You’ve probably talked with a chatbot. Maybe without even knowing it.
Bot is short for robot. And a chatbot is a computer program that runs without user control. The chatbot uses rules and sometimes artificial intelligence and runs in a major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack, Viber, Snapchat, etc.). You ask it questions and interact with it like you would with a real person. Soon chatbots will sound so much like a real person we won’t be able to tell them apart from machines.
For example, let’s say you want to buy gloves from Patagonia online. You would normally go to their website, use menus and search terms to look for gloves and eventually find and buy the pair of gloves that you want.
If Patagonia had a bot, and there might be one by now, you could message Patagonia with Snapchat. It would ask you some questions and you would tell it what you want using voice, emoji, or text.
Instead of browsing a website, you will have a conversation with the Patagonia bot. Hopefully the experience will be like talking with their salesperson. Users don’t need to download an app, the chatbot will exist in the already loaded chat program.
An eCommerce site will likely want to create a bot that helps you purchase something; a service business might create a bot that can answer customer support questions.
You might be as surprised as we were to find out that people are now using messaging apps more than social networking apps. This is a big shift in consumer behavior and why it makes sense to consider using chatbots. You might hear a new term created for this change – Conversational Commerce.
Conversational Commerce, or CUI (Conversational User Interfaces), is the next step beyond GUI (Graphical User Interfaces). The most effective businesses will be able to blend the two to get the best of both.
You might have “talked” to a chatbot that didn’t seem very smart. The rules-based bot is limited and only can respond to questions or commands that the programmer expects. If you say the wrong thing it could get frustrating like it can be when you talk to an automated phone tree.
Another type of chatbot gets smarter and it learns from conversations it has. It understands language, not just commands. This second type of bot uses artificial intelligence (AI). AI has become a reality where chatbots can seem very human and allow businesses to use technology to engage with more consumers.
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM and Amazon all have open-source bot-making tools to help developers build bots.
It’s all happening now, you are witnessing and can take part in a brand new shift into Conversational Commerce.