In 2016, we’ve seen the rise of chatbots as a popular tool for consumers to communicate more directly with brands. If you’re unfamiliar with the technology, chatbots are computer programs that mimic conversation with people using artificial intelligence. Chatbots are virtually transforming the way we interact on the internet in the form of a quasi-conversation, and many speculate that chatbots will replace apps.Last week at INBOUND, HubSpot Co-Founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah explained how chatbots are the "biggest wave" of technology innovation in the past twenty years. Shah also unveiled HubSpot’s GrowthBot, a chatbot for sales and marketing teams. GrowthBot will unite artificial intelligence and machine learning with existing HubSpot systems to optimize customer relationship management (CRM).
It's important for marketers to know how chatbots can provide personalization and bring a brand’s personality to life. But marketers should also note that chatbots won’t actually replace the need for old fashioned people-to-people communication.
Opportunities for personalization: Chatbots are providing brands with a platform to personalize conversations directly to a consumer, helping customize his or her experience. For example, Sephora’s chatbot on Kik exchanges beauty tips with teens. To do this, the chatbot asks teens what they want to learn about beauty regimens and then suggests relevant products and tips.
Last April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social media giant is banking on chatbots to increase developer and business activity within the network. With the ability to develop chatbots, businesses and publishers can interact with Facebook Messenger’s 1 billion users directly. For example, Facebook Messenger users have the option to react to content from The Wall Street Journal – they can even “like news” and “sign up for news alerts.” Over time, The Wall Street Journal chatbot learns from the person’s behavior and personalizes the stories that are shared. In September 2016, Facebook also announced that Messenger chatbots can now accept payments natively without sending people to an external website - providing a more seamless ecommerce experience. This month, it was announced that brands can now promote their chatbots with targeted Facebook ads.
Chatbots are replacing apps: Due to their convenient nature, brands are seemingly replacing apps with chatbots. For instance, you can order an Uber right from within the Facebook Messenger app. Talk about on-demand service!
Chatbots also remove the need for sifting through product listings and irrelevant search results. Websites and apps are not always optimized for the pace in which we use mobile devices, and chatbots are creating a more direct way to use mobile.
But chatbots won't actually replace people: While chatbots do provide an easy direct way to interact with brands on mobile -- fear not -- they won’t ultimately replace real people. Chatbots will see widespread adoption for certain uses, such as helping consumers make uncomplicated purchases (like ordering a pizza on the internet). But, for more complicated problems, such as configuring your new cable service with your television provider or dealing with a large customer service issue, an interaction with a real person may be more valuable and useful.
So marketers, as you’re looking towards 2017, keep in mind the value that chatbots can bring to your brand. A little AI never hurt anyone!