Chatbots and the “Conversational Commerce” Revolution

- January 3, 2017

The way customers are engaging with brands is changing thanks in large part to the billions of daily users of popular messaging platforms, like Facebook Messenger. These messaging platforms provide marketers with a unique opportunity – the ability to scale creative 1-to-1 customer interactions or “conversational experiences” through the use of chatbot technology.

What’s a Chatbot?

A chatbot is software that automates customer service online through messaging apps. For example, let’s say you want to order a pizza. You could call your local Pizza Hut and talk to the employee to place your order. You could go to the Pizza Hut website, log into your Pizza Hut account, and place your order online. Or, you could simply send a message to the pizza chain through Facebook Messenger or Twitter and quickly order your favorite pie through Pizza Hut’s social ordering platform.

More and more users are opting to engage with brands online as opposed to in-person or over-the-phone. And, increasingly, customers are using their mobile phones for that online interaction. According to internal Pizza Hut data, half of all orders came through digital channels, and more than 60 percent of those orders came via a mobile device. Much of the brand’s success with chatbots is likely attributed to the fact that the audience was already using a mobile device, and chatbots allowed the company to create a simple and seamless mobile ordering experience

But, chatbots are not for everyone. Before taking the plunge, consider the following pros and cons.

Chatbot Benefits

  • Quick response times – Customers can receive an almost immediate response, rather than having to wait on hold for a customer service representative or wait for a response to an online inquiry.
  • Presence in customers’ preferred medium – If your customers are already using messaging platforms, a chatbot is an easy way to engage with them in a manner in which they are already familiar.
  • Cost-effective – For simple interactions or transactions, it may make more financial sense to scale and automate customer service rather than employing a large team.

Possible Chatbot Pitfalls

  • Privacy or security breaches – When transactions are conducted online, especially on a third-party platform (i.e. not on your website), there is the potential for a breach in security.
  • Less control – Since there is little to no human oversight with these customer interactions, there is a possibility for brand-damaging blunders to occur, like Microsoft’s infamous A.I. bot, Tay.

The Future of Customer Engagement

With the explosion in popularity of messaging platforms, brands are able to connect and interact with their customers like never before. When done well, chatbots can be an effective and beneficial way to engage with your audience. Before incorporating chatbots into your marketing strategy, consider who your audience is, the messaging apps they may already be using and if you have a simple use case you can test before rolling out a full-fledged conversational commerce strategy.

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