The process that a potential customer goes through on the way to making the decision to buy a product or service is known as the sales funnel. While the basic components of this have not changed, the way that it is carried out certainly has, with one recent development being to use a chatbot or virtual salesperson to communicate with customers.
What is the sales funnel?
The journey to buying a product or service can be summarised in four stages:
1. Awareness: the consumer finds out about the product/ service
2. Interest: the consumer seeks out more information
3. Decision: when to buy and from whom etc
4. Action: the desired transaction takes place
How can chatbots be deployed?
A chatbot can be used in the awareness stage to make contact with potential customers browsing a web page or using social media. The chatbot will typically wait a short period of time and then ask a short pop-up question, such as querying whether the customer needs any help to find something. Questions can be customised depending on what is being looked at, which can help build a relationship and encourage a potential customer to the next stage of the funnel. This would be expensive to do manually whereas an automated piece of software can connect with five or 500 people for the same cost.
In the next stage, a chatbot can respond to a potential customer’s interest by handling common questions, forwarding information or connecting them to a salesperson. This can mean that many queries can be answered very quickly and a company representative appears to be available to multiple customers 24/7.
In the decision phase, bots can assist by collecting marketing data, sending out further information based on the browsing history and send solid leads through to human salespeople. This means that valuable resource is focused on the customers most likely to make a purchase.
At the final stage of the process, a human will generally take over to make a sale. Small purchases can often be made through the bot directly and aftersales support and data collection can certainly be carried out.