Part 1: With AI Chatbots, Commerce is Conversational (Again!)


AI technology is thriving and only getting smarter. And as machines continue to advance at a rapid pace, the case for utilizing chatbots as part of a brand’s customer experience is strong. A recent study conducted by Juniper Research predicts that chatbots could save businesses $8 billion annually by 2022. While some may fear what automation may bring (think Elon Musk), as one Oracle colleague suggests, “The future is about working along with robots not working against automation or robots.”

Rebecca Clyde, Ideas Collide CXO and Co-Founder, shared her thoughts with Amanda Crocker at Oracle on how chatbots are going to revolutionize the digital experience with.

1.   Rebecca, what inspired you and your team to develop a chatbot solution?

I noticed three important trends. First, that messaging applications surpassed social media in terms of number of active engaged users in a major way. People are spending more time on messaging channels than any other form of communication: social media and email included. I believe this digital medium (the messaging application) more closely matches our natural inclination to conversation and human connection than any other digital medium.

Second, I saw that for the first year ever, in 2016 we deleted more apps on our phones than we downloaded. This means users are being ever more selective in terms of their phone real estate, yet they want to still be highly mobile in terms of how they engage with brands. As application downloads dwindle, a few mega-apps will take over. Many of these will be the messaging apps. Much like WeChat is used in China, we are going to prefer using one mega-app to tap into mobile services and interactions with the brands/businesses we love, instead of being forced to download each of their apps.

And third, we noticed that large companies, many of whom I have worked with for more than 15 years, are still using older forms of communication that are not designed for conversation. This is because they don’t have the proper tools or infrastructure to enable personalized conversations at scale with their existing and prospective customers. Or, they are still pushing in-app messaging which has limitations…because it requires the user to download their app which nobody wants to keep doing. Businesses need tools to address items 1 and 2.

2.   Tell us about your product, what can it do?

Botco.ai is a conversational marketing platform that enables meaningful and intelligent conversations between businesses and their customers. With the help of AI and NLP technologies, we can help businesses connect with their customers in a way that improves the overall experience and generates growth. We also help businesses leverage their existing investments in marketing automation platforms such as Eloqua, reimagining nurture campaigns into conversational interactions that accelerate content consumption and help buyers more quickly get what they need. These AI-enabled conversations can be enabled across any messaging channel that supports bots: including Messenger, WeChat, Kik, Telegram, Skype and others.

3.   How is it different from other solutions?   

Most existing digital communication solutions can be personalized to some degree, but they lack the ability to deliver content that is individually personalized AND conversational AND automated all at once. For the first time, businesses can hold individualized conversations with millions of customers at once with an automated solution that actually works to solve real problems and deliver meaningful services.

4.   Can you give us some examples of how chatbots have enabled brands to run more efficiently? 

Chatbots can help in many ways. There are benefits to both sides of the chatbot equation. Let’s start with the business who is setting up the chat conversation. For them the ability to engage limitless number of customers at once, with conversations that help advance the relationship, is key. They can increase the velocity in which business is done and reduce latency in the process (such as lag time in “waiting to hear back” on something.) Additionally, as businesses engage their customers using chatbots, they have the ability to log each conversation and have a better sense of their customers’ needs and intentions, thereby giving brands the ability to improve products and service levels overall. Brands can A/B test on a massive scale that may not have been possible before, refining and tuning their offerings and user experience at every turn.

For the customer, there are also significant benefits. By interacting with a chatbot, customers can access to important information they need to make a decision. It’s much faster to ask “what is the return policy?” versus sifting through a website to locate this information. Or worse, downloading an app and then looking for the information within the app.

I was recently frustrated by encountering an issue in paying a bill online with Century Link, but nobody in customer service was available to answer my question because it was 10 pm. If they had a chatbot to help customers in off-hours, or even around the clock, they could be “always on” and reduce that kind of frustration.

Also, bots are not judgmental the way people are. So it’s easier to ask a bot a question that might otherwise be embarrassing to ask a human. For example, topics of sensitive nature around our health or maybe technical topics that we don’t want to reveal to humans as not understanding. These are all situations where engaging with a bot may allow customers to be more forthcoming about what they really need.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Posted on August 21, 2017 in Ideas Collide News, Observations & Trends

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