When Facebook released its chatbot platform in 2016, many in the marketing world thought that chatbots would be the next great digital channel, and with good reason. Over a billion people used the app at the time, and the intimate, 1-to-1 nature of instant messaging meant that the platform promised to be a place where businesses could create personalized customer experiences that translated into real conversions. 

As time has passed, we’ve come to realize that much of this hype was unfounded. Messenger is not the marketing behemoth that many thought it would be, and many are even calling the platform “dead.” Of course, this did not mark the end for chatbots as a whole. Rather it just marked a shift of the technology to a new context. From Messenger’s fall (and rise), marketers learned that the killer use case for chatbots wasn’t as a brand new digital channel but rather as a conversion rate optimization tool.

In this article, we will discuss how marketers can use chatbots to make information on their websites and landing pages more accessible and make lead generation more engaging. In the process, we’ll establish how these changes translate into a higher conversion rate and greater marketing ROI.

Before Digital Marketing

Decades ago (in ancient times), when the internet didn’t exist, people would go to physical stores and offices to buy things. As technology progressed, phones became more prevalent, and some of that consumption started to happen remotely. Of course, even with this limited progress, one aspect of the buyer’s journey remained constant in the pre-internet era: the reliance on human interaction.

Whether you were walking into a store or calling a business, it was likely that at some point in the buyer’s journey, you’d be talking to another human being to get the transaction done. Travel agents helped us plan vacations, receptionists helped us book dentist appointments, and store attendants helped us find the right clothes. Regardless of the industry or vertical, it was someone’s job to help consumers complete the buying process.

The issue with this approach to buying and selling was that it was unscalable. The friction associated with getting people to leave their house and come into a store or take the time out of their day to make a phone call was high, so bringing in business was hard. Even if you could overcome these hurdles, your sales staff couldn’t scale with your customer base so, inevitably, your stores would get crowded, phone lines clogged, and customer experience would suffer.

The Arrival of Digital Marketing

The advent of digital marketing turned this model of human-driven selling on its head. As businesses shifted online, consumers could walk themselves through the buyer’s journey by navigating around a webpage. Instead of having to go through a travel agent, you could find and book all of the hotels, plane tickets, and activities that you’d need for a vacation on your own. Instead of speaking to a receptionist, you could book a dentist’s appointment through an appointment scheduling widget. And instead of having a store attendant suggest the right clothes for you, you could scroll through Amazon’s thousands of listings to find the exact right match for yourself. In other words, commerce became self-serve.

For a long time, this shift was beneficial to consumers and businesses alike. Consumers were given the convenience of finding and purchasing products from wherever they wanted. You can literally order anything you want from Amazon, laying in bed (an activity which I myself am unfortunately afflicted with). For businesses, it made reaching customers considerably easier because platforms like Facebook and Google could get you in front of pretty much any of your potential customers, and, more importantly, since customers served themselves, it reduced reliance on your human sales staff.

The Limits of Digital Marketing

While digital marketing has undoubtedly given businesses unfathomable scale and customer convenience, it has also created a new set of problems that are coming to a head today. As online buying has become mainstream, the novelty of landing pages and websites has worn off, giving way to digital fatigue. Put simply, customers do not want to read through wordy landing pages, scroll through endless listings or fill out boring forms anymore. 

This is why top-of-the-funnel conversion rates are abysmally low across industries and verticals. Most ad campaigns, for example, yield sub-10% conversion rates.

The Shift Back to Conversations

To address these issues, businesses have been shifting back to the old model of selling by incorporating human interaction into the online buyer’s journey. The underlying logic behind this shift is that for all the convenience of online buying, people would rather have a conversation than reading text or fill out forms. In practice, we can see this shift manifest itself in the re-emergence of live chat widgets across websites. 


It’s rare for you to go to a site today that doesn’t have a friendly chat or call CTA prominently displayed, asking you to talk with an agent who can address your questions and help you complete the buying process.

Automation for Scalability

With the shift back to a customer service-driven approach to selling, businesses have resurrected the scalability issues that they faced before the shift to digital. Businesses again find it hard to scale their live chat operation with the amount of traffic that they receive. Inevitably the number of conversations that buyers initiate outstrips the number of agents, and wait times skyrocket. Additionally, lack of availability outside of work hours means that businesses can’t deliver a conversational buyer’s journey at all times.

This is where automation comes into the picture. Using chatbots, businesses can create automated customer service agents that walk customers through the buyer’s journey without human assistance.


This approach to online selling treads the line between unengaging self-serve web pages and engaging but expensive human-driven buyer’s journeys. Like self-serve web pages, chatbots are completely automated, meaning that they scale perfectly with website traffic ensuring instant response to customer queries. Relatedly, since chatbots do not need to sleep, they are available 24/7 to answer queries. Perhaps most importantly, however, since chatbots are software, they do not come with the associated costs of a human-driven approach to selling.


Of course, with all these benefits, they still maintain the conversational nature of human interactions that cut through the mundaneness of regular landing pages and that customers appreciate.


The concept of selling through conversations is not a new one. For millennia, human beings have been buying, selling, and trading products by talking to each other. The advent of the internet and digital marketing flipped this paradigm on its head. With the emergence of landing pages and websites, we moved into an era of self-serve buying that quickly became the norm, and we forgot the art of conversational commerce. But, falling attention spans and conversion rates have brought the trend back into vogue. Customers today want to engage with businesses conversationally. Of course, this trend has come with its own set of problems—namely, an inability to scale human conversational agents. Automation is the solution. Using chatbots, businesses can deliver the high-converting, conversational experience that customers want at a price point that businesses can afford—the end result: more delighted customers and a higher conversion rate.

Author Bio

Arnav Patel is a Content Marketer and Chatbot Specialist at Tars, a product that helps businesses increase conversion and automate customer service requests using conversational technology. Arnav builds chatbots and frequently writes about conversational design on the Tars blog.