Heading into the new year, most everyone, retailers included, is looking within to enhance our lives and businesses from knowledge already ascertained and move that understanding forward.
In the retail space, experts say the chatbot may be one of the best things a merchant can add in 2017.
“Creating better real-time customer experiences based on conversational interfaces. The best implementation will use both chatbots and human agents,” said Peter Friedman, CEO of LiveWorld. “Chatbots will allow for scale and automation, while humans can pick up the conversation in instances empathy and a higher level of depth or skill is needed. A seamless transition will minimize customer frustration and allow for exceptional quality conversations and customer engagement.”
But some experts say focusing on the customer first is where merchants can really benefit as they implement a chatbot in the next year.
Jonathan Shriftman, director of business development at Snaps, said it’s less about how a company can benefit from a chatbot and more about how the company’s customers can benefit.
“Companies should take the first step and actually build something — have an evergreen presence that is always on, 24/7, 365 days of the year,” said Shriftman. “At the least, the chatbot can be utilized for rudimentary customer support inquiries, but smart brands will also build unique and fun branded content experiences.”
By nature, of course, chatbots create a unique opportunity for brands to have that one-on-one conversation and interaction with consumers in a space where consumers are already spending much of their time — such as on Facebook Messenger and on eCommerce-related websites.
“Consumers also want instant responses and prefer communicating with businesses via chat rather than phone or email, so chatbots are an ideal way to facilitate these private conversations at scale,” said Erez Baum, cofounder and CEO of imperson. “What really matters is the content of the conversations. Chatbots should always highlight the brand’s voice while offering dynamic two-way conversations, not linear, menu-based experiences.”
Baum said chatbots should not just be focused on selling, but also promotions, as well as qualifying the customer.
“Brands should be aiming to create affinity between themselves and their consumer base. When a relationship is already in place, consumers will be better primed to purchase products or services from the brand in the future,” says Baum. “The fundamental ingredient for companies to benefit from chatbots is conversation — engaging conversation, with personality, intent and memory.”
As for where chatbots can make the biggest differences, that may indeed be in the discovery of new products. Consumer preferences and related data may inspire a merchant’s chatbots to relay certain other products and services to the consumer of which they wouldn’t be otherwise aware. And coming up with those data-driven options in real time is not something humans can do as quickly as a chatbot is able to do.
“Customer service chatbots will continue to improve — routine issues will be answered by first-responder bots, and teams will save time and resources by picking up the thread, as needed, for speedy resolution,” said Friedman of LiveWorld.
Ultimately, it is up to the merchant to decide about incorporating a chatbot. Whether 2017 is the year of the chatbot remains to be seen.
“The goal of each chatbot varies widely — from generating buzz around a new product release to encouraging social shares — but all of it comes back to amplifying the brand’s message,” said Baum.