Common marketing wisdom says go where customers are hanging out. More and more, consumers spend time in messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

In fact, research shows consumers are using messenger apps even more than social media, with more users on messaging apps than on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Capitalizing on this fact, conversational marketing has popped up in the form of chat bots. A quick chat with a bot provides a really easy way for users to order a pizza or find the perfect shade of lipstick.

Chat bots are programmable computer software that can have a conversation. Bots are primarily used for customer service or information searches, and are widely in use. Brands like Sephora, Disney, Domino’s, AirBnB, H&M, and Spotify have all made chatbots part of their marketing mix.

Of course, there are limits to what chat bots can do. Chat bots can’t completely replace the need for human interaction:

“Bots cannot feel or think or intuit in the same way as people do. They can’t think creatively or display emotional intelligence….the purpose of AI assistants and bots is to enhance the human experience, not replace it.” – ETIENNE MÉRINEAU, Venture Beat

Still, chat bots provide an opportunity to engage with customers, and are a major cost savings. Setting up a call center with real people to operate chat sessions isn’t affordable for most businesses. Chatbots are cheaper than hiring real people, and can be used for routine customer service conversations.

Interested in developing your own chat bot?

Custom bot development costs vary based on how many bots you need and the anticipated number of interactions. Costs to create a simple bot start at $5,000 (plus ongoing monthly maintenance fees), while a more robust bot can cost more than $100,000. Or, you can create your own chatbot with tools like Bot Framework from Microsoft, the bot developer tool from Facebook, or Chatfuel.

So, do you need to invest in building a chat bot right away? No, but it’s definitely something to consider in your long-term marketing planning. By 2020, 80% of businesses want to use chatbots.