Over the past few months, we’ve seen several chatbot developments. Of particular note, many companies have partnered up with Facebook’s Messenger app to help streamline customer service and introduce new commerce offerings.
The issue that arises is how chatbot integration into consumers’ everyday lives will impact the future of how businesses operate.
Essentially, chatbots are slowly changing the ways in which consumers interact with a company’s overall brand. Depending on where the chatbot resides, it may become the focal go-to point for all future consumer/business interactions. Whereas people traditionally have gone to companies websites to search for information on a particular product, find a contact for product assistance or to read up on the FAQ section, chatbots are uniquely positioned to bring all of these customer-oriented aspects of business to a single platform.
Smartphones have effectively become the culprit that has moved the ball forward for chat commerce via chatbots. As more people use chatbots through their smartphones, whether it’s from their couches or beds, the central conduit by which businesses operate will likely continue to shift. While a Relevancy Group study says that one in five U.S. consumers can’t live without their smartphones, they’re using fewer than ten apps per week. As this is likely due to storage limitations, more brands have turned to chatbots, with Facebook reporting more than 100,000 chatbots developed for its Messenger platform.
Helping to ease consumers into use chatbots at an increasing rate are the virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Home. With the voice-activated automated assistance, the level of consumer confidence in chat commerce seems to be on the rise, and the software industry is responding. Between June 2016 and February 2017, the amount of recognisable commands Amazon’s Alexa can respond to rose from 1,000 to 10,000 — while 11 percent of consumers admit to using Siri and Google voice search at least once per week.
With an Oracle study unveiled at the end of last year showing that 80 percent of businesses are planning to use chatbots by 2020 and Gartner predicting 85 percent of consumer-to-business interactions will occur with no human interactions by the same year, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that chatbots, along with voice virtual assistants, are going to have a major impact on businesses in the future.
And that “future” is just a mere three and a half years away.
Through the use of machine learning, chatbots are able to recognise speech, data and specific patterns and send what they find through a network to build out artificial intelligence. The more variety and quantity a chatbot absorbs in its machine learning process, the smarter its artificial intelligence becomes, which results in a heightened level of possible services to be developed for consumers.
One argument for how chatbots will change business is at the core of basic human interactions. While chatbots could handle the influx of repetitive daily tasks, Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey Hammond discusses how it can help to enhance the workforce.
He said, “But they should also be concerned about unengaged humans, too, or the phone call that gets ‘disconnected’ after you’ve been on hold for 10 minutes. I think a process of using A.I. for the repetitive request, backed up with real humans to handle the complex stuff is what most brands will start with. Over time, the A.I. will get smarter, allowing humans to concentrate on complex tasks.”
What it comes down to is the fact that chatbots are changing the fundamental way businesses communicate with their core audiences. This will likely cause a ripple effect in not only customer service interactions but also in the way the business represents itself and conducts its promotional outreach. It may cause businesses to question whether or not email campaigns are still impactful or if flashy television spots do the trick to pull in higher annual revenue.
Just recently, a Facebook-enabled marketing software was unveiled to help marketers reach consumers more directly in the social media giant’s Messenger platform. Think about the various emails that flood into consumers’ personal inboxes every day that go unopened.
With nearly two billion users on its platform, each person spending an average of fifty minutes a day on Facebook, and more companies looking to integrate payments into a chatbot-enabled transaction, the chatbot industry is likely set to see an unprecedented influx of business.