Web forms have been around since 1995, and in many ways have shaped the evolution of the internet. This is especially true when you consider how dependent websites are on them when it comes to online transactions, account registration, customer feedback, consultations and so much more.
For most marketers, web forms are the bedrock of inbound lead generation. They cost little to set up, are easy to implement, and offer a great return on investment. However, in more recent years, businesses have identified various issues that customers face with web forms—and in turn have tried to address these issues via novel solutions.
One such solution is chatbots.
In this context, chatbots come in two types:
1. Conversational forms
2. Natural language forms
Both take the user on a conversational journey to collect data. However, the former is programmed so that users follow a fixed flow and stick to assigned choices, while the latter makes use of NLP and AI to provide more choice and to understand and respond to user inputs and inquiries.
Chatbots offer users an interactive experience through which they can collect user data and, like web forms, are an effective form of inbound lead generation. The sections which follow explore the benefits, and drawbacks, of both.
The Case for Web Forms
There are three major benefits that web forms have over chatbots:
1. Familiarity: This is an obvious but important point. Web forms are a staple of the internet and everyone knows how to use them—they cause little confusion.
2. Non-intrusive: Unlike chatbots, web forms don’t pop up in the bottom corner of your screen when you least expect them to, messaging you and asking for information. Many users can find this element of chatbots disruptive or spammy.
3. Privacy: The conversational nature of chatbots can make users wary of inputting personal details such as their phone number or payment details. Furthermore, a chatbot is only as secure as it is coded to be—data collection practices of the Facebook Messenger bot is a spiky issue for online users and has negatively impacted the perception of chatbot security. In comparison, it’s everyday practice for consumers to input payment details into web forms on websites.
The Case for Chatbots
There are four major benefits that chatbots have over web forms:
1. Immediate response: chatbots are available 24/7 and provide real-time response. They serve as a direct line, so to speak, between website visitors and an organization. This means users—who are accustomed to having information at their fingertips—don’t have to wait a long time for answers to their questions. Web forms are notorious for leaving users waiting to hear back from companies.
2. Engaging: Web forms are static. And if they are overly long or complicated, they can appear quite daunting to users, who leave before they fill in all the fields. In comparison, because conversational marketing is, at heart, about data collection via conversations, chatbots make the process more engaging and enrich the overall user experience or UX. This, in turn, reduces bounce rates and improves conversion rates. Research confirms this, with one study finding a company that saw bounce rates drop from 64% to 2% after deploying a chatbot.
3. Intelligent: Chatbots can be programmed to answer user questions, and those with conversational AI and NLP learn over time to better converse with users. An important illustration of how chatbot intelligence improves user experience is when users incorrectly input information. A web form does not detect this—unless the field is blank—whereas a chatbot can alert users, then and there, about an issue with the information they have provided. This saves users from the frustration of re-submitting a form after wasting time waiting for a response.
4. Cross-channel capabilities: There are now numerous ways by which users interact with companies—from websites to social media platforms, via different devices. Chatbots offer an elegant multi-channel solution which provides a consistent user experience and increases the points of contact. In this regard, web forms are fairly limited as they require users to visit a particular location.
Chatbots, unlike web forms, are also multifunctional. In addition to being a terrific channel for inbound lead generation, they can:
segment audiences, qualify leads, notify relevant departments, and track goals
schedule meetings and ensure the meeting is booked on the appropriate team member’s calendar
provide customer support and collect customer feedback
The above are only a few of the various use cases of chatbots. Recent trends point to businesses turning to chatbots as a solution not just for lead generation but customer experience and support: 67% of consumers worldwide interacted with a chatbot in the last year alone, with chatbots proving to be cost-effective and saving businesses up to 30% in customer support costs. And as a marketing channel, chatbots are proving to be remarkably effective, achieving 90% response rates in best-case scenarios.
Lead generation and user experience
No two businesses are the same, and so there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to web forms or chatbots. Audience preferences and providing a good user experience remain key components of inbound lead generation.
Chatbots do offer businesses a degree of flexibility, as they don’t cannibalize lead forms—which means both web forms and chatbots can run side by side. That being said, it does appear that chatbots are evolving at a greater pace than web forms and are the more dynamic choice for inbound lead generation. If you’re interested in chatbots for digital marketing, then learn more at Instabot or view our templates today.