As a digital marketing agency, one of the most important things we do as part of our day to day tasks is to keep a close eye on technological developments and future trends. One of the buzz words we keep hearing a lot about is “Chatbots.” But what are they, and are they useful to businesses?
What is a Chatbot?
The official definition of a Chatbot is “a computer program designed to simulate a conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.” It is based on artificial intelligence and powered by a specific set of rules and can be either functional or a bit of fun. The important thing to remember with Chatbots is that they have to be based on a chat product, such as Facebook Messenger, Slack, or Text Messages.
Let’s look at this from a real-world point of view. At the moment if you wanted to buy a Leather Jacket from All Saints; you will go to their website, have a browse around until you found the jacket you wanted in your size, and then purchase it. With the introduction of Chatbots, you could just message All Saints through Facebook, tell them what size of leather jacket you were looking for and they would find it for you – which mirrors the experience you would get if you went into the store yourself.
How Do Chatbots Work?
We are not going to go all in-depth on you now, don’t worry, but it is always useful to have an idea of how new technology works. Chatbots come in two main types: rule-based Chatbots and machine learning Chatbots. A rule-based Chatbot will be quite limited and only respond to basic commands, so it is only as clever as it is programmed to be and can often be confused if you don’t say what it was expecting you to. On the other hand, a machine learning Chatbot has an artificial brain and will get smarter as it learns from the conversations it has with your customers.
Obviously, the benefits of Chatbots for e-commerce are obvious, but if you are not an e-commerce business then don’t write them off. They can also be used for:
- news (you could ask a bot to tell you when something interesting happens)
- advice (you can tell a bot a digital marketing issue you are having, and it will help you think of solutions)
- personal finance (a financial Chatbot can help you to manage your money).
So, what have we learnt so far? Well, Chatbots are cool and use advanced technology, but are they really useful for businesses or not?
Well, one of the other things we love at Zool is data. And the data around Chatbots is pretty interesting. A recent study by BI Intelligence showed that the amount of monthly active users for the top 4 messaging apps (Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and Line) has surpassed the amount of monthly active users for the top 4 social networking apps. Yes, you read that right, people are spending more time on messenger apps than they are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest).
Now, if you are looking to build a business online, you want to be where the people are. At the moment, the people are in messenger apps. But hang fire a minute, before you go off and demand that your digital marketing agency remove your social media profiles and spend their time producing you a Chatbot instead, it is still early days. Nobody is exactly sure how the Chatbot technology is going to pan out and even how secure it is. It is an area of technology that we are keeping a close eye on ho, ever, and one that we will continue to follow in the future.