How to Engage College Students Through Chatbots

Chatbots are a new technology brands can use to connect with the college-age consumers. They allow users to place orders, track shipments, troubleshoot customer service issues, and more by writing or speaking to their devices. But like all technology, there is a learning curve to applying chatbots to your business.

Chatbots use artificial intelligence to mimic human conversation. They run on messaging apps like Kik, Slack, WhatsApp, or WeChat to allow customers to field questions and receive on-demand answers. According to eMarketer, messaging apps were used by over 1.4 billion people in 2015, up nearly 32% from the year before. Along with providing a more streamlined customer experience, a chatbot can collect a slew of information about customers to deepen the company’s market research and product insight.

Some 75% of users worldwide are using messaging apps on their mobile phones, according to Statista. The same study found that millennials represent the most dominant segment. According to BI Intelligence, chat apps have higher retention and usage rates than most mobile apps.

“Millennials grew up with SMS text messaging and Facebook messenger, so it comes as no surprise that they prefer the no-nonsense, on-demand approach of bots,” says Gam Dias, founder and CEO of 1080bots, a company that builds chatbots for retailers. “The interesting thing is that colleges are using chatbots now for things like class scheduling. They realize that this is how they can reach their students.”

But chatbots require their own marketing strategy. “When done correctly, a bot can be a major advantage,” Dias says.

Following a few simple steps can position your bot for future success:

1) Get Your Bot Noticed

Getting your bot noticed is an immediate hurdle for getting your audience engaged and comfortable using the platform, Dias explains.

Retailers should publicize their bot on their website, post signage in stores, and post on social media so customers can easily find and use it. Dias advises retailers to provide as much info as possible about their bots when promoting them. For example, can you order items through the bot or submit a return? Can a bot help choose a gift? Whatever your bot is capable of, let your customers know. This way, they can begin to visualize how they will use it.

2) Power Your Bot

“My belief is that you don’t have enough time to talk to your normal friends, let alone talk to a bot,” Dias says. As a result, chatbots should be chatty (but not too chatty), friendly (but not too friendly), and efficient. Rather than scrolling through a website and logging in, or navigating a voice mail system, bots should offer access immediately and easily.

3) Allow Haggling

Since college students are always on the lookout for a good deal, a bot with the ability to help students haggle could have a lot of staying power for this demographic, Dias predicts. He encourages companies to develop bots for accessing the best deals, whether that’s information about when an item goes on sale or access to a rep who might be able to discount a service or item.

4) Offer Referral Incentives

College students share product information through word of mouth since they are part of tight-knit campus communities. Providing an incentive to get other friends to utilize the messaging app could be an effective way to grow a bot’s user base.

Want to learn more about how students spread the word about their favorite brands and apps? Fill out this form and download our “Cracking the Code on Student Shoppers” infographic.