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What the hell are Chatbots?

What you need to know about chatbots

The industry is abuzz with chatbots. They seemingly popped out of nowhere for some of us a couple of months ago, for others it comes as no surprise, in fact some of us remember talking to the SmarterChild robot on MSN when people still used that. But this time it is chatbot 5.0 with added brain.

Chatbots are AI programs can be programmed to mimic conversation with you on social messaging platforms. You can interact with these robots by asking them questions, and have quasi-conversations with them, similar to Siri on iPhone. Any bot can be tailored to answer questions and having conversations on just about anything. Our interest lies in how they can be used as the voice of a brand.

Brands are rising to the opportunity to be early adopters of using bots for marketing products. Burger King is releasing their chatbot messenger on Facebook as a point of sale method, they want to engage with consumers online through conversation to pre order meals to beat the queue, and make the overall experience more seamless.

Uber is getting into the game, rather than going navigating the Uber app, you can send them a message them and ask for a ride. KLM has launched their Facebook messenger bot that can send you your itinerary, boarding pass and check in information, updates come through the chat; and a human is available if your questions go above the robots pay grade. Early days.

Taco Bell are launching theirs on the lesser known Stack platform, but will soon be looking to get it onto Facebook messenger, Taco Bell’s reasoning for going into chatbots are to maintain their image as a social brand and as pioneers in tech.

These brands are using them as clever points of sales, a fun way to order your food. Where the rich creative comes from with chat bots are in the story telling, the opportunity here is great. With clever conversation pathways brands can offer amazing things such as gameified chat where people could navigate a conversation for reward. They could tell the brand about their likes and dislikes for reward offering the brand valuable insight into its consumer base.

The AI behind the software is ever learning – and with increased usage it becomes more intelligent. So this could either be a very successful engagement platform for brands, or it could be the beginning of the robot apocalypse. But for retail brands, especially those involved in e-commerce, this is the new technology that they should be looking into.

The opportunity for a brand with an extensive catalogue is out there to simplify their online experience. You could just ask the chatbot if they have a sleeveless floral summer dress in yellow, and it could provide you with the answer or something similar, without having to trawl the website. Imagine if it could learn your style, and only recommend items it knows you will like, then charge it and ship it straight to your address, all through conversation.

Technology that is smart, responsive and uses artificial intelligence has potential, but if implemented wrong it will not gain momentum with consumers, early adopting brands are aware of this, but do not want to be on the back end of a trend.

These bots need to add value to people’s lives, not just chat to them but actually help them, shorten the consumer journey and simplify tasks. The wow factor is receding for us when it comes to technology, attention spans are shorter and time is no longer free. We should know, we are in the advertising industry! The opportunity is here to shorten the consumer journey and really understand the consumers needs.