Will Chat Bots Enable a Conversational Commerce Future?

Will Chat Bots Enable a Conversational Commerce Future?

Written by Sudarshan DharmapuriJuly 29th 2016

When Mark Zuckerberg acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion, many shook their head in disbelief. The recent news of messaging apps overtaking social networks suggests the Facebook CEO had made a very shrewd move. Maybe, a conversational commerce future is heading our way much sooner than we initially realised.

The team at WhatsApp have already announced that they are testing tools that allow the messaging platform to connect businesses and organisations with users. It seems that we are finally moving away from generic marketing messages of little relevance. The simplification and personalisation of everything could open up opportunities. For example, keeping us up-to-date with essential and proactive banking and travel services.

Could App fatigue lead to an invasion of ‘chat bots’ that will replace the apps that have now been relegated to a subfolder on page two of our smartphones? Anyone that uses Slack will tell you how automated commands could retire many apps from our devices.

A silver bullet that promises to improve customer experience and reduce contact centre costs through automation will be incredibly appealing to businesses. However, rushing in without a bot strategy is possibly the worst mistake you could make.

Messaging evolution – From social to business-related conversation.

How this new generation of bots co-exist and interoperate with all of your other interaction channels should be carefully considered. The removal of a human interface would be a complete disaster that would deliver unthinkable results.

However, there is a growing belief that chatbots can ‘humanise’ brands. There are a billion users of Facebook Messenger and branded bots on this accessible platform would enable businesses to reach out to users instantaneously. Building a meaningful connection based on trust is undoubtedly the best way forward.

Creating seamless interaction across multiple devices is crucial in meeting the increasing demands and expectations of tech-savvy consumers. People want to communicate with businesses in real-time. A generic marketing message from an auto do-not-reply inbox will just frustrate your users and make your organisation look incredibly out of touch.

We can now hail a cab or book a room on the other side of the world by just tapping the screen of our smartphone. This digital age of instant gratification has transformed our expectation levels. Naturally, customer interaction is also experiencing a 21st-century upgrade. Treating every consumer as a unique individual to understand their personal preferences in real time is becoming crucial for retailers.

Getting personal and the rise of AI 

Understanding personal preferences and interests of customers in real time is already delivering measurable results. Reflektion is already increasing customer conversions and revenue by over 20% along with a 70% growth in shopper engagement for big names such as Disney.

The days of measuring engagement by celebrating the shallow successes of page views are thankfully disappearing. A new wave of analytical tools such as heapanalytics are offering invaluable insight into what we are liking or sharing on the web or our smartphones.

The rise of digital payments and loyalty schemes are also enabling retailers to get to know their customers by name again. It’s no longer about just capturing data. Businesses need to utilise technology by embracing the overwhelming benefits offered by AI and machine learning. The use of personal data and preferences to deliver what somebody wants before they even know they want it could be considered both cool and creepy at the same time.

Don’t trust machines just yet

Earlier this year, Microsoft unveiled a Twitter chatbot that was described as an experiment in “conversational understanding.” This fascinating concept aimed to showcase advances in technology. The more users engaged with the bot through casual and playful conversation, the smarter it became.

Although, this sounded great in principle that bot seemed to learn the darker side of humanity within only 24 hours. A series of misogynistic and racist tweets followed during the worst kind of human engagement.

This experiment offered a black mirror that illustrated how it’s not the technology that is creepy, but our human behaviour. However, connecting Facebook Messengers one billion+ users to Spring’s 800+ brands via a chat bot is something we should all be watching very carefully.

The bot will begin by asking what you’re looking for and to choose between women’s or men’s clothing. By narrowing down your choices based on your answers, the bot can automatically direct you to the clothing, shoes or accessories you are searching for and within budget.

Technology will always work best when it brings people together. If chat bots can open up an opportunity to make it easier and faster for people to communicate and interact with businesses, then we are on the verge of something very special.

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