Feature Image Source: iStock.com/neyro2008
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.
Also Explore: Artificial Intelligence and Social Selling
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.
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?
Vectors Source: Freepik ; Flaticon