Written by Dan Marzullo

November 18, 2020

The holiday season ushers in sugar cookies, houses festooned with brightly colored lights, and family togetherness. It also brings shoppers eager to spend money. Businesses shouldn’t take that mentality for granted, though.

Although that eagerness to buy exists, it doesn’t mean shoppers will stick around long enough to browse your site and make a purchase. With holiday sales comprising up to 30% of annual revenue, eCommerce businesses need to ensure their holiday advertising efforts are festive and relevant.

What can your eCommerce business do to genuinely spread holiday cheer and earn sales? Although advertising makes up the bulk of the proactive work, it’s not a sure win. Chatbots, the customer’s first point of contact with your brand, is where your business should put its efforts.

This winter, customize your chatbot leading up to the holiday season to improve customer engagement, sales, and retention. These four holiday chatbot examples will inspire your team and make them eager to dive into the hectic holiday season.

1.Conversation Maps

UK retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) kicked off the winter season with customers’ needs in mind by creating the Marks & Spencer Christmas Concierge chatbot. The conversation map M&S used in the campaign provided customers a personalized experience based on their answers to pre-ordered questions.

First, M&S offered customers an opportunity to choose their specific area of interest: home, food, or both. Then customers chose the time of day to receive Facebook messages from M&S with GIFs, video tutorials, etc. M&S also offered customers the opportunity to browse recipes, ask for tips, and purchase directly from the recipe page.

Tip: Be Specific 

The key takeaway from this holiday chatbot example is how M&S leveraged customization. Customers had the option to choose their area of interest and received personalized advice on planning their holiday meals. Based on their answers, the chatbots then guided customers to menus selected to meet their needs. How can you create a conversation map that allows space for product recommendations?

holiday chatbot

Tip: Give the customer control

M&S had two focal points for their holiday chatbot campaign. Both allowed customers to “choose their own adventure” in a personable way. Customers were presented with multiple responses to each question and the option to opt-in for daily tips on everything from recipe hacks to present wrapping tips. A well-thought-out conversation map will ensure that the conversation with the chatbot will be seamless and natural. Customers enjoy the personalized experience and can benefit from the chatbot’s heavy lifting.

2. SMS Strategy

The crux of any chatbot strategy is staying in touch with customers after that first point of contact. Since businesses can’t count on customers finding their way back to your brand, an incentive for opting in to receiving your text messages is essential. The holiday season can become hectic, and your business needs to continue to remind customers to check back in. 

This is where a holiday-ready chatbot comes in. Give customers the option to opt into texts once the chatbot has worked through a predetermined number of criteria from the conversation map.

Use SMS to alert customers of their favorited items that are low in stock or ones they’ve left in their cart without purchasing. Notifying customers of changes in inventory helps to push sales and encourage them to return to your website.

Text alerts with short videos (like a personalized message from the founders, or one that serves up other relevant content) can also help personalize the customer experience.

Tip: Curate a Holiday Shopping List

Who doesn’t love a carefully curated gift guide? Besides offering a customized gift guide through the chatbot, give customers the opportunity to receive special “insider” promotions, markdowns, and gift suggestions each day via text. Gift guides allow customers to imagine how your brand satisfies their needs and suits their personality. SMS  also helps brands connect with the customer on a personal level. Finally, always make your texts click-to-purchase. 

Tip: Showcase Your Brand

Infuse your chatbot campaign with holiday elements. Create a new look for your chatbot by implementing GIFs, iconic winter imagery, or holiday colors. Name your chatbot for the holidays or include a fun name for your gift guide. Think of recommendations that your chatbot can make for the holidays based on your niche and brand. For example, a “Holiday Party Looks” may be a fun idea for a cosmetics brand. 

3. Customer Service Strategy

Now you know that Facebook Messenger and click-to-purchase gift guide widgets are great options for your holiday chatbot. But why stop there? There are other widget options that you should consider deploying. As your business traffic increases over the holiday season, it’s crucial to equip your chatbot with excellent customer service prompts like the option to subscribe to newsletters, email, or texts at the end of each chatbot conversation.

Tip: Be consistent

If customers expect a gift guide to be texted to them each Monday leading up to Christmas, then make it a priority to follow through. Customers (both existing and new) rely on consistency as much as your business relies on their purchases.

Customer service during the holiday season will affect your sales at that moment and sales moving forward into the New Year. With an increase of customers comes an influx of customer questions and concerns. Plan for this by reevaluating your customer service protocol and equipping your chatbot to field commonly asked questions.

Tip: Be approachable

It is best to avoid limiting customer service to the chatbot. Customers should have multiple ways to contact someone on your team. Consider implementing customer surveys, contact forms, or suggestion boxes into your chatbot strategy. This way, customers can share their concerns or leave positive feedback in a way that helps them to feel heard. Add some holiday customization by implementing holiday emojis, a holiday message, and holiday office hours.

4. Fun Holiday Chatbots

Being on-brand during the holidays can be a challenge. Sometimes it may seem like you’re reinventing the wheel. We get it. How many times can a business make a Christmas pun or use the Santa emoji in their advertising?. Have fun with your holiday chatbot campaign! In a season of nostalgia and making memories, your business’ efforts to make a great impression on customers won’t go unnoticed. Remember, your business goal isn’t limited to boosting sales during the holiday season. Retaining customers long-term is key.

Tip: Engage All Ages

Sure, you have a target audience, but this winter try to expand your focus. The holidays bring a holistic approach to shopping—people step outside of their usual shopping circles and explore other business niches to meet their holiday shopping needs. Set out to engage customers of all ages by bringing the commonality of the holiday season to the forefront of your marketing strategy. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

  • Host a “12 Days of Christmas.” This can be 12 days of fitness, 12 days of deals, 12 days of giveaways, etc. You’re the creative mastermind. This will increase engagement with customers. Customers can opt in to the 12 days by subscribing to the newsletter, following your brand on social media, or receiving texts.
  • Get charitable. Offer to donate a certain percentage of sales to a relevant charity to encourage giving, or host an online event or giveaway and donate the proceeds to charity.
  • Host a “challenge.” People love a little friendly competition! Host a “challenge” throughout the holidays of any level and encourage the audience to submit content to drive engagement with the bots.
  • Host a holiday giveaway. People can enter via the chatbot. Encourage likes, shares, comments as part of the entry requirements.
  • Write a letter to Santa. With adult supervision, kids can write a letter to Santa by answering questions through a chatbot. This is a brilliant choice for eCommerce businesses that offer childrens’ toys, books, or experiences. The chatbot is equipped to be highly engaging with photos of toys, GIFs, etc.
  • Create a curated Holiday playlist. This is a fun way to personalize your chatbot. Create a personalized playlist that’s on brand and with the season for customers to “click and listen” while they shop. Humanizing your brand is a great way to engage customers and give them a fun free treat.

Key Takeaways

Chatbots are one of the best business tools out there. Because they are entirely customizable and can work across different channels with appropriate widgets, their reach is vast.

Make existing customers feel appreciated this holiday season by being on top of your game in customer service and ensuring that the newcomer’s experience feels effortless and exciting. 

Chatbots can act as a gift guide, tutorial, and customer service rep for your business. Take the time to think through your strategy. How do you want to connect with customers this holiday season? What were the pain points in your business this time last year, and how can you aim for a different result this year?

Take our tips to heart and this season may just bring your best holiday sales yet!