5 Ways to Use Artificial Intelligence to Increase Your Sales
The robots are coming for your business.
Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the truth is that in recent years, artificial intelligence has become more sophisticated than ever before.
And while you might think that investing in AI is for huge companies with huge budgets, the truth is that AI is more affordable – and more versatile – than you might think.
Artificial intelligence, if programmed and used properly, can help you increase your sales, enhance your customers’ experience, and manage your business more effectively. Here are 5 things you can do with artificial intelligence starting now.
#1: Expand Your Customer Service
There’s no denying that there’s a link between customer service and sales. Customers who are happy with your service are more likely to buy from you again. They’re also likely to recommend you to their friends.
Adding a simple customer service chatbot to your website can do a great deal to improve service. It can:
- Provider customers with the immediate response they want when they have a problem
- Redirect customers to self-service options they might not be able to find on their own
- Let customers know that you care about them and their needs
What if you don’t know how to program a chatbot? Not to worry. Even if you don’t have the budget to hire a programmer, there are “build-a-bot” programs online that you can use to create the bot you need. You can find a list of 14 tools here, including several that will allow you to create a chatbot to use with Facebook Messenger.
#2: Learn About Customer Behavior
One of the coolest things about artificial intelligence is something called machine learning. It’s what programmers used with the famous chess program, Deep Blue, that defeated chess champion Gary Kasparov.
Machine learning is something that can help you gather data about your customers based on their behavior and purchase habits. Basically, it’s like retargeting with a kick.
You can already target customers based on past purchases and behavior. Adding AI to the mix just means that you can gather more information and use it new ways.
80% of marketers know that personalized content is more appealing to customers than generic content. Using AI tools like Convertize and Nudgify can help you tailor your web content to an individual visitor, providing them with the information and guidance they need.
#3: Provide Product Suggestions
One straightforward way to use chatbots to increase sales is to program your chatbots to make product suggestions when customers are shopping on your site.
This idea makes it possible for you to increase sales by letting customers who are engaged with your chatbots know about products they might not otherwise find. Basically, you’ll be turning your chatbots into personal shoppers for your customers.
A client who buys a set of cookware on your site, for example, could get a recommendation for a coordinated set of cooking utensils or even a cookbook or apron. The idea is similar to what Amazon does when they display the “People who bought this item also bought” links when you view a product on their site.
This type of programming is a bit more involved than a simple customer service chatbot, but it can pay off in increased sales.
#4: Improved Productivity
If all of your customer service is provided by employees at present, then adding AI to the mix can help you save their time – and give them more time to spend more time with customers who are at your place of business and ready to buy from you.
Think about it – if one of your sales staff must monitor social media messages or customer service tickets, they’re taking time away from customers who might need personal guidance to make a purchase.
Properly programmed, AI chatbots can deal with simple customer service requests by helping people check the status of an order, reset a password, or track a package. Your employees will spend less time on repetitive requests and more – at least in theory – with customers who are ready to buy.
At the same time, you’ll be improving your customers’ experience by giving them quicker service than they would get from an employee. And, if an employee does need to step in, your AI solutions can provide the information they need to provide top-notch service without asking the customer to repeat themselves.
#5: Respond to Customer Needs
Do you know what your customers want and why they want it? If you don’t – or if you’re only collecting detailed information from your customers sporadically – then you can use artificial intelligence to expand your knowledge of your customers and do a better job of giving them what they want.
Keatext is a tool that collects positive and negative customer feedback in real time. Instead of waiting for someone to call with a complaint (or the occasional compliment) you can get the information you need immediately.
The benefit here is that you can adjust what you are doing to provide customers with the experience they want. If people are confused by your website’s menu or unclear how to check out, you’ll know about it and can fix problems as you identify them.
There might not be an immediate link between this kind of customer feedback and sales, but in the long run, it can make a big difference in your conversion rates and your bottom line. Monitoring what your customers think about your site or social media pages allows you to make the kind of incremental improvements that will, in the long run, result in more sales.
The Robots Are Here…
The bottom line is that artificial intelligence is here to say. Big companies have latched on to it as a way of improving customer service, streamlining productivity, and increasing their sales. You don’t need to have a huge budget to take advantage of the benefits of AI – and by adopting it now, you can get a leg up on your competitors.
How Micro Moments Can Help You Attract New Customers
Right now, potential customers are online looking for your business. And you might be missing them.
Scary thought, isn’t it?
Let’s face it, there’s a ton of content out there. It can be hard to find what you’re searching for – and if the content you’re producing isn’t providing what the people in your target audience need when they need it, then they’re likely to end up with one of your competitors.
The answer? Understand the moments when customers pick up their phones to look for your business and craft content that gives it to them.
One way is to use what Google has coined Micro Moments, I.E. “the Customer Journey.” What are they and how can you use them to find new customers? Here’s what you need to know.
What is a Micro Moment?
Google coined the term Micro Moment to respond to what they saw as a growing trend. You already know that most consumers in the US are tethered to their smart phones 24 hours a day. But they’re more intensely engaged at some moments than at others.
A Micro Moment is a moment when a consumer is intent on finding something. They want a quick answer or solution. Google identifies them as:
In other words, a Micro Moment is a moment when a consumer is ripe to learn, experience, and buy things. It’s the ideal time to capture a new customer because they’re already in the right mindset to engage with your content.
There are some interesting statistics to back up the importance of Micro Moments. For example:
- 91% of smart phone users look up information on their phones while they’re in the middle of a task
- 82% of consumers consult their phones while they’re in a store – and of those, 20% buy something other than what they originally intended to buy
- 69% of online consumers say that the quality, relevance, and timing of the content they find affects their opinion of a brand (and their purchase habits)
It’s clear that there’s a benefit to Micro Moment marketing. It’s about capturing the attention of people in your area who are seeking the products or services you’re selling. The trick, of course, is knowing how and when to capture your audience’s attention at those key moments.
What You Need for Micro Moment Marketing
Gathering information about its customers is important for every business. You might have a small business with only one location, but you still need to understand who your customers are and how to use the data you collect to your advantage.
Some of the data to collect includes:
- How your customers find your business and why they decided to buy from you
- Where and how they prefer to make purchases
- How they prefer to pay for their purchases
- What things matter the most to them when making online purchases
For example, 53% of visitors will abandon a mobile site if it takes more than three seconds to load. That’s not much time – and if your site is slow, then you could be losing customers without realizing it.
You also need to understand how customers typically approach buying a product like yours. What information do they need? Where are they likely to go to get it? And – most importantly – how can you capitalize on their habits to draw them in?
Micro Moment Best Practices
There are some simple things you can do to engage your target audience in one of the more than 100 Micro Moments they experience each day.
Let’s start with Google’s definition of a Micro Moment. During a Micro Moment, customers want to know something, do something, go somewhere, or buy something. That means that, in order to capture their attention, your business must:
- Be there, meaning that you must have content that’s easily accessible and directly related to the information the people in your target audience want during a Micro Moment
- Be useful, meaning that your Micro Moment content must provide a relevant digital experience that provides a potential customer with the information they want – and the means to act on it
- Be accountable, meaning that you must provide a seamless customer experience that makes it easy for customers to buy from you across all channels
How to do all three? Well, here are some suggestions:
- Conduct a customer survey using email or social media to get a better idea of the kind of content your customers need to buy from you
- Identify crucial points in your sales funnel, so you can capitalize on them. Here, I’m talking about the moment when a customer realizes that they need what you’re selling or that they have a problem that your product or service can solve.
- Craft content that responds directly to those crucial points, providing customers with compelling content that’s both relevant and actionable.
- Include in every piece of content a clear call to action that will direct your customer to your business or provide them with a phone number or a link to your website. (The key is to provide them with a way to take immediate action!)
- Text your Micro Moment content and refine it until it’s giving you the return on investment that you need.
The most essential part of this process is knowing when your customers are likely to experience a Micro Moment. It might be when they’re making dinner plans or trying to get their kids ready to go back to school. The more information you have, the better able you will be to capture their attention and convert those Micro Moments into sales.
Micro Moments Are Fleeting
The human attention span might be shrinking, but that just means that you have new opportunities to engage with your customers in the way that’s most useful to them – and most profitable to you. Taking the time to understand Micro Moments can help you attract new customers at the point when they are most ready to buy from you.
How Much Are Your Customers Worth? (Hint: It’s More Than You Think)
You’ve got to spend money to make money.
That’s they say, right? And yet, for some small business owners, a generous marketing budget just isn’t in the cards.
You can skimp on marketing, but I’m willing to bet you haven’t considered something that you should be thinking about…
And that’s the lifetime value of each loyal customer you attract with your marketing campaigns.
You know that it costs more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one – but how much can you really afford to spend to attract a new customer?
Knowing the lifetime value of your customers is the key to creating a workable budget for marketing. That number should dictate how much you spend. Spend too much and you’re losing money in the long run. Spend too little – and you’re missing out on an opportunity to grow your business.
How to Calculate Your Lifetime Customer Value
Don’t know how to calculate the lifetime value of your customers? Here’s a simple, five-step process to get to the number you need.
- Start with your company’s total revenue in the past year and divide it by the total number of purchases in the same period. The resulting number is your average purchase value.
- Next, take your total number of purchases in the past year and divide it by the number of unique customers who made purchases. The resulting number is your average purchase frequency rate. (Note: if you make a log of cash sales and don’t request an email, then this number may not be accurate.)
- Take your average purchase value and subtract the average purchase frequency rate from it. That gives you the customer value per year.
- Calculate the average number of years a customer continues to buy from you. If you’ve been tracking unique purchases this shouldn’t be difficult. This number is the average customer lifespan.
- Now, multiply the customer value by the average customer lifespan to get the lifetime value of your customer.
Let’s look at an example. Here are your raw numbers:
- $100,000 in annual revenue
- 250 purchases
- 150 unique customers
Your average purchase value would be $400 . You would then take that number and divide it by 150 to get your average purchase frequency rate, which is 2.67.
Next, you would subtract your average purchase frequency rate from your average purchase value to get $397.33, your customer value per year. If you kept your customers, on average, for 10 years, your customer lifetime value would be $3,973.30.
That’s a very simple example but it illustrates the point. This business has a lifetime customer value of nearly $4,000.
How to use Customer Lifetime Value in Marketing
You know your customer lifetime value – now what?
The short answer is that you’ve got a piece of information that can help you attract more customers and make better use of your marketing budget.
But… what does that mean in practical terms? Here are some actionable ways to use your CLV to your advantage in marketing.
Identify Your Most Profitable Customers
If you’ve been tracking unique customer data, then it’s worth your time to crunch the numbers and learn about who your most valuable customers are.
For example, you might look at your LCV by:
These basic demographics can help you do a better job of targeting your marketing campaigns to the people who are most likely to be profitable to you in the long run.
Identify Your Most Profitable Marketing Channel
You should also calculate your most profitable marketing channel based on the number of new customers you acquire.
Perhaps you have been running marketing campaigns on:
- Google AdWords
Crunching the numbers might reveal that your spending on Google AdWords is earning you a significantly lower return than your Facebook advertising. Knowing that can help you take the next step.
Increase Your New Customer Acquisition Spending
It costs more to attract new customers than to retain existing ones, but once you know your LCV, you may discover that your new customer acquisition spending is on the low side.
You don’t need to send your spending through the roof. However, you can and should look at what you’re spending compared to the LCV you’ve calculated. If you’re spending only a tiny fraction of the LCV to acquire a new customer, it may be worthwhile to spend a bit more in that area going forward.
Allocate Your Marketing Budget to Maximize Customer Value
Your lifetime customer value might not be as high as you want it to be. The good news is that there are things you can do to increase it.
For example, say that you have learned that the people who follow you on Facebook are your most engaged and profitable customers. That’s great information to have.
Instead of sinking money into something that might not be getting you a big return, you can allocate more of your marketing budget to Facebook. Some if may go toward attracting new customers, but you should also spend some trying to get existing customers to buy more frequently and spend more money.
One way to do that is to offer return customers discounts or to create a loyalty program. If you can inspire your existing customers to buy more often, then you’ll be driving up your LCV every time they do.
At the same time, incentivizing your existing customers may also attract new customers to your business. You can encourage your followers to invite their friends to your page or allow them to share a discount code or coupon with their friends.
Your Customers Are Valuable
Every customer you have contributes to your company’s success and profitability. Understanding just how much each customer is worth to you can help you do a better job of attracting new customers, increasing their lifetime value, and maximizing your profits.
Why You Should be Doing SMS Marketing Right Now
What does your marketing mix include?
If you’re like most local businesses, you’re probably doing a mix of online and offline marketing. You might be engaging with customers on social media, hosting local events, blogging, and advertising in the local paper. Perhaps you’ve even targeted mobile customers by using Facebook’s “Call Now” button on your ads.
But guess what? There’s one thing that you’re probably not doing that could help you connect with customers when they’re most likely to stop by your business. And you might not even have considered it.
I’m talking about SMS messaging, more commonly known as text messaging.
More than 2.5 billion people worldwide own a smart phone that’s capable of text messaging. That’s a staggering number – and it begs the question:
Why aren’t more small businesses using text messaging for marketing?
Texting by the Numbers
Text messaging has the potential to be a marketing superstar for your business. To get an idea of just how effective it can be, check out these statistics:
- 89% of people always have their smart phone accessible
- 97% of Americans text at least once a day
- Texting is the #1 communication method used by people under 50 years old
- 82% of text messages are read within 5 minutes of receipt
That last statistic is particularly important, especially when you consider that consumers open only about 25% of the emails they receive.
People send and receive text messages. They give them priority over other communication, and they spend more time texting than they do talking on their phones.
In other words, text messaging is arguably the best way to ensure that the people in your target audience read what you send them.
Advantages of SMS Marketing
You know people are likely to read your text messages – but what are the other advantages of incorporating text messages into your marketing mix? Here are five that I think are key:
- You can track SMS messages the same way you would any other marketing campaign using web-based tools like SlickText.
- You can collect data about your text list by creating interactive content that allows them to reply to your messages quickly and easily.
- Text messaging provides nearly instantaneous results and stats for you to use to fine-tune your campaigns.
- Text messaging can be casual and personalized with direct language and even emoji to build a relationship with the people you text.
- Text messages are a great way to connect with your audience when they’re most likely to be in your area or in the market for what you’re selling.
A good example of time-sensitive text messaging might be a restaurant or bar texting out a Happy Hour coupon at about the time most people are getting out of work. They might be planning to head out for a drink or a bite anyway, and you can provide them with a nudge to choose your establishment over others in the area.
How to Get Subscribers for Your SMS List
By law, you cannot send a text message to anybody who has not signed up for your list. That means that you must find ways to attract new subscribers. Here are some helpful suggestions to get started.
The first and potentially easiest way to find new subscribers is to add a cell phone field to your existing opt-in form on your website. You can include a message letting people know that if they choose to provide you with a cell phone number, they’re agreeing to receive text messages from you.
Another option is to promote your SMS list in store with large print posters, flyers and other print media encouraging your customers to sign up for exclusive discounts & offers. Make sure to mention what some of those exclusive offers might be.
You may also want to send out an email to your current email list and give your subscribers a link to sign up to receive text messages from you. Here again, it’s a good idea to tempt them by letting them know you’ll be sending out special coupons and deals via text message.
Using these methods, it shouldn’t take you very long to build up a sizable SMS messaging list.
Tips for Successful SMS Messaging Campaigns
Text message marketing has a lot in common with other forms of marketing. To be successful, you must conceptualize a strong campaign based on your knowledge of your subscribers, create compelling content, and track your results. Here are some tips that may help you.
- Understand your audience. You may want to create a quick survey for your email list or social media followers to find out what kind of content they would like to receive via text message.
- Keep your messages short and sweet. People are more likely to read your messages if they’re brief and compelling. A good rule of thumb is to make them about the same length as a Tweet – no more than 280 characters.
- Offer mobile-exclusive deals to your subscribers. These might include exclusive coupons, discounts, and sales especially for your mobile customers.
- Use casual language that speaks directly to the recipient. Most important, use “you” and “your,” which underscore that the exclusivity of your list and make customers feel valued.
- Don’t be afraid to bring some humor into your texts. It’s a casual form of communication and people like to laugh – but of course, keep it PG-rated and steer away from controversial topics.
- Add a few emoji to your texts. People use them in their personal texts and they can add personality and fun to your marketing campaign.
- Track your results and tweak your campaigns as needed.
The bottom line is that if you’re not using SMS messaging to reach your audience, you’re missing out on a chance to build brand loyalty and increase your sales. Text messages are inexpensive to send and easy to write – and they can help you grow your business.
Getting Started with SMS Marketing
Regardless of what product or service you sell, the chances are good that the vast majority of your customers are avid mobile users. In the United States, more than 90% of all adults own cell phones, and more than 60% own smart phones.
2015 was the first year that mobile searches outstripped computer searches. Any business that isn’t targeting mobile customers effectively is missing out.
One of the best ways to target mobile customers is to use SMS marketing. It’s readily accessible, affordable, and very effective.
What Is SMS Marketing?
Let’s start with the basics. SMS stands for “short message marketing” – in other words, it’s marketing with text messages.
This is a form of marketing that works in a way that’s similar to email marketing in that users must opt in to receive SMS messages. They may do so by entering a mobile number on your website, if you offer that option, or by texting a short confirmation code to a number you provide.
The open rate for text messages is nearly 100% — much higher than the open rate for emails. That means that it’s a virtual certainty that the people on your list will see every text you send them.
For that reason, SMS is a very effective marketing option for businesses of all kinds. However, it is particularly effective for local companies because it enables owners to reach out to people when they are most likely to patronize local businesses – when they are already out of the house.
How Much Does SMS Marketing Cost?
Most small companies have a limited budget for advertising and marketing. It’s natural to want to stretch your marketing dollars as far as you can, and SMS marketing is a good way to do that. While costs vary depending on the service you use and the size of your list, here is a basic idea of what you can expect to pay.
- Some providers offer free monthly services with limited texting. If you’re just starting out or unsure about using SMS, a free option can be a good way to begin. If you want to get the full features of a service, you can probably expect to pay between $50 and $100 per month for a premium service.
- Most services charge a small fee for each SMS message you sent, usually about four or five cents apiece. However, the charges are tiered so companies that send a high volume of messages pay less per message. MMS (multimedia) messages usually cost a bit more than that, around eight or nine cents per message.
- Some small companies end up sharing a response number and then renting a chosen keyword. For example, you might band together with other local business who use SMS marketing and share the opt-in number “12345.” To differentiate people who are opting in to your list, you would choose a short, relevant keyword and rent it for $15 to $25 per month.
It’s always a good idea to shop around and check out all of your options before you commit to a service.
How to Use SMS Marketing Effectively
If you decide you want to give SMS marketing a try, here are some ideas that you may want to consider to help you engage customers and increase sales.
- One of the most popular ways to use SMS marketing is to send out coupons and promotional codes to customers. Coupons are a great way to get people to visit your store or business because they create a sense of obligation, triggering a psychological phenomenon known as reciprocity. When you send out a coupon (especially one that offers something free, such as a free appetizer or other item), customers feel obligated to you. You can also build the idea of reciprocity into your coupon code by offering a two-for-one or other similar option that requires a purchase.
- Target customers at the times they are most likely to frequent your business. Not every business is time-sensitive, but some are. Many restaurants use well-timed SMS messages to get people to come in. For example, a happy hour announcement and coupon sent in the late afternoon on a Friday could catch people when they’re on their way home from work. If your business lends itself to this type of marketing, then SMS can be the perfect way to do it.
- Poll your customers to learn their preferences. One nice thing about SMS marketing is that it makes it very easy to collect valuable information from your customers. All you have to do is send out a question and provide instructions about responding, including where to send responses and what keywords to use. It’s a very inexpensive and easy form of market research that you can use to your advantage.
- Sponsor a sweepstakes or giveaway and let people enter via text message. Everybody loves a freebie, and SMS marketing can be a good way to get people to enter your contest. If you have a new product or are introducing a new service, a contest can be a very effective option when it comes to building awareness and anticipation. The anticipation may increase the chances of making a sale to the people who aren’t lucky enough to win.
- Use SMS marketing to set up a drip campaign. When people opt in to your list, you may want to send them a little thank you such as 5% off coupon. You can set up automatic follow-up texts with greater discounts to entice people to come into your store and make a purchase. The nice thing about this option is that you don’t have to send individual text messages. You set everything up when the customer first opts in, so it works very much like an email autoresponder series.
- Create groups to target customers effectively. Once people have opted in to your list, you can ask questions to narrow down the messages you send them. For example, an apparel store owner might ask people to text words like WOMEN, MEN, or INFANTS to specify what kind of apparel they are most interested in. Follow-up messages can be tailored to individual interests.
- If you have the budget for it, a slightly pricier option is to use GPS to ping customers when they are close to your business. It is definitely more expensive than traditional SMS marketing, but it can also be an extremely effective way of getting people to come to your business.
These are just a few ways you can use SMS marketing to your advantage. Use your imagination, and think about what your customers are most likely to want. The more closely you tailor your campaign to your target customers, the better return you will get on your SMS marketing campaign.