Is 2017 the year of ro“bots”?
I remember the sheer thought of droids ruling our world gave some of us goosebumps but, now bots have swamped our lives. Imagine Rosie Jetson telling us what to wear, where to go and how to cook – a humanoid robot helping us with mundane chores, suggesting solutions to our problems and influencing our decisions. That’s awesomely futuristic! FYI, that’s conversational commerce (at least in my view).
The Rise Of AI Bots
Messaging apps are all about human interaction, so how did these artificial intelligence bots come into the picture? Was it an alien-like intrusion or a prerequisite to survive in an ever-changing and fast-paced e-retail environment? According to Statista, by 2018 there’ll be 2 billion messaging app users brands may want to target via instant chatbot engagement. In a study of 1,000 participants, 44% US customers said they’d prefer AI chatbots for customer relationship management. Another research by DigitasLBi shows 59% of Americans want to communicate with bots to receive discount offers. Guess this was all ‘meant to be’ especially in an ultra-digital and highly-social world where people rely on what Google frames as “micro-moments”.
“We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us.” – Marshall McLuhan
Ruling Players Of Conversational Commerce
Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan once said “We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us.” It is true that we first derive tools that can match our contemporary lifestyle and then these tools affect our lives more than we had anticipated. Conversational commerce tools are now shaping the way businesses do B2B and B2C commerce. The value proposition messaging tools give to brands and customers likewise include: one-to-one engagement, real-time solutions to questions, and in-app payment system. I think the following apps are the ruling players.
Facebook Messenger is among the most popular chatting platforms of 2016 as over 1 billion users connect via this application with family, friends, and brands. However, there are always two sides to a coin. It isn’t easy to search or discover the 30,000 chatbots on this app. Until a brand, like Uber, somehow conveys the news about its bot on messenger it is rather difficult for customers to know, Jon Cifuentes of Venturebeat Insight highlights. Did you know the latest Circuit Breaker’s AI bot on Messenger has launched? So it’s vital to keep yourself updated about what’s happening in the world other than Donald Trump, Kylie Jenner or Star Wars. While entertainment is necessary, these AI chatbots may first seem indifferent but they’re trained to solve our problems.
A Chinese baby, WeChat is a growing chatting app with over 800 million users who actually conduct a “myriad of shopping-related activities” on it. As shared by Michael Quoc, CEO of ZipfWorks, users hunt for taxi services, food deliveries, film tickets and they also look for fashion products, track their fitness program or doctor’s appointment. Basically, the 2 billion people want to manage every aspect of their lives via their Androids and iOS devices. It’s taxing to deal with a plethora of customers every day but AI bots make the task easier to manage and record. Did you know the fashion house Michael Kors made around $18 billion in overall sales, which included the brand’s bot being on WeChat on Single’s Day? Nevertheless since it is all programmed, the humanizing factor is often sidelined. Only if sophisticated technologies come up with bots that replicate human emotions during a chat session.
Also Explore: Artificial Intelligence and Social Selling
A free instant messenger tool to exchange messages, videos, photos, websites, sketches and a lot of other things such as products and services. According to DMR, on an average 250,000 users join Kik messenger every day. As of May 2016, the app has over 290 million users that businesses can tap on via AI bots like Microsoft’s new assistant Zo. According to writer Natasha Lomas, the setback in AI communications is that a machine can fail to respond to human queries on many levels. For example, if you’re in contact with a bot you’ll know answers are off-the-rack and generated randomly on the basis of certain keywords. Anyhow, as per BI Intelligence report messaging apps have increased in popularity over the years. Thus, Nordstrom planned to invest $300 million on e-commerce and tech in 2016.
With 100 million users exchanging 400 million snaps every day according to Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, this real-time instant messaging app has great potential to become a leading chatbot hub. It is a great platform for online retailers and publishers who want to offer real-time stories, discounts and special offers ideally on a continual basis. With the in-app Snapcash service, AI bots on this platform can assist buyers to complete their journey without creating the hassle for customers to jump from one site to another. But, security is a concern swirling this app because of the Snap spam case. In this scenario categorizing genuine AI bots from hackers and spammers is a challenge that CAPTCHA won’t alone be able to solve, FYI.
Slack is another private chat app or a “workplace collaboration tool” as Business Insider puts it, with 4 million daily average users and a “3-5% weekly active user’s growth rate” according to Expanded Ramblings. To be honest, AI bots communication isn’t limited to B2C in fact the technology and idea can be used in B2B with shareholders and employees. Apart from its own chatbot, Taco Bell introduced TacoBot on Slack in private beta to order tacos. Creative Technology Director of Deutsch (agency that created the bot for the eatery), Martin Legowiecki shares that creating a bot isn’t easy after all. You need to find ways to translate the interface and language requirements of the messaging app and of your customers into the bot system.
Another reason to localize your business! Google Allo is a messaging app with an in-built bot that responds to user’s queries with results from the SERPs. So the better your listing, the more chances you have to be recommended in a conversation between the AI assistant Google and a potential or existing customer. You can either directly open a separate chat to connect with the bot or you can include it in your conversations by using the @google handle. The Executive Editor of The Verge, Dieter Bohn says that Allo has the ability to answer complex questions that otherwise cannot be asked from a search engine. There’ve been 10 million downloads by now on Google Play. In comparison with Facebook Messenger, the app still has a long way to cover but it has a lot of potential.
An independent messaging app based in Germany with 100 million users worldwide, Telegram has useful chatbots like @Wikipedia_voice_bot, @Weathermanbot, and @Pomodoro_timer_bot. According to Expanded Ramblings, on an average 350,000 users sign up to the app daily. After Brazil banned the use of WhatsApp, Telegram gained 5.7 million users in 24 hours only. Telegram has artificial intelligence software bots instead of people. ChatBottle can find 187 different chatbots on Telegram, which provide users with assorted services from education to entertainment and commerce to productivity. Brands can control their bots with HTTPS requests to Telegram’s chatbot API. On the other hand, users can interact with AI bots via commands and messages. As per the latest news sources, this messenger app launched a 1.0 desktop version for those living in countries like Iran. The only problem with a robotic conversation is that it’s not refined for complex human interaction, as yet.
BTW, Who Needs AI Chatbots?
Simply put, almost all businesses need chatbots whatever their size may be unless they’re good with social selling and on-ground human interaction. Considering the growth of established fast-moving consumer goods manufacturers, it has become challenging for these giants to keep up with the pace of an expanding market using the help of humans. With millions of brand fans, AI chatbots give conglomerates the benefit to automatically connect with their customers in a cultivated way with AI assistants. It is also a good option for startups who want to save the costs of employing a dozen of sales representatives. Content publishers can make bots akin to an RSS feed inside messaging app. In fact, research companies can also develop bots to get insights on consumer behavior. There are a gazillion ways to use AI chatbots, the trick is to know your audience and the platform.
AI Bot Heroes Of The Industry
The popularity of messenger apps has escalated over the years because customers have shifted from desktops and laptops to smartphones. We’ve risen above mainstream media to communication tools that satisfy our ‘instant needs’, which AI bots can deliver as well. While many businesses plan for social selling, chatbots on messaging apps is the latest trend. The latest report by Business Insider predicts that 80% companies among the participants have either used chatbots or are planning to use bots by 2020. Here are some bots worth the mention, not because of the sales they made but because of their participation in this trend and their efforts to give an edgy experience to customers.
Sephora is considered as a vibrant brand that embraces the power of conversational commerce to its fullest. It launched two bots on Messenger: Sephora Reservation Assistant to book appointments, and Color Match to assist customers in shade matching with the help of augment reality. Moreover, the French beauty chain is working to find ways to offer tailored solutions and conversation based on demographic information on Kik. SVP of Digital at Sephora, Mery Beth Laughton said in the press release that the bots on Messenger offer clients an enhanced way to engage with the brand by “streamlining how they access relevant service and product information on their mobile devices.”
Takeaway: if you’re launching bots, make sure you don’t overwhelm your customers. Assign the entrance time of each bot in the market. Don’t ever kill the excitement.
Instead of downloading a separate app, Uber introduced its chatbot to Messenger users after all the company’s lead developer Chris Messina coined the word conversational commerce. Uber users can order a ride directly from the messaging app and track the whereabouts. A map is easily generated from the pick and drop distance with options like cancel ride, view map, and call driver – all from Facebook Messenger only. There’s nothing human-like in this conversation at least because it is meant to be a machine that takes order and delivers.
Takeaway: experiences not only matter online but offline as well – where the real ride begins. It’s vital to have quality products with an engaging marketing strategy.
Ooh I love this – ModiFace is an app that allows users to do a makeover of themselves. The ModiFace bot on Facebook Messenger has an inventory of 20,000 lipstick shades and brands you can get information on and try on yourself using the augmented reality trick. ModiFace in their press release described the bot as a “conversational beauty advisor”. Apart from being a consultant the bot lets a user buy the products they liked. When you usually order a lipstick online, you are betting because you can’t see how they look on you. With this AI bot, you can do just that and complete your buyer’s journey just like you would in a physical store. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the beauty industry is hogging over digital marketing trends like there’s no tomorrow.
Takeaway: don’t give customers what they already get from your website or store. Instead give them a personalized shopping experience in their personal spaces.
Future Of AI Bots
Manager of Verizon Ventures, Christie Pitts shared that chatbots on messaging apps have redefined the way we do commerce – “how we interact with our devices, and how we stay connected with the people, businesses and the day-to-day activities of life” – all this has opened new opportunities but it has also burdened us with challenges.
The five most pertinent issues I think revolving around conversational commerce via artificial intelligence include: a) security from spammers and hackers, b) in-app user experience that affects conversion rate, c) the smartness of current AI technology, c) the capability of AI chatbots to humanize communications with customers, and d) time of response. Well, there’s also the issue of the bot’s gender, and whether the bot has the ability to recognize different languages, messages jargon or slang for that matter.
Nevertheless, sources say the AI bot market will be worth $7.9 billion by 2024. Kester Poh of AskViola shared that at first the team thought that bots cannot sell, but it turned out that they “actually sealed some deals on their own.” If AI becomes smarter with the developing landscape of consumerism online then chances are that bots will rule.
Will You Let A Robot Talk To Your Customer?