Does Your Online Business Need a Chatbot? 

A Brief History 

You might not believe it, but Chatbots have a long  past. It all started with a simple Chatbot named ELIZA that was developed in the 1960s. ELIZA’s answers were linked to specific keywords, so though it exhibited only minimal artificial intelligence, it was still a revolutionary development. Since then, programmers have shifted their course from purely entertainment-focused Chatbots to Chatbots that can upsell to, track, and learn about the humans with whom they interact. Some Chatbots have even become too intelligent for their own good (example: Microsoft’s 2016 Tay debacle). 

Online retailers who already use Chatbots are ahead of the curve. Statistics show that the millennial generation is much more likely to engage with Chatbots than real people when making an online purchase.  

What can they do? 

Chatbots range from the entertaining and informative home assistants (like Alexa) to the simple pop-up customer service representative on many of today’s websites. They can answer frequently asked questions and filter out more difficult problems to human representatives. In fact, around 80% of the questions that customers ask can be answered by Chatbots.  

Chatbots are also able to track customer orders, preferences, and shopping history, and can even upsell popular products based on previously gathered information. They can assess the customer’s experience and collect data on what they really want and need in the way of customer assistance. Basically, Chatbots are tirelessly working to improve your business.  

Why should you use them? 

Depending on your needs, “building” a Chatbot can cost between $6,000 and $60,000. That may seem like a substantial investment, but when you think about it, you are actually saving a significant amount of money in the long run – up to 30% of what you would spend on human employees.  

Chatbots are more efficient and effective than human employees for a variety of reasons. One reason is that they won’t ever “bring their feelings to work” with them – a problem that can cause big problems for both customers and the workplace environment. They are also endlessly patient, consistent, and available 24/7. They can help multiple people at once and never get sick or ask for vacations and pay raises.  

Companies who use Chatbots have reported an increase in customer satisfaction and customer service. Chatbots streamline the customer service process and can answer customer questions multiple ways, whether it be by video, audio clip, text, or direct links.  

Can you use them in your marketing campaign? 

The answer is a resounding yes! Let’s say you have a specific Facebook audience that you’re targeting through an ad campaign. When people click on your ad, they will be directed to a Chatbot that can engage them with tailored deals through the Messenger application. The Chatbot’s script is prepopulated with responses to guide your customer to make a future purchase or unsubscribe. Even though every subscriber might not make a purchase immediately, remaining on the Chatbot’s “mailing list” is a great way to stay in contact with current and potential customers. 

What makes a chatbot “good?” 

You’ve probably interacted with a subpar Chatbot at one time or another. Canned responses or replies riddled with grammatical or spelling errors are near-instant turn-offs for most customers. During the building process, a good Chatbot’s voice stays in line with the brand’s voice. It should be fast enough to quickly and accurately answer questions but also be able to recognize the need for a human problem-solver without making the customer wait around. It should speak correctly and routinely update with new company lingo, products, policies, and procedures.  

If you’re considering a Chatbot, remember that its goal is to enhance your current eCommerce plan. You will still need customer service representatives to help your customers with difficult questions, and you’ll need to keep close tabs on your Chatbots to make sure that they are up-to-date and in line with your company’s ideals.  

That said, the Chatbot technology doesn’t look like a phase that the internet is going through. Statistical projections from Oracle show that close to 80% of all businesses will use Chatbots by the end of 2020, and Gartner projections show that almost all banking activity will be handled through Chatbots by 2022. If you haven’t hopped on board the Chatbot train yet, there is no better time than right now.