The concept of combining sales with artificial intelligence (AI) might still cause a few raised eyebrows among purists, but there’s no doubt that it’s becoming more and more effective with each year that passes.

Chatbots, in particular, are now wonderfully programmable, and proving to be effective in improving lead quality and reducing the time taken to complete a sales cycle.

But in a sector as simultaneously diverse and yet precise as the health and fitness industry, how can a chatbot actually assist you with customer retention?

A brief history of the chatbot

Remember when England won the World Cup? Of course you do – it was only a couple of weeks ago. But I’m actually talking here about the football World Cup back in 1966. And while you might not remember the day itself, or have even existed back then, you’ll probably be familiar with the date. Well, it might come as something of a surprise that the very first chatbot, ELIZA, was actually created that same year.

Following on from the work of the late, great Alan Turing (coming soon to £50 notes near you), German computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum developed a program that was intended to ‘trick’ users into believing they were having a genuine conversation with an actual human being. Whether he was also trying to take his mind off the result of the World Cup final is unknown.

While the term ‘ChatterBot’ wasn’t coined until 1994 (a World Cup year that England fans remember far less fondly), it paid homage to the ‘conversational’ nature of the original program developed nearly three decades earlier.

Now, alongside instant messaging apps, there are several types of chatbots that every website can implement, including those that respond to specific commands and keywords, others that follow a simple menu, and far craftier ones that are built on the basis of AI and machine learning.

Here’s how chatbots can help with your health and fitness organisation’s online presence, across ecommerce and beyond.

How chatbots can enhance engagement and improve retention

With the right choice of chatbot and chatbot content combined, any business in the health and fitness sector can find a practical and effective use for a little AI integrated into their website. From a gentle enquiry as to the purpose of a new visit, right through to personalised messages delivered to repeat customers, there is a wide range of possibilities for which the specialised nature of the health and fitness industry makes chatbots ideal.

With fitness essentially being such a personal experience, a little friendly assistance here and there, even from what appears to be a computer program, could make all of the difference between light viewing and genuine engagement. From guiding visitors to the right type of sportswear for their training, to advising on appropriate supplements for their diet, a chatbot could become that pleasant little pop up that guides your target customers through the pages of your site, while adding a spot of personality along the way.

But even looking beyond that, gyms, nutritionists, personal trainers and even health and fitness educators can make good use of the potential that these clever programs offer. Personalised training and nutrition plans can be shared, plus relevant educational advice and new information. What about a little extra encouragement and congratulation, too? It works for fitness apps, so it could certainly add a little personally-tailored impact to your website, too.

Take a look at how some of the most popular health, fitness and wellbeing apps communicate with their users for a general idea – the likes of Calm, Headspace and Fitbit already do this effectively, and with personality to boot.

And with so many chatbots already on the market and available to be tailored to your audience, you don’t even need to have a developer already on your roster to start building one from scratch. As with any other marketing task on your calendar, it’s all about defining your goals and identifying the right channels for achieving them.

Once you’ve established the specific or various functions that your chatbot will need to serve, and whether you’ll be launching it on your own website or through another platform, it’s completely up to you whether you want to risk developing your own chatbot, or use a tried and tested one for a subscription fee.

However, even with this extra cost, or the time and energy spent on development, you shouldn’t forget that with a chatbot in place, you can have a 24/7 presence for your business from the moment your conversational assistant is launched.

Why not have a little chat with me today?

Would you like to get chatting about your health and fitness business today, and how I could help you to take it forward? If so, simply get in touch with me, Myk Baxter, to start the conversation.

At this point in time, I am the only entity anywhere online that can talk for me – so you’ll certainly be speaking to a human. However, I am also professionally programmed to deliver the expert advice you need on how to thrive in the ever-changing ecommerce and health and fitness worlds – so don’t hesitate to contact me if you could do with any support or guidance.

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“Myk Baxter Marketing” is a trading style of MBM UK, a company registered in England and Wales and whose registered office is situated at Mill House, Railway Road, Ilkley, Leeds, United Kingdom, LS29 8HT