AUSTIN, TX: Brands seeking to engage consumers with chatbots must consider factors such as their purpose, potential audiences and likely usage patterns to succeed, a leading executive from Activision, the games developer, has argued.

Monte Lutz, Activation's SVP/Consumer Engagement Digital Marketing & PR, discussed this subject at the 2017 South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference.

And he detailed learnings from the company's various chatbot experiments to date, which include two efforts promoting its Call of Duty gaming franchise on Facebook Messenger, as well as a customer-service offering.

"It starts with a clear purpose. One of the things that people have challenges with for chatbots for Messenger right now is that it's not immediately clear why you're there," he said. (For more details, read WARC's exclusive report: Activision learns to play the chatbot game.)

"For some brands, it's very specific: if you are an airline, it's trying to get updates on your flight. If you're a gaming company, it could be, 'I'm playing and I have a problem', or, 'I want to learn more about the game.'"

As a starting point, marketers should ensure their chatbots do a few things well, rather than over-promising and under-delivering with multiple functions.

"We do see a bounce rate … and that's OK. With a bot, if you have a very clear and narrow purpose of what you want it to be, it's OK if people are going there … checking it out, and trying to see if it's the right area for them," said Lutz.

One way of helping guarantee that these bots meet consumer needs involves assessing which components of a brand's wider audience will be inclined to use them.

"How do you design the experience to anticipate that there are going to be multiple types of customers that are going to come to you, multiple types of participants?" Lutz said in describing this consideration.

While chatbots tied to a particular event will attract a significant volume of traffic at one time, more service-orientated tools will yield slower, steadier usage. "Most chatbot experiences are not everyone coming to it at once," Lutz said.

"If you're [flying on airline] KLM, you're trying to figure out your flight, what's relevant to you at that moment. Not every single person is checking in to every single flight at the same time."

Data sourced from WARC