Chatbots: What, Why and How? – Part 1

So you’ve nailed your Social Media marketing strategy. Your feeds are active across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the other social giants. However, the nature of social media, and the way users interact with the service is rapidly changing. Increasingly, users are turning away from their news feeds, and spending more and more time in collaborative, private spaces on chat applications such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, Slack and WhatsApp.

Up until recently, these private spaces have shut retailers and businesses out, and made it increasingly difficult to reach those potential customers. However, there is a new technology that works within those users’ messenger applications – Chatbots.

But what are chatbots, and more importantly what does it mean to your business? While the technology is still developing, chatbots are set to be one of the hottest retail trends of 2017 – making a splash across a number of different industries, from fashion retail to financial services.

Keeping you ahead of the trend, 1&1 talks you through the what, why and how, of chatbots.

What are chatbots?

A chatbot is an application powered by rules, and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you communicate with through a chat interface such as Facebook Messenger or Skype. Chatbots can be specifically programmed for certain functions, for example answering customer questions, or allowing you to complete a purchase.

There is no end of possibilities when it comes to setting up a chatbot, from one that gives you the weather to one that tells you the news.

Why are they beneficial to businesses?

The reason social media marketing took off in such a massive way is because it gave businesses a way to interact with their customers where they spent most of their time. Now that the same customers are moving away from social media feeds, and into private messenger spaces, businesses need to change their tactics to ensure they’re still engaging with their customers in the places that they spend the most time.

More and more customers want a personalised, streamlined and multi-channel experience for their retail experience. By giving the customer access to a specific chatbot that interacts with them on their messaging platform – offering them support, special offers and shopping cart reminders for example – businesses are maximising their engagement with their customers on a platform they use at length, daily.

Additionally, from a customer services’ perspective, chatbots bring a number of benefits to both the customer and the business. The customer gets an instant response to their query, an answer if the chatbot recognises or is programmed to answer the question, or alternative contact details to triage their request if they can’t answer it. This makes the journey as direct and frictionless as possible for the customer, while absorbing some of the time answering simple questions for the business.

How do they work?

There are two types of chatbots. Ones that are powered by a set of rules, and ones that function using an artificial brain (artificial intelligence). The most basic kind of chatbot is one based on rules, but this is a fairly limited interface as it can only answer questions it’s programmed to recognise.

The second type of chatbot, which is powered by an artificial intelligence system understands language, not just commands. This bot learns from the conversations it has, and becomes smarter. This might sound very complicated, but you don’t need to be an expert to build this. There have been a lot of advancements in this area, and there are applications that help you build your own, bespoke chatbot.

Stay tuned for the second part of this series, where we tell you all about how to go about building your own chatbot!

Category: eBusiness | Tips
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