Chatbots are among the most exciting new technological tools available for marketers. A computer program that uses deep learning to simulate conversation and automates certain
tasks, a chatbot has the characteristics of a virtual assistant,
and its construction is similar to that of iPhone’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa.
Chatbots are taking on real human support agents and
using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to
find the appropriate response that a customer requires. Bots
have the ability to quickly search through a large amount of
information to choose the best and most appropriate answer
for the user, and with 1. 4 billion consumers using messaging
apps in 2015, the technology offers a golden opportunity for
brands to integrate it into their operations.
Research from Forrester;shows 5 percent of companies
worldwide said they were using chatbots regularly in 2016,
while 20 percent were piloting them, and 32 percent were
planning to use or test them in 2017.
A chatbot has two functions: informational and problem
solving. The latter can be used to action requirements such as
rectifying a shopping need, booking a meeting, or notifying a
user of an important deadline. The former can be utilized to
inform the customer of valuable content such as a breaking
Bots importantly encourage interactive communication
with the customer. Consumers prefer to use online chat functions as they help to resolve problems quickly, provide a written or digital record of communication, and are convenient
— with no need to download an additional app.
Many companies have already begun to incorporate chatbots into their businesses, and restaurants and retail outlets
are using chatbots to encourage customers to order food,
select pickup locations, pay online, and inform them of order
Facebook is utilizing chatbot technology, with consumers
able to pay or order products on the platform. Facebook’s experimental Messenger
bot has similarities with Siri, but when a
request cannot be fulfilled, a human representative invisibly and seamlessly takes
over to handle your question.
Bots are being used as a form of
real-time automated marketing and
advertising. Conversational commerce
marries the two worlds of messaging apps
and shopping. The concept involves businesses interacting
with their customers through messaging apps, chat, or voice
technology to sell their products.
Many brands, like Amazon Echo, have already embraced
this trend, including the option to talk to customer service
via a simple instant messenger when a problem arises with an
order. Other companies are using conversational commerce
and chatbots together to remind customers of what they already love by offering a way to order what they want through
Additionally, bots can be used to collect information
and direct people to the correct phone number or website
for more specific additional support. With the capability to
open in a browser or on a smartphone, the user doesn’t have
to switch devices or alter their location. The technology
can also connect consumers to forums or social sites to join
like-minded community members, scaling up problem solving
and refining user experience.
B2B marketers are also capitalizing on the power of
chatbots. In the health care space, companies are helping
consumers better understand available benefit packages and
what financial services make sense for their situation. In the
financial services sector, the technology is proactively assisting financial advisors with cost saving and investment bots
used by banks and fintech to reduce costs and eliminate the
risk of potential human errors.
What does the future look like for chatbots? From
scheduling outbound calls with telemarketers to answering
questions or processing hot leads ready for call center agents
to close, chatbot technology is creating many exciting and
revenue-generating opportunities for brands. Contact centers
are currently exploring this functionality and what it can do
for direct-to-consumer marketers.
For a bot to be successful, brands and their marketing
teams must understand interactions the audience is already
having with their products and services, as well as the chat
interface in a way that creates maximum
impact with minimal fuss. The best bots
harness the micro-decisions consumers
experience on a daily basis and see them
as an opportunity to help. Whether it’s
adjusting a reservation, updating the
shipping information for an order, or
giving medical advice, bots provide a
solution when people need it most.
Are Chatbots Here to Stay?
BY LINDSEY CARNETT