Research finds chatbot usage in marketing more than doubled during the pandemic


New research from HubSpot has revealed that the use of chatbots by UK marketers has more than doubled since 2020, with one in three marketers now using them to engage with their customers. The findings are part of a wider trend in the use of automation, accelerated by the pandemic, that has seen marketing departments become the largest adopters of automation within businesses, using automated tools 73 per cent more than sales and 134 per cent more than finance. The research also found that 74 per cent of UK and Ireland marketers are using some form of automation already, and many more are set to adopt it this year. In addition to this, the use of technology by marketers is also on the rise, with nearly one in five social media marketing tactics including augmented reality, up 10 per cent since last year’s report.

The findings come from HubSpot’s 2021 Not Another State of Marketing Report, which surveyed 1,500 marketers globally. The annual survey asks marketers about their strategies and plans for 2021, and it’s clear from the results that marketing and social media priorities have shifted for the future.

Sophisticated technology

As automated technology develops every day, businesses using automated tools not only increases, but the type of automation expands – this includes for social media marketing. Research shows that 19 per cent of UK respondents are using augmented reality for social media marketing, which is up 10 per cent since last year. This automated technology is becoming increasingly popular as it becomes more sophisticated in algorithms tailored to provide content to key consumers.

McKinsey Global Institute published similar findings, revealing the use of AI tools were up 190 per cent from 2018 to 2020. The increase demonstrates an application of AI sophisticated technology as it develops – and that the range of AI tools is increasing, making it more appropriate for different uses in marketing.

Scott Brinker, VP of Platform, HubSpot said: “The research across different studies clearly shows a growth in automation and a broadening in the capabilities of automated tools. With AI becoming a more prominent feature in the landscape, we potentially need to think about specifying the different types of automation, whether that be for emails, landing pages, social media, blogs or marketing analytics. The different types of automation, across various industries, can provide marketers with a range of skills to improve their return figures and therefore a number of AI tools must be used, as opposed to one.”

Social media domination 

Research found that live video is also becoming increasingly popular, now ranking as the third most popular marketing tactic on social media. With face-to-face contact no longer being an option, a whopping 40 per cent of marketing tactics were of live video, compared to just 17 per cent last year. The growth has undoubtedly been impacted by global lockdowns, forcing content produced to be for a virtual audience. The time consumers are spending on watching videos is up 85 per cent, providing a real opportunity for marketers.

Similarly, global video uploads from marketers are up 88 per cent compared to pre-pandemic. Showing a demand for more natural human interactions using tech

Adopting a people-centric approach 

It isn’t just video uploads that are up and increasingly popular. Customer satisfaction is the joint second most important marketing priority in the UK and Ireland over the next year, tied with increasing brand recognition, with 23 per cent of respondents saying it’s their most important marketing priority after ‘generating more leads’.  In addition to this, 95 per cent of companies are using customer feedback to make decisions, helping companies constantly develop given the ever-changing consumer trends.

Marketers have also reported that email marketing effectiveness has increased over the past 12 months. While fewer emails are being sent out consumers are highly engaged with a better response rate showing that an improving personalisation, segmentation and automation is working. In 2021, 78 per cent of UK marketers reported seeing more engagement with email over the past year. Litmus’ State of Email report shows that no other channel comes close to email marketing when it comes to return on investment (ROI). In fact, it delivers a whopping $36 for every $1 spent.

Scott Brinker commented: “The pandemic forced many marketers to shift to video or virtual face to face methods of marketing, but we need to keep our minds open to all channels, despite the massive digital shift over the last 18 months. As automation has become more powerful it is having a noticeable impact on existing, more traditional, methods of marketing. As the world of online marketing changes with the demise of third-party cookies, email marketing is proving a reliable channel that is evidently working and providing high ROI’s.”


As we continue in a globalised, digital world, we’re seeing 94 per cent of respondents operating in more than one region and 70 per cent of marketers specifically, marketing internationally. There is ongoing interest in branching out to new markets too, with HubSpot’s Sales Enablement Survey stating 22 per cent of UK businesses are looking to sell into new markets this year.

However, there are some barriers to international marketing. Cultural differences in content produced is the second biggest barrier according to the report, and something that is as it stands, not possible to automate. This is the part of marketing that requires the human layer of review and is where business investment should be if business strategy is to branch out internationally.

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