A chatbot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that one can interact with via a chat interface. The service could be any number of things, ranging from functional to fun, and it could live in any major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Text Messages, etc.)
If a consumer wants to buy shoes from Nordstrom online, he would go to their website, look around until he finds the shoes he wanted, and then would purchase them. If Nordstrom makes a bot, the consumer would simply be able to message Nordstrom on Facebook. It would ask the consumer what he is looking for and the consumer would simply… tell it.
Instead of browsing a website, the buyer will have a conversation with the Nordstrom bot, mirroring the type of experience the buyer would get when he goes into the retail store.
Examples of Chatbots:
Buying shoes isn’t the only thing chatbots can be used for. Here are a couple of other examples:
- Weather bot.Get the weather whenever you ask.
- Grocery bot. Help me pick out and order groceries for the week.
- News bot.Ask it to tell you whenever something interesting happens.
- Life advice bot. I’ll tell it my problems and it helps me think of solutions.
- Personal finance bot. It helps an individual to manage money better.
- Scheduling bot.Get me a meeting with someone on the Messenger team at Facebook.
- A bot that’s your friend. In China there is a bot called Xiaoice, built by Microsoft that over 20 million people talk to.
Chatbots have become extraordinarily popular in recent years largely due to dramatic advancements in machine learning and other underlying technologies such as natural language processing. Today’s chatbots are smarter, more responsive, and more useful – and we’re likely to see even more of them in the coming years.
How do chat bots work?
At the heart of chatbot technology lies natural language processing or NLP, the same technology that forms the basis of the voice recognition systems used by virtual assistants such as Google Now, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana.
Chatbots are also being used by brands for Marketing and Sales.
Aside from being awesome for helping with customer care queries, AI-powered chatbots can be part of a company’s marketing initiatives and help push the customers seamlessly through the sales funnel. Here are some ways chatbots can fit into a company’s marketing strategy:
- Offering the audience a personalized experience.
- Large engagement capacity
- Reach a wider audience
- Gather and analyze customer feedback and data.
- Send relevant notifications.
- Make communicating with your brand more fun.
Brands are using chatbots in a lot of exciting ways.
A few examples are:
Starbucks makes it ridiculously easy to place an order your favorite drink or snack, whether your prefer using voice commands or text messaging. The chatbot will tell you when your order will be ready and the total cost. You can find Starbucks’ chatbot inside the Starbucks app (for iPhone, Android, and Windows).
Mastercard’s Facebook Messenger bot makes it easy for customers to check on account transactions (e.g., just ask “how much did I spent on restaurants in May?”). With Masterpass, customers can also now buy from Mastercard partners like FreshDirect, Subway, and the Cheesecake Factory.
Pizza Hut customers can easily order pizza for delivery or carryout from Facebook Messenger or Twitter. Customers can also reorder their favorite pizzas, ask questions, and see current deals.
Enthusiasm for Chatbots is found to be everywhere right from major industry events like Cannes, CES and SXSW to the pages of most tech publications.
Sectors apt for Chatbots:
Shopping: people could talk to purchasing applications with text messages or human voices that simulate a store experience.
Control: Voice control systems and sending instructions through Google etc.
Social: Chatterboxes for general companions
Assistance: Calendar manager or Reminder, Notifications.
To conclude Chatbots are an interactive first step in customer care. Hopefully, that gives the marketers a lot of reasons to get excited about chatbots. To get ahead of the competitors today and to think about how chatbots are going to fit into a business would be the challenging aspect.
Prof. Bhagirathi Iyer,
Indira Studies Business School, Pune