Messaging apps have now surpassed social networks in terms of monthly active users and are becoming an increasingly important part of the connection between brands and their customers.
When your customers have a question, they don’t look for your website or call centre number anymore, but interact with your brand through social messaging. They look for a familiar and fast communication platform and expect to get instant responses. To offer them the immediacy they demand, you should adapt your online strategy to be where your customers are.
From these platforms, there are two that clearly stand out, having a higher percentage of users than any other messenger app in Ireland: Facebook Messenger (1.9 million users) and WhatsApp (1.7 million users).
Chatbots are not ‘new’ though, or created by Facebook. It all started in China back in 2009, where social media was much better integrated into consumer shopping experiences. WeChat saw the opportunity to embrace chatbots to support customers who needed reassurance from brands before purchasing their products.
Branded chatbots arrived to the Facebook’s Messenger app later on in 2016, allowing brands to easily interact and engage with their customers in this space by offering immediate, 24/7 support. On their release, Mark Zuckerberg, mentioned:
“We think that you should just be able to message a business in the same way you message a friend. You should get a quick response. And it shouldn’t take your full attention like a phone call would. And you shouldn’t have to install a new app.”
Despite all the hype, we don’t think they are just a trend: chatbots are here to stay. They are revolutionising the way brands stay in touch with their customers while being of great assistance in supporting your customers to perform tasks on their own - like purchasing and managing their flight details, getting a mobile phone upgrade or booking a doctor’s appointment.
A good example of this has been developed by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, possibly the first airline chatbot. This chatbot has your travelling needs covered - it can send you your itinerary, boarding pass, check-in confirmation and even delay notifications through the comfort of Messenger:
Chatbot popularity is also increasingly growing in an e-commerce context, becoming more of a personal shopping assistant. They can learn from customers style and tastes and provide ideas to pick up a new outfit or holiday gifts, as H&M’s or Nordstrom have successfully done:
Conversational interfaces are also a fresh, new interface for providing instant gratification by quickly offering answers and solutions. They provide valuable insight into what your customers want by analysing their queries and adapting to their needs and can even allow customers to purchase products through them. Combine all this with the fact that millennial consumers are much more likely to interact and make transactions on their smartphones these days and you’ll be onto a winner.
Facebook are, of course, well aware of this and are constantly adding in new features, including the latest additions: being able to add chatbots directly into conversations with your friends or the introduction of sponsored private messages, which will allow brands to reach out to their customers with tailored messages in a private setting:
There are two distinct types of chatbots, differentiated by their abilities. Firstly, ‘skill’ chatbots, which are built to complete specific tasks through structured conversations, and smarter, ‘conversational’ bots, which go the extra mile, being smart enough to get to know and provide custom answers to your customers.
Even though they might not be as ‘smart’ from the start, ‘skill' chatbots are a great starting point for brands. The ability to remove simple and straightforward tasks can be a quick win and opportunity to step into the chatbot world. From here, we can develop smarter, ‘conversational’ chatbots, incorporating our learnings as we go.
As you might already know, you can’t expect chatbots to be human-like from the get-go: they need time to learn from customer’s feedback and behaviour. This doesn’t happen overnight, chatbots need to be trained, as any human would. They can’t understand everything your customers are likely to say from day 1, but there is an opportunity for designers to learn from this and use every interaction to make them smarter.
As you can see, without the adequate training, it can be hard for chatbots to understand context:
However, as chatbots are trained, they will be able to handle more varied and simultaneous requests every time, until they reach a point they can understand customers as well as any human would. As Kate Leggett, VC and principal analyst at Forrester, points out:
“AI is a journey. You can start small, and use AI to increase efficiency and reduce friction in the customer journey. As you move up the maturity curve, AI-fuelled engagement can enhance customer engagement, allow you to take proactive action and even pre-empt the need for customer service.”
As we continue on this journey and the chatbot ecosystem grows, their development will impact both businesses as well as customers. Future chatbots will progressively make more use of artificial intelligence - they will keep learning and mature as their consumer behaviours and needs evolve.
Chatbots are more than a trend, they can be a differentiator for your brand, that will set you apart from the competition.
We just got started designing Facebook Messenger chatbots, take a look.
Brands are increasingly using chatbots to delight their customers by quickly solving their issues, gain a deeper understanding of their needs as well as driving and facilitating purchases. If you haven’t already started experimenting with chatbots then now is a good time.
There are many things to consider when designing a chatbot from both a technical and user experience point of view, including their persona, conversation flows and visual elements that bring the conversation to life.
Get in touch to find out how we can help you to harness the power of chatbots for your brand.