Is It Time for an AI-powered Chatbot on Your Website?

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Back in the olden days — and by that I mean, like 2019, chatbots were built on branching logic models. They would ask site visitors a simple question (like, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Or “What challenges are you currently facing?”) that could be answered with a yes/no or multiple choice. Based on the answer, the chatbot could serve up resources, links, or, in some cases, a real person to provide service.

The rule of thumb was that these chatbots could answer two or three questions before they needed to fetch a human. Any further than that and the branching logic would get way too complex and the system would break down.

For a while, they were hot. Then they just became commonplace. You’d hear the little ping and see the animation on the bottom right of your screen. It was always there if you needed it, but didn’t get in your way. 

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Now, AI promises huge advances: Chatbots that can be trained on your data could provide your visitors with a near-human quality interaction. 

So, in 2024, how should you use chatbots on your website?  

Where you should deploy chatbots

Imagine walking into a big box store. You’re greeted immediately by someone in a shirt that matches the corporate color scheme. Their message: Welcome to our store. Can I help point you in the right direction?

No, thanks. I’m just looking. 

You pass this person and head to the department you’re interested in. Lighting, electronics, shoes, baby gear, you name it. 

There’s a different helper here, once you get to your section. A specialist. This is the person who can tell you the difference between emission quantum dot TVs and QLED TVs. Between Graco and Britax infant car seats.

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But still, they’re not intrusive. 

And remember, the specialist doesn’t belong at the front of the store — and the greeter doesn’t belong in the TV section. 

Think of your chatbots in the same way.

The role they fill should vary depending on the stage of the buyer’s journey

Your chatbots need to provide the right resource when the buyer needs it — and be unobtrusive when they don’t. 

Chatbots can be pricy, so plan accordingly

So where will you get the most chatbot bang for your chatbot buck? 

  • Do you want that chatbot on your homepage to greet top-of-the-funnel visitors who are just learning about what you do?
  • Or, should it be on your service pages to help potential buyers understand how to take the next step?
  • Or, should it be on blog articles and product pages prompting people with personalized calls to action?

If you’ve got limited resources, you might have to make strategic choices to get the most ROI from your chatbot. 

Your place in the AI chatbot revolution 

As of press time, the AI chatbot revolution is in its infancy. Some tools have rolled out, some are in Beta, and some are at the end of a long waitlist. 

While it’s exciting to explore new tools that are coming on the market, it’s also important to temper that excitement with a cold splash of reality. Many new AI start-ups are propped up by VC funding. Will they still be here in 18 months? Will they get swallowed up by competitors or acquired by a conglomerate? 

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Most likely, they’ll get muscled out by the big boys who launch similar tools that are built into the platforms we already use. 

If you’re trusting a company with all of your brand data, you want to be sure that the company is going to be around for a while. 

If you’ve already got a chatbot

If you’ve already got a chatbot employed on your website, look to optimize it. Make it better. 

  • Be sure it speaks in the language of your buyers. 
  • Be sure it’s in the right place on your website. (Think of the greeter in the big box store.)
  • Be sure it enhances the visitor’s experience. If it’s intrusive or distracting, think twice. 

If you’re using a well-established chatbot company, it’s likely that they’ll begin offering AI-powered solutions. So be on the lookout for upgrades and new features. 

If you’re thinking about getting an AI-powered chatbot

I would say wait for a few months. New technology comes with bugs. AI, especially, brings with it concerns about hallucinations, data privacy, and bias. On top of that, you’ve got AI start-ups that may not be here in 12 months.

Here’s what to do in the meantime:

  • Spend some time learning and experimenting. Make note of the experience you’re having on websites with chat. If they’re great, reach out and ask what tool they use. Heck, if the experience is terrible, reach out too. 
  • Learn about how chatbots integrate with the CRM you use. If it’s a non-native tool, will data flow seamlessly?
  • Determine specific use cases you’d like a chatbot for. Everywhere on your website? Only on select pages? If you want great results, you need a strategy. 
  • Look into cost (and potential ROI) for several chatbot options. Be clear about this. Is a $2,500-per-month chatbot going to be a wise investment for your team?
  • Evaluate your current sales and customer service processes. How will a chatbot integrate into what you do now? What kind of training will your team need to succeed?

The more you know, the more you prepare, the better it will be when you jump in. 

Everyone selling chatbots: ‘The future is AI-powered chatbots!’ 

At this point, it’s pretty clear that AI will have a massive impact on many facets of professional work. But just as with any technology, you have to be sure you’re not chasing the shiny object at the expense of your principles. 

Is a chatbot the tool that will help your customers and improve their experience? Or is it another expensive doodad that you don’t really need?

Remember, the purpose of your website is to educate your audience and help them take the steps they need to take to buy from you. 

Will a chatbot help?

Do your research, build your strategy, and put the right bots in the right places — but only if it makes sense for your buyers. 

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