The Importance of Chatbots Part I

Tim Ahlenius Tim Ahlenius | June 06, 2017 Comments
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There always seems to be some new and upcoming trend that rocks the commerce world. It’s hailed as the most promising trend for businesses and, in many cases, it really isn’t. But, out of all the innovative technology thrown at users, occasionally there’s a real diamond. The 80’s got a computer and the early 2000’s saw growth in mobile trends. The diamond right now?  Chatbots. Chatbots are still in their infancy stage compared to other digital technology being used, but they are a digital trend that businesses from ecommerce to retail should get to know and use!

What is a Chatbot?

A chatbot “is a computer program that uses deep learning to simulate conversation and automates certain tasks. Think of a virtual assistant – such as Siri or Alexa.” Many companies have already begun to incorporate chatbots into their businesses, including Facebook, Google, Kik, WeChat, and Microsoft. A few companies, including Uber and DuoLingo, have taken chatbots a step further and incorporated them into their marketing plans with fun plays on their brands.

In case you have not had the chance to experience a chatbot yet, here’s a quick breakdown of how an interaction would unfold:

  1. You need to know the weather for the weekend before a big beach trip. With just a few simple verbal or text commands, a chatbot will be able to instantly tell you the exact weather for the geographic location you specified without having to open any searches yourself.
  2. Let’s say you have developed a green thumb and want to know the average cost of a pair of gardening gloves. You could ask a chatbot the average price and the chatbot will pull up options for a pair of gardening gloves that includes the price for the gloves, a link, and reviews.

Situations like those emphasize the immense impact chatbots are going to have on the way we interact with technology as well as how we decide to shop and gather information in the future.

What Can Chatbots do for your business?

Chatbots offer businesses a lot of options when trying to expand their presence and impact the decisions and choices made by their customers. A lot of ecommerce businesses do not realize how much they will benefit from utilizing chatbots. These range from customer service to growth in sales and a positive brand image. Chatbots are paving the way for businesses to easily connect with their consumers in ways they feel most comfortable, virtually.

According to eMarketer, 1.4 billion consumers used messaging apps in 2015, up 31.6% from 2014, and that number is expected to hit 2 billion by 2018 and represent 80% of smartphone users. Even more remarkable is that at least 75% of smartphone users in the whole world right now use an over-the-top mobile messaging system at least once a month.

A specific field in which chatbots are having an impact is the field of conversational commerce. Conversational commerce, a term coined by Uber CEO Chris Messina, is the intersection of messaging apps and shopping. Conversational commerce is essentially businesses interacting with their customers through messaging apps, chat, or voice technology to sell their products. Many popular brands have already hopped on this trend, including Amazon with their Echo product and the option to talk to customer service via a simple instant messenger like chat when a problem arises with an order. Other companies, like Subway, 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 a chatbot.

Chatbots are also a fantastic way for businesses to automate their customer service messages and give customers a way to shop without ever leaving the messaging app. Company chatbots can also can be used to create wish lists, personalized recommendations, and send order confirmations and delivery notices in one convenient place.

Below is a list Murray Newlands, of B2C, created that shows a few ways chatbots can make an impact on businesses:

  • Work as part of your marketing campaigns
  • Deliver special offers to customers
  • Answer client questions
  • Provide a self-serving alternative
  • Save you time and resources
  • Monetize your social media

As you can see from the list, chatbots are able to provide many positive impacts on business growth, often in ways businesses normally wouldn’t think of. It is going to be important for businesses to really plan their chatbot attack plan in a way that matches the needs of their customers.

Up Next…

In Part 2 of this blog series discussing chatbots, we are going to discuss more about the impact chatbots are having directly on customer service and sales as well as help you develop your own chatbot for your business. No coding experience required!

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