Why Chatbots Are the Future of Retail and Marketing

Why Chatbots Are the Future of Retail and Marketing

Many companies have predicted 2017 to be the year when ‘conversational commerce’ takes its first baby steps on commercial ground. With Facebook launching Messenger 2.0 in April, it is relatively safe to claim that the prediction was correct. The real question might be how companies should relate to this technology at such an early stage. Are chatbots really that important, and of what use could they be to your brand? 

One of the many great things about chatbots is that they allow businesses to meet their customers where they are spending the most time, in a more personalized way than ever before. Thanks to advancements in AI technology, chatbot makers now have the chance to create highly effective automated responses. Through tailored conversations and personalized offers, they can help bring your brand to life. Chatbots also offer a unique opportunity to combine personal assistance with advertising. They will not just remind you about your brother’s upcoming birthday party, they will also help you buy a gift based on his preferences, order an Uber to his house, and move around tomorrows appointments when you realize you have had one too many beers.

Many companies have already spotted the trend and started implementing chatbots. Uber was one of the first companies to partner up with Facebook in allowing their users to order car rides through Messenger, removing the friction of having to switch apps. Another example is Taco Bell, who recently announced that they have teamed up with Slack and created TacoBot, a bot that lets you order their food straight through the Slack-app, referring to it as having your own Taco Bell Butler (and who would not want that?). 

You don’t even have to be an expert in programming to reap the fruits of this new technology. There are already several tools out there that can help the least tech savvy person in creating a bot for the purpose of their business. Since chatbots are integrated into already existing apps, you don’t have to spend time or money on advanced developing, which makes it a relatively inexpensive technology. Chatbots also offer app aggregation, which means that one chatbot can be connected to multiple apps. This allows marketers to solve multiple customer queries at once, from one single bot platform.

Chatbots for optimal customer satisfaction

As more companies start using chatbots, the opportunities for improvements get higher, which will increase user satisfaction and eventually help boost sales. As a matter of fact, 29 % of customer service positions in the US could be automated through chatbots and other technology, already today. In 2020, Gartner predicts that 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human. This means that companies have a great opportunity to cut their labour costs by adding chatbots to their business strategies.

What’s more, chatbots can be of great help to ensure a consistent brand voice across all platforms. If you are in marketing, you know that customer satisfaction is A and O. Making sure your customers are happy and taken care of is the most important thing for any successful business. And the key to this? Consistency. In a time of multichannel and multi-touch customer journeys, it is increasingly important to ensure that you deliver the optimal customer-experience throughout the whole journey. More interactions mean more occasions for potential failure in satisfying your customer’s needs, and it is getting hard for professionals to keep up with the ever increasing amount of experiences that customers go through every day. Thanks to chatbots, we now have a chance of relieving that stress and customize the support to meet the exact customers’ needs, at any given point.

“But what if our customers don’t like talking to a computer?”, you might think. Don’t worry, the reality appears to be quite the opposite. It actually seems that people embrace the thought of interacting with a company through messaging services -  especially millennials, who have a reputation of spending more time on messaging than any other form of communication. Chatbots mimic human interactions, which makes it a fun, engaging and natural way of communicating with brands. What’s more, chatbots are available 24/7 for customer support, which is practically impossible from a human standpoint.

In other words - if you are in the retail or marketing business, you should seriously ask yourself how you can make use of this technology. Yes, it is still very new and it might not be able to fully understand humans yet, but in the very nearby future, it will. It is hard to say exactly how big of a role it will play, simply because it has not been used much yet. We have not seen its full potential. However, it is fairly safe to say that the earlier you enter the market; the bigger competitive advantage you will have.