Chatbots may revolutionize the way customers interact online with your business. What are they, what can they do, and why do they matter?
In this episode of our Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark and Eric explain what chatbots do and the impact they might have on digital marketing in the days to come.
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- Facebook Launches Messenger Platform with Chatbots (Techcrunch)
- The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Chatbots (Chatbots Magazine)
- Twitter Is Now Offering Brands Customer Service Chatbots to Use in Direct Messages (AdWeek)
- Next10x Mastering Mobile Digital Marketing Conference
Mark: Eric, we’re hearing a lot these days about chatbots. Well, first of all, what is a chatbot?
Eric: A chatbot is an automated conversation taking place in a chat application meant to guide a human user through a process.
Mark: So for a business, it could be something like figuring out what kind of help or service I need or even taking my order?
Eric: Right. And while most chatbots right now follow simple scripts, in the future they’ll have more and more artificial intelligence components built in so they can deal with more complex or variable conversations.
Mark: So some companies I deal with already do something like that when I call their customer service phone lines.
Eric: Yes, and probably many of our viewers have experienced that, too. Your call is answered by an automated voice which might ask you what kind of help you’re calling for and even gather information, such as your account number, to hand off to a human operator.
Mark: So chatbots do something similar but in a text chat?
Eric: Right. But it probably won’t be too long before you’ll be able to converse with a chatbot by voice on your mobile phone.
Mark: So where are we seeing chatbots now?
Eric: Well, they’re already in play on a lot of company sites where a chatbot might simply gather information so the human representatives can serve you more quickly. Or in some cases, the chatbot might complete the entire transaction, taking and placing your order or providing you with the right help documents for what you’re trying to do.
One really big player who’s moving big into chatbot technology is Facebook in its messenger chat app. Facebook is providing a platform for companies to develop bots that go to work when someone contacts them on Facebook messenger. Already, you can order flowers for a Facebook friend through 1-800-flowers or get CNN to send you a daily digest of stories on topics that you tell the chatbot that you’re interested in.
Mark: And recently, Twitter announced the start of a chatbot program for brands using its direct message component.
Mark: So we’re already seeing chatbots in use. Now, what do you think are the next big innovations we’ll see for them?
Eric: Well, one will certainly be in the area of natural language processing. This is important, because people express things in many different ways. Right now, most chatbots have a very limited vocabulary of words and sentences that they can understand, and they often have to prompt users as to what they can and can’t say. But the goal will certainly be for users to be able to state their query or need as naturally as they would with a human operator.
Now, in search, we’ve already seen how Google’s RankBrain preprocesses a great variety of user queries so that Google’s regular search algorithms can understand and respond with the right results. Certainly, similar technology could be applied to chatbots.
Mark: Well, let’s bring this home for marketers. Why should we, as digital marketers, care about something like chatbots?
Eric: Well, we should care because digital marketing functions most effectively when we understand it is part of an ecosystem. You could say marketers don’t have anything to do with product features, but if the marketer doesn’t understand what the product does, he or she is not going to build very effective marketing messages about it.
Mark: So in a similar way, marketers should care about where they are sending those who receive and act on their marketing messages. If your message is calling them to buy something or sign up for something or download something, you want to make sure they have a satisfying experience, otherwise the next time they see a message from your brand they may react negatively toward it. Chatbots used well might be one way to improve that call to action to the conversion process.
Eric: Good point, Mark. Let’s finish by leading our viewers through a simulated chatbot experience. Ready? Okay. Open google.com, and let’s pretend the Google search window is our chatbot. Ready? Okay. Now type in N-E-X-T, the numeral 10, and the letter x, and hit enter.
Mark: Oh, look, our chatbot understood and gave you what you wanted whether you knew it or not.
Eric: Next10x is our Mobile Digital Marketing Conference here in Boston on April 5th. Larry Kim will be speaking much more about chatbots there. And we have many other great speakers that will cover the other innovations and disruptions coming to marketing in the emerging Mobile-First World.
Mark: And you’ll learn all that from some of the top experts in our industry, such as Google’s Gary Illyes, Cindy Krum, Larry Kim as we mentioned, Neal Schaffer, and much more. So go ahead and Google Next10x or just click here to learn more, and come join us in April.