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In the age of personalised marketing, chatbots emerge as one of the few channels that can offer a genuine one-to-one experience between brands and users.

But as with any modern competitive advantage, chatbots have become over-saturated, reducing their effectiveness considerably. Anecdotally, where we previously had open rates of 50%+ from our chatbots, we’re now lucky if we can get 5-10% (no thanks to popular chatbot blockers like HelloGoodbye).

However, this doesn’t prevent most of the marketing industry drooling over the fictional idea of AI being able to fool people into thinking they were talking to a person when they should have been asking themselves what problems can chatbots solve that other solutions can’t/can’t do as well?

If these are the kind of questions you’ve been answering over the past couple of years and you think now is the time to build your first bot, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are the best chatbot builders in an article 100% free of any unfounded hype or hyperbole.

#1: Mobile Monkey

MobileMonkey is a bot builder for Facebook Messenger that helps marketers build high-converting chatbots. Unlike many other chatbot builders in this post, MobileMonkey specialises in connecting your chatbot with your wider marketing stack – including your ad campaigns and drip marketing.

With in-built chatbot forms, lead magnets and marketing automation tools, MobileMonkey makes growing your list, and more importantly, converting your visitors into leads a breeze.

Paid versions start from $14.25/month and this gets you advanced automation, integrations, SMS and more.

#2: Leadformly

Leadformly is not a chatbot builder – so why are we mentioning it here?

Well, it was what we used at Venture Harbour to conditionally segment users into different buckets before chatbots came around. After a few years of testing chatbots on landing pages, we are starting to move back to using conversational lead gen forms as they’re not suffering the over-usage that is plaguing chatbots and they’re also more integrated into the landing page.

We still prefer to use chatbots on pages that are not lead generation/conversion focused (e.g. for customer support) but if the goal of the page is to drive leads, we’re still typically seeing better conversion rates with a well-designed conversational lead gen tool/form compared with a chatbot.

#3: TARS

TARS is a drag-and-drop chatbot builder that you can use to create website chatbots or conversational landing pages for your website. It’s very straightforward to use with zero coding or development skills required. There are more than 800 chatbot templates for different industries and use cases that can be edited and customised. TARS puts all the focus on building bots that generate leads and add ROI to your marketing efforts – something many bot builders neglect.

Price is the primary down side to TARS as there is no free version and it’s one of the more expensive builders around. Prices start at $99/mo for the basic chatbot builder. But the $499/mo option will get you the most advanced set of analytics and marketing tools available among the builders in this article. You’ll be able to integrate with Google calendar and all your existing applications, plus lots more.

#4: Flow XO

Flow XO is a complete solution for building chatbots, hosting them and deploying them across platforms, which means you’re not only limited to Facebook Messenger. You can also build chatbot widgets for your website or integrate them with suitable third-party platforms and users can also share your bot with others.

The interface is incredibly easy to use and there’s a free version that you can try out to get a feel for things. You get access to all of the features on the free version but you’re limited to 500 interactions – although you can build up to five different bots.

Paid versions start at $19/month, which gets you 5,000 interactions and you can add 25,000 by paying an extra $25/month (50,000 for £50/month, 75,000 for $75/month, etc.) and add five more bots for an extra $10/month.

#5: Botsify

Botsify is a simple builder that lets you create bots for your website or Facebook Messenger easily. It also comes with some great integration features you won’t find with other builders. For example, you can integrate with Shopify, WordPress and Alexa; create conversion forms in your bot or allow human staff to take over the conversation.

You can get started with Botsify for free or sign up to a paid plan, which start from $10/month.

#6: ChatterOn

ChatterOn aims to be the fastest bot builder in the business, promising to have you building bots in under five minutes. This starts with more than 20 pre-built bots for you to choose from and customise using its simple builder. ChatterOn’s Ai and machine learning algos are pretty solid and it supports a wide range of rich content, including carousels, buttons, photos, gifs and videos.

You can also monetise your bot with contextual ads from Radbots but this isn’t particularly helpful from a lead generation perspective. You can use ChatterOn for free with access to all of the features, unlimited chatbots and your only restriction is 15,000 messages per month. After that, you simply pay $0.0010 per message once you pass the 15,000 mark – incredibly cost-effective.

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#7: Sequel

Sequel also gets you started off with chatbot templates, which you can then customise using its drag-and-drop editor. Sequel really aims to get you building chatbots that engage with users on a conversational level and this incorporates two key elements: Sequel’s Natural Language Processing technology for the conversation side of things and interactive content.

There’s a template for publishers, a personal assistant, a StoryBot, GameBot and other templates built for different engagement purposes. The aim isn’t so much lead generation in this case but more about keeping your audience engaged with your brand and its content.

You can publish your Sequel bots on Messenger, Kik, Telegram and Viber.

#8: Pandorabots

Pandorabots is a great platform for building and experimenting, but it’s one that requires some decent coding skills. This gives you a huge amount of flexibility, allowing you to build basically anything you want (or have the skills to).

Definitely not for beginners but a solid interface that speeds up the development process for experienced bot engineers.

You get up to 1,000 messages per month for free and you can build up to two bots. If you’re handling more than 1,000 messages, you’ll be looking at $0.0025 per message for up to 100,000 messages and as many as 10 bots. Anything more than that and you’ll need to contact Pandorabots for pricing.

#9: Chatfuel

Chatfuel is a bot builder for Facebook Messenger that aims to make bot building easy. You don’t need any coding skills to use Chatfuel and the free version of the platform gives you access to almost every feature for up to 5,000 subscribers, although users will see the Chatfuel branding on your bot.

While it’s not as easy to get started with Chatfuel as it is with some of the Messenger bot builders we’ll be looking at in this article, it does make managing and reusing messages easier than most – something you’ll appreciate later on.

Paid versions start from $15/month and this gets you more subscribers, audience insights, priority support and some extra data management features.

#10: Botkit

Botkit isn’t just a bot builder; it’s an entire community of more than 7,000 developers from around the world. However, it is also an impressive bot builder that includes a visual conversation builder, open source libraries, built-in stats and metrics, plus rigorously tested code from some of the best bot builder around, which you can use to power your own bots.

There is a free version and paid versions start from $5/month, depending on how many bots and active users you need.

And a chatbot alternative for good measure

Chatbots are a great way to automate basic communications but their effectiveness is entirely dependent on the programming skills used to build them. The cost of time for yourself to do it or the money to hire the right programmer can also make using chatbots difficult to implement for a lot of businesses, considering the limitations of the technology.

Far too often chatbots are simply installed on websites with their default settings, leading to poor results when used by visitors, leading to the drop in usage mentioned at the beginning of this post.

If this sounds like you, there is an alternative.

For those companies who’d prefer the human touch, but cannot afford to hire someone to run their live chat in-house, there is another option – managed live chat. This brings us to our final service to mention, Melu.

Melu

Melu does all the hard work for you. They provide the live chat software and highly trained, professional operators to run it on your behalf. Think of Melu as an online reception, looking after your website visitors from 8am to 10pm Monday to Friday, responding to every single chat request within seconds. Their operators can invite visitors to chat and ask them what they need. They then get their details and pass them to you as a warm lead, making it easier for you to convert them into a new client. Outside these hours their chat widget becomes a simple enquiry form.

Using a shared knowledge base of frequently asked questions, Melu’s operators are able to answer queries and give information to visitors on your behalf. This allows you to focus on your business objectives without having to invest in dedicated live chat staff, or the programming of a chatbot.

I know what you’re thinking, this level of service comes at a cost, yes? Well in fact, no it doesn’t! Melu’s managed live chat service is incredibly cost effective. You can even try before you buy with their free trial.

4 Comments

  • Shannon says:

    Are any of these supported in native apps? iOS specifically? Several of the above state FB messenger only, or perhaps web, but any for native apps?

  • Steve Gethin says:

    These all sound like toys. Sure, a visual bill that is good for simple bots. For more complex bolts, however, writing each question in a visual coder is painfully slow. What we need is something that allows us to create our questions and sequences in a text editor and mark them up with tags that show the sequence in which they should be asked, and then import them into the builder so that it then creates the questions and the sequence. Is there anything out there that will economically to that?

    • Simon says:

      Hi Steve, you might want to give BotXO a try. It is a chatbot startup, with some big clients already. It supports natural sentences processing as well as API integrations. I don’t know about other solutions

    • Brad says:

      Check out Twilio