Chatbots used to interact with customers on Facebook

Yes please to chatbots, no thank you to kale…

Unless you’re hiding in the bush off the grid, hoarding baked beans and water purifiers and waiting for the apocalypse, chances are that digital marketing has influenced at least some part of your life in the past 24 hours.

As a busy mom raising two boys, this means that I regularly see digital content about raising kids, staying sane, good nutrition, exercise and how-to Mary Kondo my living space.  So, I wouldn't be surprised if I also soon start seeing info in my feed on island getaways, yoga retreats, specials on 2-minute noodles and gin tastings.

Herein lies the beauty of digital marketing - it has a unique ability to adapt to a very specific target audience, much more than other traditional marketing channels. Which means it might save you time, introduce you to ways of improving your life or give you information that is applicable to your specific needs.

The most obvious digital marketing that we interact with is through social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. But it goes far beyond that; almost any interaction online will expose us to some form of digital marketing - prominently placed digital displays or  mobile phones are other ways of receiving info that applies to us  - so even if we might be cleansing ourselves of social media after a recent overdose, we’d still receive targeted info in other ways.

It can be a win-win situation for companies and consumers alike - the company have access to a mass market at an affordable price, with the option of personalised campaigns. This means we’re getting the info based on our specific type of lifestyle. If it’s working well, it also means we should be getting less of the stuff we don’t really need or are even trying to avoid at all cost (steer clear kale recipes and make-up tutorials).

The flip side of targeted messages is of course that there is a lot of it, all the time. If you spend a significant amount of time online (like me) it is easy to feel bombarded by so many messages. Which is why I loved my recent interaction with none other than a robot. Yup, a special type of robot called a chatbot. And it is exactly what it says - a non-human entity you can chat to and get answers to your questions.

There is no doubt, a chatbot out there, who can also give you an answer to life and why cellulite is impossible to get rid of, but my needs were far more urgent than that.

Shortly before going away for a weekend I realised my son’s allergy medicine was almost finished. Rushing through deadlines, packing, organising pet-sitters and padkos, I somehow had to get to a pharmacy as well, after office hours.

Although most good shopping centres have well-organised websites, it can be tedious to find the info you need immediately. But not this time - thanks to the lovely chatbot on Centurion Mall’s landing page. It opens automatically when you visit their website - you simply type your request and away you go!

It’s extremely easy to interact with, for millennials and technophobes alike. It guides you through a logical structure to get to the info you need.

Best of all? This chatbot replies to your messages immediately and unambiguously, which is why I suspect it’s of the female variety.

On a more serious and final note: this digital interaction saved me time and made my life easier. Other shopping malls and businesses, in general, could gain by taking note.


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