In his 1996 book, Dave Barry in Cyberspace, Barry says, “the internet is the most important single development in the history of human communication since the invention of call waiting.”
Barry’s point — which is a comical take on how technology does more to stifle natural communication than enable it — is still very relevant in our modern digital world. And while technology isn’t going away, neither is the human demand for communication, or at least human-like communication. Enter, chatbots.
If you haven’t heard of chatbots, ChaiOne defines them as conversational user interfaces (CUIs) that deliver text-based or voice-based information to users in a way that simulates human conversation.
Today, chatbots are at the precipice of becoming a potent tool for consumer engagement that has marketers and customer service pros wanting to know more about implementing a chatbot into their companies’ overall marketing strategy.
In this post, we’ll tell you the top 5 reasons businesses and brands need to move forward with a chatbot strategy now — and not wait to get started on their chatbot journey.
Chatbot technology, which has existed in some form or fashion, for the last 50 years, met its perfect match in 2016: messaging apps.
Messaging apps, including Facebook Messenger and Kik, along with bots, are the perfect tool for consumer engagement. Basically, the messaging platform provides the users — and the bot provides the means to access those users.
[su_pullquote]Chatbots are a cross-platform software product, so they don’t always live on messaging platforms, but it’s because of messaging apps — and their fast expanding user bases — that chatbots have entered the broader marketing conversation in the past year.[/su_pullquote]
Messaging apps are growing at a breakneck pace. Facebook Messenger, for instance, has more than one billion monthly active users — and is growing rapidly.
Other messaging platforms are also growing quickly. Kik, which is used by 40 percent of U.S. teens, has approximately 175 million monthly active users.
Both Facebook and Kik have opened their platforms to bots — and since April of 2016, 34,000 + bots have been deployed on Facebook Messenger alone.
Some messaging apps, including Facebook Messsenger, have bot developer tools that make building bots much easier — and cheaper.
Several years ago, building a bot was a very time consuming and expensive process — limiting bot development to major companies with large R&D teams. But now, bot developer tools on messaging platforms have made the process much more efficient with less required overhead.
Furthermore, third party artificial intelligence (AI) frameworks from companies like IBM are making it much cheaper to deploy a chatbot with machine learning capabilities — a key element of successful bots both now and into the future.
Depending on the situation, people are increasingly open to chatbots and their more natural, conversational UI.
Recently, NeuraFlash, a Salesforce Consulting Partner from Boston, partnered with Bentley University’s Human Factors Information Design (HFID) program to conduct a study focused on understanding people’s behaviors when using chatbots across digital channels for sales and service.
Here are the results of the studies’ findings:
Other research, from Forrester, points to consumers moving from apps and the web to voice for at least some of their activities — so marketers and customer service pros really need to start thinking about their chatbot strategy now to respond to their customers’ engagement preferences.
The real potential for chatbots is tied to AI, so businesses need to start experimenting with this technology now or risk being disrupted by early adopters.
Today, most consumers that use chatbots will be forgiving, to an extent, if a chatbot isn’t able to respond as desired to their questions. But that won’t be the case for long — as early adopters begin to refine their chatbots with AI technology and machine learning to respond to a variety of consumer situations. Plus, as AI technology becomes more advanced, businesses that have already started working with this technology will have a major leg up on those businesses that aren’t.
The point is that while chatbots have a considerable way to go before they can be the virtual customer assistants and brand ambassadors businesses want — it doesn’t mean businesses can wait on the sidelines to see what will happen next.
We’re in the middle of a chatbot revolution — and it won’t be long until businesses and brands begin to engage in a battle of the bots. In this next era of consumer engagement, sales and customer service, the winners will be those companies that begin their chatbot journey today — not tomorrow.
If you’re interested in finding out more about chatbots — and the chatbot revolution taking place — read our complimentary eBook, Understanding the Chatbot Revolution for Business.
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