In a world where consumers expect to have personalized experiences at the touch of their fingertips, chatbots have certainly paved the way.
Over the years, the advancement of natural language processing combined with artificial intelligence have given rise to the true capabilities of chatbots. The way in which chatbots are used today by brands has likely been partially responsible for helping to shape consumer perception and expectation of brand interactions.
While chatbots were previously used for simple customer service interactions, the interactive technology has been elevated to new heights.
Today, companies are partnering with the likes of Facebook to move beyond the standard customer service regimen. Not only are Facebook-enabled chatbots available to consumers 24/7, but brands are also using it as a way to process financial transactions from ordering pizza to basic bank procedures.
With Gartner's prediction of 21 billion connected things by 2020 and the fact that there may be 85 percent of customer interactions without humans present by the same, it may be safe to say that those companies not hoping on the chatbot wagon will be left behind.
Due to the rise in eCommerce over the past few years, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have been looking for a way to incorporate more digitally savvy strategies into operations. Companies like Domino's Pizza have partnered up with Facebook’s Messenger to create their own chatbot for streamlined ordering. This type of up-and-coming business interaction process has been dubbed “chat commerce.”
As more people utilize the online world for shopping, these physical store locations will likely continue to suffer at the hands of eCommerce. Just this week, we reported on the estimated 2017 U.S. retail closures reaching a record high surpassing that of the 2008 U.S. retail store closings. With more businesses like J.C. Penneys and Macy's shutting down various locations, it's likely that e-commerce an chat commerce will only get stronger and more competitive.
What happens if a consumer doesn't use Facebook Messenger?
To ensure that no consumer gets left behind, retailers may be looking towards omnichannel chatbots in the not so distant future. Giving retailers’ marketing teams access to consumer outreach on multiple platforms at once is a direction that’s safe to say will likely occur.
One company that’s jumping in on the omnichannel chatbot offering is Sunnyvale, Calif.-based customer service and retention platform company Linc. In March, the company announced its new intelligent customer engagement offering. Through this, Linc is offering up branded chatbots that seek to sync retailers up, reaching across multiple chatbot-enabled platforms including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Apple iMessage, Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple’s Siri.
Linc’s CEO, Fang Cheng, commented on consumers’ developing means of communication and how catering to that is imperative. She said, “Consumers are rapidly adopting the most convenient digital channels as their preferred methods of communication. They are moving beyond email and web, adopting chat and voice, and demonstrating a preference for convenient and timely communications. Engaging consumers where they prefer to be served is a top priority for retailers who want to meet expectations and build a loyal customer base. Linc has created a platform that will help retailers engage effectively with their audience and provide an immediate ROI, without an overwhelming upfront investment.”
One bot to rule them all?
While there are many articles available that discuss how chatbots may fit into omnichannel strategies, there haven't been many discussing the possible implications of what may occur when there's a spreading of chatbots reaching across various communications channels.
Through implementing a multi-system chatbot to reach out to people on any device using any platform, the possibilities for marketers and advertisers for retailers are likely endless. The natural language processing, artificial intelligence and analytics derived from chatbot use would likely far exceed any expectations of consumer personalization.
In moving forward with an omnichannel chatbot offering, the likelihood of brick-and-mortar survival looks grim. Due to an overwhelming consumer desire for personalization, chat commerce is one of the few ways in which the syncing of customization and product production can be streamlined and actualized.