Ola Bilińska 25.04.2019

Storytelling in a chatbot – half a million interactions in just 4 days

We’ve been thinking for some time about testing a new method of communication in a chatbot. It seemed that a conversation in the form of a chat with added buttons would be a perfect place for a story, where users could choose answers to questions, which would eventually lead them to a prize. Finally, we had the perfect chance to put our idea to a test. It was the launching of the City Break Semilac collection, during which, only within 4 days, users exchanged half a million messages with the bot. If you want to know how to use storytelling in a chatbot, this is the article you’ve been searching for 🙂

Finding storytelling ideas for a chatbot

I recently came across the Game of Thrones Survival chatbot (which is quite popular right now :)), where the user’s decisions would determine whether he survives and continues his story. This gave us an idea for the bot of Semilac, the nail polish brand with which we’ve been cooperating for several months. The idea ended up on our to-do list, waiting for the right occasion. And it arose in early February, when we brainstormed ideas for the promotion of a new Semilac collection. We came up with a story called City Break, which, as the name suggests, involved spending a short holiday with a close friend in a European city.

In the same month, we started to work on the story: we wrote scenarios that would fit the chatbot, came up with a narrative form, looked for additional materials, and created decision trees that would determine how the story would unfold.

An experiment with rules

We also had to create the rules of the whole storytelling. We wanted the story to be as engaging and interactive as possible. At the same time, we wanted it to be a pleasant experience for users, filled with interesting facts about fashion or the city they chose in the game – after all, March is a Fashion Week month. The whole game was one huge experiment and we used the chatbot to carry it out. We expected to achieve good results but what had happened exceeded all our expectations.

The storytelling game had several main rules:

  • for the first three days, we would publish new episodes of the story and on the final fourth day, the last episode would appear together with a special contest,
  • after choosing the destination city (either Paris or Barcelona), the user could take part in only one story,
  • only those who have passed the previous day could join the following days of the story,
  • people could join the game only until the end of the third day, as later the chatbot blocked access for new users,
  • at the end of each day, we would reveal nail polish previews from the City Break Collection.

In order to follow these rules, we had to implement certain technical solutions, but more about that in a moment 🙂 To excite the interest of girls, we sent them push notifications 3 days before the whole game started. The notification was written in a tone that would resemble a message from a girlfriend. With several thousand recipients, we had a 99% OR and a 58% CTR. And that was only the beginning.

Day 1

On Monday, the 18th of March, we put our ideas into action. Precisely at 8 PM, we released the first day of the story and informed users that were signed up for our push notifications.

After 10 minutes, because of the large number of received messages, Facebook blocked the view of our inbox, so we couldn’t see what was happening. But we didn’t panic because we knew that Facebook has to check if everything’s OK whenever someone receives such an amount of messages.

The inbox itself worked perfectly well. Just within two hours, users exchanged over 100 thousand messages with the chatbot. During the process, we tested several solutions that:

  1. were supposed to pose a challenge – users had to enter the number of a chosen nail polish to go to the next level,
  2. were a form of entertainment – simple decisions like whether to take a hair-curler on the trip lead to plot twists that would reveal themselves on the third day.

Day 2

This was the biggest test for us and the moment, which let us know how many users would return to the game and play on. I thought that we would have much less users on the second day than on the first one.

But, fortunately, I was wrong. On Tuesday, at 8 PM, were sending over 300 requests per second to Facebook. Once again, the access to our mailbox was blocked (even faster than before, only after about 2 minutes).

Eventually, on this day, users exchanged over 120 thousand messages with the chatbot.

Day 3

With the previous days’ experience, we prepared ourselves for day 3. To minimize the risk of sending so many requests at the same time, we divided one push notification into 5 messages sent at short intervals.

At the beginning of day 3, we also informed users that if the chatbot didn’t respond, we’d ask them to send us a short message to allow them pass to the next level. Dividing the push notification into messages did not bring the expected results – users, knowing that the following day would begin at 8 PM, opened the chatbot, so after 2 minutes, our inbox was again overloaded and temporarily turned off.

This day’s results were even more impressive than from day 2.

 

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Results of the chatbot storytelling game

Apart from the crazy number of messages exchanged with the chatbot, the push notification stats also exceeded our expectations. After the teaser, a 58% CTR seemed to be an unsurpassed number. But it turned out that I have seen nothing yet 🙂 Every message we sent reached several thousand people. Here are the results:

  • Day 1: 100% OR , 76% CTR,
  • Day 2: 100% OR , 74% CTR,
  • Day 3: 100% OR , 85% CTR,
  • Day 4: 100% OR , 83% CTR.

On the last day, it turned out that 80% of users who passed day 1 stayed in the game.

What’s more, 834 users participated in the contest, which took place at the end of the story, and in which one could participate only after having passed all four days (+ also if one had joined the game during the first 3 days – we didn’t make it easy :)). Another surprise was the fact that both Paris and Barcelona attracted almost the same amount of interest – 50,5% of users chose Barcelona and 49,5% chose Paris.

80% of users who passed day 1 stayed in the game until its end

We noted the highest rise in the number of interested participants after we have shared information about the game in Semilac’s Instastory. Besides this, we also spread Facebook posts and used an add that redirected users to an appropriate fragment of the story. Thanks to the links that lead users to the Semilac online store (after they have entered the number of a nail polish or chosen a make-up for a specific day), the brand had several thousand visitors.

Technical combo – chatbot in shape

Finally, I’d like to mention about the more technical aspects. Because of the game rules we had to follow, we had to adopt certain solutions. The most important include:

  • assignment of variables – during the game, I wrote down many variables, which allowed me to divide users into smaller groups – from the city choice that determined the other part of the story and the hair-curler (whether the user decided to take it or not). The variables turned out to be very useful on the third day, when I divided push notifications into smaller parts.
  • creation of decision trees – thanks to the variables, I was able to create a conversation flow with buttons, so that users could go through the story according to the established rules (access to the following day after having passed the previous one or the flow of a city the user had chosen in the beginning).
  • omission of certain elements – if someone has already visited a given place, I didn’t want the same message to be sent again.
  • temporary displays – the function of displaying elements at a specific time allowed me to set particular carousel tiles to be displayed at certain hours. Thanks to this, the tiles automatically changed from black-and-white inactive buttons to colored tiles that enabled users to pass a chosen day.

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