Chatbots are becoming an increasingly popular option for brands looking for new ways to interact with their customers. But at this point, they’re still a relatively new concept to most.

This means that many companies are in the early stages of determining where chatbots fit into their marketing, sales, and support strategies, as well as how to build a bot that will help them reach their goals.

If you’re somewhere in this process, you know that one of the first (and most challenging) decisions is the platform on which to build your chatbot.

And for most businesses, the choice comes down to two options: native chatbots and Facebook Messenger chatbots.

Keep reading to learn the difference between these two options, along with five reasons native chatbots have the edge when it comes to engaging and converting potential customers.

Native Chatbots vs. Facebook Messenger Chatbots: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between native chatbots and Facebook Messenger chatbots is where they interact with users.

As the name suggests, Facebook Messenger chatbots only exist within the Messenger platform.

Media brand Quartz, for example, uses a chatbot on the Messenger platform to greet users who visit the company’s Facebook page, then guide them to articles and other content that’s relevant to their interests.

These chatbots can help engage users as they visit a brand’s page on Facebook, and drive them to website content tailored to their interests. But they can only keep the conversation going as long as the user stays in the Messenger platform.

Native chatbots, on the other hand, “live” on a company’s website. 1-800-Flowers, for example, has a “gift concierge” chatbot named Gwyn on its site, designed to help users find the perfect gift.

If visitors opt to use this tool, they can skip the process of navigating through countless pages on the company’s site and jump straight to the products that match their needs.

Many companies also give visitors the option to interact with a chatbot at any point during their time on the site.

For example, visitors to WeldLogic’s website see the following icon in the lower right corner of their browser.

If they click to expand it, they’ll see the following greeting and prompt:

Then, once the visitor opts to engage with the bot, it provides a list of options they can choose from.

This way, visitors can get the assistance they need in finding the content they’re looking for, and avoid spending time navigating through dozens of irrelevant pages in the process.

Plus, unlike with Messenger chatbots, they can continue to engage with this bot as they work their way through the site.

Ultimately, location is the biggest difference between these two types of chatbots.

And while both can be useful for engaging consumers, it’s important to consider the role you want your chatbot to play in the buying process — because this may be the deciding factor in where you opt to make its online home.

Why Choose Native Chatbots?

Facebook Messenger chatbots are a useful tool for interacting with users when they visit your brand’s page on the platform.

But when it comes down to it, native chatbots have the potential to make a much bigger impact on the customer journey — especially when you consider the following five things they allow you to do.

1. Customize the user experience

Because Facebook Messenger bots can only exist within the platform, the experience of interacting with one Messenger bot is very similar to the experience of interacting with any other.

They all use the same basic interface, and there’s very little room for any type of customization.

But those limitations don’t exist with native chatbots.

Most native chatbot builders allow for extensive customization of the interface through which users engage with your bot, along with the content your bot delivers through the course of a conversation.

In the Landbot builder, for example, you can use design templates as a starting point, then edit your logo and avatar, color scheme and background, and fonts. You can also use the Advanced option to further customize your bot with CSS and JavaScript.

These customization options enable you to build a chatbot experience that’s unique to your brand and stands out in the minds of the visitors who engage with it.

Native chatbot builders also allow brands to add advanced functionality that the Messenger platform doesn’t offer.

For example, if a user makes a mistake while typing to a Messenger chatbot, there’s no way to edit their input. Instead, they have to tell the bot they made an error, and hope it’s programmed to know how to respond to that.

With native chatbots, on the other hand, you can give users the option to go back and change their responses, without interrupting the flow of a conversation.

This makes for a much better user experience, and one that’s more likely to be useful to your visitors — as well as more effective in moving them through the buying process.

2. Personalize conversations right from the start

When a user starts a conversation with a Facebook Messenger chatbot, they’re met with the same standard greeting that every other user who engages with that bot receives.

From there, it’s up to them to click through menu options and find the information or assistance they’re looking for.

But with native chatbots, that doesn’t have to be the case. That’s because when a bot “lives” on your site, it can offer greetings and content that are relevant to the page a visitor is currently reading, and even personalize its messaging based on the visitor’s past interactions.

For example, if a visitor leaves the WeldLogic site referenced above, but later returns, the company’s bot can recognize that it isn’t their first interaction, and give them the option to pick up where they left off.

Based on their answer, it can deliver content that moves them closer to conversion. It can skip the standard greeting during their return visit, and get right to the information they’re looking for — making for a more personalized, more engaging experience.

3. Streamline the conversion process

Most of the important conversions you’ll want potential customers and clients to make will happen on your website.

This means that with Facebook Messenger chatbots, you’ll need to drive traffic to your site and hope users continue moving through the sales funnel once they arrive. But when it comes down to it, you have little to no influence over whether that actually happens.

But with native chatbots, you can engage with customers as they browse. There’s no need for them to switch between channels or apps to continue the conversation.

For example, when a user clicks the chat icon on Buffer’s website, they’re given two options: message the company on Facebook Messenger, or DM them on Twitter.

This means that in order to get the answer to a question that might help move them through the sales process, prospective customers have to leave the company’s site.

And that’s not ideal — especially since getting them to convert would require a second shift, back to the company’s site, to follow through with a conversion.

With native chatbots, you can streamline the process for your visitors. Provide them with the information and answers they need as they browse, and guide them through the process of finding the content they need on your website.

When done correctly, your chatbot workflows can lead visitors from their first interaction with your brand all the way through making a purchase or submitting a lead form — all without requiring them to leave your site or contact you on a separate platform.

After all, when it comes to earning conversions, it’s in your best interest to make the process as straightforward as possible for your customers.

Plus, with a single-platform approach, you minimize the risk of potential customers falling out of your sales funnel altogether simply because getting the guidance they need is a cumbersome process.

4. Retain more control over your chatbot

Companies who build their chatbots on Facebook Messenger are completely reliant on the platform for their bot’s functionality and success.

These bots can’t exist outside the Messenger interface. So when Facebook makes changes to what it allows or how it operates, these changes can have a serious impact on brands’ ability to connect and communicate with users.

And it’s not out of the ordinary for Facebook to make major changes that impact the businesses who rely on them at will.

In fact, it temporarily shut down all new chatbot creation from late March to early May of 2018.

This brought all new chatbots on the platform to a complete halt.

But with native chatbots, you can avoid this level of dependency.

Of course, depending on how you build your bot, you may be dependent on some level on the builder’s hosting provider.

Still, this risk is generally much lower than the risk you assume by relying on Facebook, as the platform is notorious for changing the rules for businesses and advertising on a regular basis.

Plus, since your bot lives on your site, you can troubleshoot and resolve any potential issues on your own — which certainly isn’t the case if it’s hosted on a platform over which you have very little control.

5. Keep customer data private

One of the biggest benefits of using chatbots as part of your marketing strategy is that they can collect user data.

In fact, lead generation chatbots are some of the most valuable additions to any B2B chatbot strategy, especially when they’re used to replace standard lead forms.

But this function involves using them to ask for your visitors’ personal information, like their email addresses, phone numbers, and even physical addresses.

With chatbots built on Messenger, Facebook has access to and control over this data.

This involves a certain level of risk that you should be aware of — particularly if your chatbot has access to sensitive information, like a customer’s banking information.

Bank of America’s chatbot, for example, is able to tell customers their account balances, along with information about their mortgage payments and any other bills they have through the company.

It’s safe to say that most consumers would prefer to keep this information between themselves and their financial institutions — which is likely why this chatbot only exists within Bank of America’s mobile app.

So if you’re planning to use your chatbot to collect customer data, hosting it on your own website can help give you (and your customers) peace of mind about keeping that data secure.

Conclusion

Chatbots are changing how consumers interact with brands online. And although they’re still a relatively new addition to the marketing and support landscapes, it’s safe to say that their presence is only going to grow over the coming years.

So if you aren’t yet using chatbots as part of your strategy, you’re likely at least considering it, and maybe even looking into the logistical details.

The first step in this process is determining the platform on which you’ll build and host your bot. Today, the most popular options are Facebook Messenger or your company’s website.

And while both of these choices have the potential to bring value to your customer engagement strategy, native chatbots are the better choice for most brands.

They allow you to customize the user experience much more than the Messenger platform allows and personalize conversations right from the start.

And because they live on your site, they’re perfect for guiding visitors through the browsing process and directing them to content that’s relevant to their needs.

Plus, since you aren’t relying on Facebook’s hosting services, you don’t need to worry about platform shutdowns or pauses, or about the safety of your customers’ data.

When it comes down to it, the Messenger platform simply can’t compete with these advantages — so if you’re looking to get started with chatbots, native is the way to go.

If you have not created a chatbot, now is the time. Get started by creating your free Landbot account today!