“It’s hard to balance that urge to just dogpile the latest thing when you’re feeling like there’s a land grab or gold rush about to happen all around you and that you might get left behind. But in the end quality wins out. Everyone will be better off if there’s laser focus on building great bot products that are meaningfully differentiated.” — Ryan Block, Cofounder of Begin.com
By relentless understanding of marketer needs, Zuckerberg has managed to convince marketers to move gigantic budgets from traditional advertising to Facebook in just a few years. As proof, according to eMarketer, digital ad spending will surpass TV Ad spending by early next year. In just a few more years, marketing budgets will be predominantly digital, while traditional TV and Radio advertising will follow in the red ink drenched footsteps of newspaper ads.
Talking to a chatbot can be a lot of fun, and if you have the desire, dedication and skills to create, maintain and manage your own chatbot, you can do it. Whether you choose a fully stand-alone “virtual companion”, or take on the challenge of creating your own web-based chatbot, there are several options available to you, the prospective new botmaster, for creating a new chatbot. Nevertheless, first of all you have to choose between a stand-alone chatbot application, and a web-based chatbot.
“Beware though, bots have the illusion of simplicity on the front end but there are many hurdles to overcome to create a great experience. So much work to be done. Analytics, flow optimization, keeping up with ever changing platforms that have no standard. For deeper integrations and real commerce like Assist powers, you have error checking, integrations to APIs, routing and escalation to live human support, understanding NLP, no back buttons, no home button, etc etc. We have to unlearn everything we learned the past 20 years to create an amazing experience in this new browser.” — Shane Mac, CEO of Assist
Some bots communicate with other users of Internet-based services, via instant messaging (IM), Internet Relay Chat (IRC), or another web interface such as Facebook Bots and Twitterbots. These chatterbots may allow people to ask questions in plain English and then formulate a proper response. These bots can often handle many tasks, including reporting weather, zip-code information, sports scores, converting currency or other units, etc. Others are used for entertainment, such as SmarterChild on AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Messenger.
The main challenge is in teaching a chatbot to understand the language of your customers. In every business, customers express themselves differently and each group of a target audience speaks its own way. The language is influenced by advertising campaigns on the market, the political situation in the country, releases of new services and products from Google, Apple and Pepsi among others. The way people speak depends on their city, mood, weather and moon phase. An important role in the communication of the business with customers may have the release of the film Star Wars, for example. That’s why training a chatbot to understand correctly everything the user types requires a lot of efforts.
Chatbots are increasingly present in businesses and often are used to automate tasks that do not require skill-based talents. With customer service taking place via messaging apps as well as phone calls, there are growing numbers of use-cases where chatbot deployment gives organisations a clear return on investment. Call centre workers may be particularly at risk from AI-driven chatbots.
The bot (which also offers users the opportunity to chat with your friendly neighborhood Spiderman) isn’t a true conversational agent, in the sense that the bot’s responses are currently a little limited; this isn’t a truly “freestyle” chatbot. For example, in the conversation above, the bot didn’t recognize the reply as a valid response – kind of a bummer if you’re hoping for an immersive experience.
In this era of information, businesses are able to take advantage of social media platforms to aid communication between their brand and their customers. Such seamless connectivity allows for a more transparent business exchange between the brand and its consumers. Just a decade ago, direct consumer brand interaction was either relatively impossible, or lengthy and cumbersome at the best. Social media has since then bridged this gap.
The “stand-alone” application, where the chatbot runs on a single computer, integrates mostly some sort of system interface, allowing your chatbot to control certain aspects and functions of your computer, such as playing media files, or retrieving documents. It usually also has a graphical component built in, as well, in the form of an avatar (often female) that enhances interaction, thus improving user’s experience.
In one particularly striking example of how this rather limited bot has made a major impact, U-Report sent a poll to users in Liberia about whether teachers were coercing students into sex in exchange for better grades. Approximately 86% of the 13,000 Liberian children U-Report polled responded that their teachers were engaged in this despicable practice, which resulted in a collaborative project between UNICEF and Liberia’s Minister of Education to put an end to it.
“There is hope that consumers will be keen on experimenting with bots to make things happen for them. It used to be like that in the mobile app world 4+ years ago. When somebody told you back then… ‘I have built an app for X’… You most likely would give it a try. Now, nobody does this. It is probably too late to build an app company as an indie developer. But with bots… consumers’ attention spans are hopefully going to be wide open/receptive again!” — Niko Bonatsos, Managing Director at General Catalyst
This is an enterprise-level, fully-managed bot provider, meaning you tell them what you want and they’ll build it for you. Their clients include top brands in range of industries, but especially in retail and CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies. This is probably because their chatbots can catalog and host a view of products within the chat itself, making it a favorite of beauty companies like Vichy, Covergirl and L’Oreal. Automat also integrates with Hootsuite Inbox using the Facebook Messenger handover protocol.