How chatbots will change business

23 Nov, 2017

Social media has become the go-to channel for consumers to contact brands. These platforms can be accessed at any time, from anywhere, and on all devices. While trends and tech are constantly changing, some will truly transform the way we do business.

One such trend is social messaging.

Research shows that people spend more time using social messaging than social media.

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Enter the chatbot
While chatbots, like Siri, have been around for some time now, companies have only recently embraced the tech in their interactions with customers. They are a great way to generate data about customers, such as location, age, gender and product preferences. Companies that have online shopping carts can use chatbots to double as sales assistants, providing answers about product, price and shipping, while also up- and cross-selling similar products.

The good and the bad of bots
There are two basic types of bots, and both have their pros and cons.

Rule-based bots are more affordable, since they’re usually developed to fulfil basic tasks through exact command inputs. This could lead to frustrated customers, as the conversation doesn’t flow naturally, and runs in circles until the user stumbles on an actionable request.

Artificial intelligence-powered bots learn as they go, and through effective communication with your customers, it will also increase your social media engagement. A positive social interaction will lead to a loyal consumer, and loyalty results in sales – justifying the initial expense of creation.

To date, successful chatbot options have been limited, as the technology is still relatively new. Facebook Messenger has seen a significant increase in chatbots since the functionality was launched in April 2016. In the 12 weeks that followed the launch 11 000 bots were built, and seven months after the launch, that number had increased to 34 000. Considering that the one billion monthly active users send more than 60 billion chat messages a day, this is the perfect platform for the experimentation and refining of your bot approach.

Benefits of the bot
Chatbots can respond anytime, day or night. This can go a long way to improving the user experience and meet on-the-go needs with real-time relevance.

Unlike mobile apps that are costly to develop and a pain to update, bots are easy to create, and live on a server. Skilful scripting will ensure that your chatbot’s interaction sounds natural and on brand.

Bots can provide deeper analysis of consumers, which is useful when planning a social strategy or future campaign.

Because they learn behaviour from the people they interact with, things can go wrong as much as they can work in your favour.

In 2016 Microsoft released an artificial intelligence bot on Twitter. The bot, named Tay, was shut down just 16 hours after its launch. The reason? According to Microsoft, Tay was targeted by trolls and the information it collected from interacting with Twitter users resulted in inflammatory and offensive tweets.

Chatbots are set to explode onto the social scene within the next 12 months. But this handy tool should never be used to replace human interaction, and should never be left completely to its own devices. Do your research and get chatbotting.