As chatbots continue to grow in popularity, especially with the onset of AI-backed capabilities, their potential applications in the business realm continue to grow. According to Gartner, 55 percent of all companies will be using chatbots by 2020. Forrester research describes chatbot growth as “crazy,” stating, “Bots are easier to develop than apps, and they’re a way to reach customers where they spend a majority of their time.” One of the most pertinent uses for chatbots at the moment is in the automation arena. Bots are able to autonomously handle customer service conversations, answer questions, and gather useful consumer data. One of the most important components of this data is email. Although it may seem a bit old school, email marketing is still alive and well, and chatbots are one of the easiest and most effective ways to nurture that invaluable email list. Why Use Chatbots? Chatbots have become wildly popular, with more than 1.3 billion people using Facebook messenger bots alone. Drift’s State of Conversational Marketing report found people from all 195 countries use online chat. What explains this popularity? By all accounts, a chat is more convenient, faster, and more readily available than any other form of communication. As Forrester noted, these bots exist in places where customers are already spending a majority of their time — on social media and online. This makes chatbots an easy way to connect with users on a more personal level and provides them with a satisfying interaction. Chatbots are a great way to get your foot in the door and obtain email addresses to add to your subscriber list. If you’re not using chatbots to propel your email marketing campaigns forward, you might be missing out on a lot of potential leads. Why Use Chatbots? A quick note here - while chatbots are absolutely great in growing your email list, running a bot for the sole purpose of gathering emails can come across as pushy. The primary objective of your chatbot must be to provide customer service or gathering user\'s feedback. Capturing email addresses of your users is thus a desirable outcome of the value you provide. How Do You Get the Email Addresses? According to Optinmonster, “Email is a very personal thing. People aren’t going to give you their email address without a good incentive.” Chatbots allow you to target specific audiences and provide them with valuable, customized information. However, simply starting a chat is no longer enough to get users to hand over their email addresses. Using the “in case we get disconnected” line doesn’t cut it anymore. Users need to be wooed through relevant information, entertainment, and enticement. Provide Users With An Incentive In the digital marketing world, email addresses are like currency. In order to get users to hand over their email address, you must provide something equally as valuable for them in return. Chatbots can offer incentives that may benefit customers, such as ebooks, quizzes, podcasts, exclusive members-only content, product demos, promotions, or even trial offers on products. For example, if you have a chatbot for a clothing store, it can provide specific information about certain items, as well as provide advice such as fashion tips. The chatbot could then offer additional incentives like daily outfit inspiration, special offers, and discounts for users who provide an email address. In doing this, the bots have provided customers with enough value to incentivize customers to hand over their personal information. Ensure Bots Do What They’re Built To Do It’s imperative that your bots do exactly what they’re programmed to do and provide relevant information and answers to customers. Each message is vital to successful interaction and can mean the difference between an engaged customer and a disinterested one. An important component to remember is that users opt for chat communication because it’s faster, easier, and more to the point. Complicated messages or too many steps before addressing the main objective will likely disengage your customers. For example, the chatbot for Whole Foods Market is aimed at helping customers find recipes. The bots get right down to business, respond to their prompts, and drive the conversation to help users get exactly the kinds of food and recipes they’re searching for. The chatbot does what it’s supposed to do and aligns directly with the user’s expectations throughout the entire conversation. Don’t Ask For An Email Right Away The easiest time for a customer to say ‘no’ is at the beginning of a conversation. Don’t make the mistake of asking for an email address as soon as the conversation begins. Instead, genuinely engage with your users. An entertaining conversation can go a long way in gaining a user’s trust and keeping them interested until the right moment presents itself. Create bots with personality, like this sassy National Geographic chatbot. The longer a customer spends chatting with your bots and building a relationship, the more likely they’ll be to provide their email address at the end of the conversation. Begin by having bots ask for a user’s name and preferences, create an entertaining dialogue, and slowly work your way up to the big ask: the email address. Once customers have said yes to other questions and have engaged positively with a chatbot, they’ll be much more inclined to keep saying yes. Now That You Have The Emails, Where Do They go? Receiving email addresses is the most difficult task. But, once you have them, it’s important to have a system in place that will help you organize and use them effectively. There are many programs available that can integrate with Facebook messenger or other chatbots to funnel directly into creating automated subscriber lists. With the interconnection between these programs and your chosen email marketing platform, chatbots can build your subscriber list and send emails for your campaigns automatically. Platforms like Benchmark have the ability to take the emails your bots have gathered, sort through them, and send emails at the most optimal time, providing value to each user and ensuring the email addresses stay on the list rather than having users ask to be unsubscribed. Closing Thoughts Chatbots are a way to speak with customers in a setting where they’re already comfortable. The capabilities embedded into these bots allow them to intuitively interact with users, creating an overall positive customer experience. They create a perfect opportunity to foster a personal connection with users and collect valuable customer data, especially emails. In doing so, chatbots provide the perfect way to grow your subscriber list.