I recently wrote an article about Pizza Express’s new customer-service chatbot.

My overall opinion was that it offers a fairly standard booking system via Facebook Messenger – nothing fancy, but practical enough. 

One issue I failed to mention is that the brand doesn’t appear to be doing much to promote it. Which is odd, as how are people meant to use it if they don’t know it exists in the first place?

Here’s a bit more info on this issue and how brands can combat it.

Discovering chatbots

In order to access the Pizza Express chatbot, I typed @PizzaExpress in the recipient search bar in Facebook Messenger. Easy enough, as it immediately appeared in the drop-down menu.

However, I was already aware that the bot existed, and it’s likely that most existing users don’t.

So, where else is it promoted?

Looking at the brand’s main Facebook page, I discovered that it can also be accessed via the ‘book now’ or ‘message’ buttons, which take you straight to Messenger.

Fair enough. Although, it does seem like this would be very easy to miss, even for existing fans of the Facebook page. Most people find and access content directly from their news feed, so how likely is it that anyone will see this?

Upon further inspection, I spotted that the brand has actively promoted the feature in a recent post, highlighting it in conjunction with a current Valentine’s Day special offer and urging users to book it via the chatbot.

But, while fans might see it, what about people who occasionally (or even regularly) eat in a Pizza Express restaurant, but haven’t liked the brand’s Facebook page?

Personally, I’ve enjoyed the odd Padana Romana in my time. I’d even go as far as saying Pizza Express is my emergency high street restaurant chain of choice, but I’d honestly never think to hit that ‘like’ button. 

In that case, I’d miss the chatbot entirely. And Pizza Express might miss out on my data and the subsequent opportunity for retargeting. 

It's also worth mentioning that anyone without Facebook Messenger installed on their smartphone will be left frustrated if they happen to click ‘book now’ on the Facebook page.

Promoting bots

From this example, we can see that brands often need to do more to promote and facilitate chatbot use. 

One option is of course cross-promotion, using social media to drive interest, and in some cases creating separate social media channels specifically for the chatbot.

This aside, one of the major issues with promotion could be related to whose responsibility the chatbot is. I recently read an article that suggested a lack of internal strategy often leads to the failure of bots, with businesses unsure whether activity should be driven by marketing, IT or customer service.

Lastly, alongside organic promotion on social, another good option is targeted ads.

This appears to be one of the most effective and fool-proof solutions, however, with chatbot technology still in its infancy – and with real value yet to be proven – brands will understandly feel reluctant to throw a lot of money behind promotion.

Perhaps the recent announcement that brands can now serve targeted ads to users in Facebook Messenger (as long as they’ve previously interacted with the brand) might spur on greater promotion in future.

While chatbots might offer the opportunity for greater engagement, brands will need to do more to ensure that customers know about them.

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Nikki Gilliland

Published 14 February, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (3)

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Murray Nolan, UX Analyst at xwerx

Good point, I've been looking into chatbots recently and have found them very difficult to find via Facebook Messenger - I frequently have to go to the parent website to find the exact name of the bot as searching for it reveals multiple very similar sounding results.

over 1 year ago

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Tim Love, Senior Social Media Manager at PizzaExpress

Hi there, I work for PizzaExpress as Senior Social Media Manager. We're running adverts to reach people beyond our community using a multitude of Custom Audiences, retargeting etc. It's definitely very early days in terms of how Facebook allows brands to promote chat bots. This will change soon. Tim

over 1 year ago

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Ashish Jain, ... at Chatbot enthusiast

Once you are done building your bot, it is now the difficult part ... to promote it. You can use links and codes that even Facebook provides you with. There are message us plugins and bot stores like botlist, chatbottle, fugubots … available to promote. Don’t forget ProductHunt post while launching it. There are chatbot platforms like Engati.com which can give you pre-defined codes which can be easily used to promote your bot.

6 months ago

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