lopez's The Food Lab, a huge 900-page hardcover that talks about the science of how food cooks. On the lighter side, I've also been reading food-themed comics like Delicious in Dungeon and Food Wars. And the latter title (which is also an anime) ended up sucking me into a YouTube hole of food videos that I've been obsessed with ever since.

You see, the very first chapter of Food Wars features the "Gotcha" Pork Roast, a bacon-wrapped potato loaf that hero Soma Yukihira makes to save his family restaurant. It looks pretty tasty, so I searched for recipes and pics online and stumbled onto Jimmy Wong and Ashley Adams' Feast of Fiction, a series that demonstrates how to make various foods seen in cartoons, video games and comics. If you ever wanted to taste Steven Universe's beloved Cookie Cat ice cream sandwiches or Kirby's super-spicy curry, there's an episode for you. One thing I really enjoy is how they also incorporate crafts into it, showing how to make paper wrappers for your Reptar chocolate bars or genuine-looking Ecto Cooler Hi-C boxes.

I've been marathoning through the episodes, which the YouTube algorithms have definitely picked up on at this point, throwing food show after food show into my suggestions. One that caught my eye was Binging with Babish. Where Feast of Fiction mostly sticks to the realm of kids' cartoons, anime and video games, Binging with Babish is a little more mainstream, covering foods from popular media like Mad Men, Seinfeld and House of Cards. Still, there's a bit of overlap -- both Babish and Feast have done their own takes on the Ultimeatum from Regular Show and Krabby Patties from SpongeBob SquarePants. But the recipes are different, and I watch the shows for the personalities. Feast of Fiction is pretty silly (and there's a cute dog), while Binging with Babish is a little more subdued. Not that Babish can't be ridiculous as well -- the Moist Maker is one of the most ridiculously complicated sandwiches I have ever seen, basically asking you to cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner.

Sadly, I still haven't done a lot of actual cooking since getting my stove back. I'm having too much fun watching other people do it instead, with the added bonus that I don't have to clean up the mess.

"IRL" is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they're buying, using, playing and streaming.

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