Recreating Brick And Mortar Online Via Real-Time Chats; My Friday Afternoon Internet Adventure
Putzing around the Internet on this slow Friday, I searched Google for "Google AdWords search vs. display advertising." (Basically, AdWords seems to be the answer to absolutely everything, and I wanted to know more about it.)
Lo and behold, I ended up on a blog post on the site Webitmd.com. Not 10 seconds into reading that search and display are the two primary venues in Google AdWords did a little chat box appear on my screen.
"Thanks for checking us out! My name is Sarah. Have any questions about our services?"
I chose to ignore what "Sarah" wrote and instead asked my own (rather rude) question: "Are you real or a robot?"
"I am real," Sarah replied. She even added a smiley face. (I would later learn that this was her first real real message, as the first one was automated.)
My initial reaction: That's awesome. This is what "real-time marketing" should really mean.
Sarah told me that Webitmd uses a service called SnapEngage. I went to the SnapEngage site and (duh) was pinged with a message there — this time by a person named Mia.
Mia told me that SnapEngage's client base is "a little of everything," including retailers, service providers, and even doctors. If a consumer responds to the chat, then SnapEngage users can see where they are on the site and even redirect them.
It reminded me of Amazon's Mayday, which Frank Maggio, founder of Maggio Media, wrote about in September. Maggio called Mayday "OnStar For Your Kindle."
Mia ended up connecting me to Jerome Mouton, co-founder and chief technology officer at SnapEngage. It didn't even open up a new chat box — Mouton just started chatting to me right where Mia left off.
I asked Mouton to explain the role a service like SnapEngage can play for real-time marketers.
"Once you succeed through SEO, advertising, etc. to get people to reach your site, it is hard — very hard — to keep them there," he typed. "Many customers will just hit the back button if they are not sure they have found what they were looking for.
"When they have a personal prompt inviting them to have their questions answered, that is changing the story completely."
I asked Mouton how
important it is to have a human answering customer queries as opposed to a machine. Aren't most of us used to carrying around a machine that speaks to us and answers our questions anyway? Why use
humans resources if a machine can get it done?
"What we have been always trying to reproduce with SnapEngage is the experience you get when you walk into a brick and mortar shop," Mouton told me. "The first message is automated, but if the customer replies, they are linked up to an actual human." He added, "We feel cheated when we realize that [we are talking to a machine]."
I wanted to know what type of information SnapEngage knew about me in real-time. Mouton showed me what they can see, which included my location (and what the weather is like), what kind of computer I'm on and my visiting history on the site. In theory, the chatter could help me find a local store of theirs if I didn't want to wait for shipping, if the online store didn't have the item I wanted in stock, etc.
"Oftentimes the initial chat will not lead to a sales or a conversion," Mouton continued. As most online retailers have email marketing processes in place, the chatter would then try to get the consumer's email address to follow up. If the consumer did give their email address, then the SnapEngage platform would scan the Web and do what Mouton called "social discovery" on the consumer. It can find profile pictures, likes and dislikes, and any other public information connected to that email address via social media sites.
"For many real-time sales situations, the agent is now better equipped to understand the customer and his/her needs," Mouton wrote. "That is even more important when the online retailer is for instance a car dealer, a realtor, etc.," he added.
So that was my Friday afternoon Internet adventure. It's not groundbreaking stuff, but I have to believe that this is what real-time marketing will be all about once the culture-jacking stuff on Twitter dies down.