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BizReport : Ecommerce : March 03, 2017


Expert: Chatbots poised to change how people browse

While some experts believe chatbots are only - and will be only - a customer service or search type tool, one expert says chatbots will do more. Specifically, that chatbot will change the way people interact with the Internet at large. Here's how:

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: You believe chatbots will change the way consumers interact with the Internet - why?

Jordi Torras, CEO, Inbenta: They already are - look at Alexa, Siri and many other conversational chatbots. And it is not just the internet, it is access to information and conducting transactions. People are using chatbots to get stuff done - ordering pizzas, getting movie tickets, reserving their coffee order and changing their passwords. Chat in general is incredibly popular and brands are scrambling to have a strong presence in all chat platforms. The chat behavior is spilling over to search, with the average number of keyword search phrases on Google jumping from three to four. And instead of typing keywords, the trend is moving toward consumers typing questions. Unfortunately, with most keyword-based search engines, they're getting pages of options instead of accurate answers. Search technologies like Google changed how people interacted with the Internet, but I believe chatbots will dramatically change the way customers interact with information found on the internet and provide the information in a digestible way consumers want: conversational answers.

Kristina: What specific changes do you believe we will see?

We'll see chat platforms like Facebook Messenger and conversational commerce platforms like Alexa overtake search as the go-to point for consumers to get answers. Search was always a technology that forced an unnatural behavior on consumers. Technically-oriented consumers learned to "hack Google" and shared tips and tricks on getting answers and the right results on Internet search, while the rest of the consumers were confused and frustrated by the general lack of the technology providing answers for them. With chatbots and other conversational platforms, consumers will finally be spoiled with immediate, accurate answers to their questions. The key will be how intelligent chatbots are in understanding natural language and their ability to access, federate and effectively utilize the massive amount of data found on the internet and inside company's knowledge management and document repositories. Enterprise-class chatbots will arise and brands will flock to them for their ability to do just that and learn and improve over time with machine learning capabilities.

Kristina: When might marketers and brands begin seeing these changes?

Jordi: We are already seeing some brands deploying enterprise-class chatbots, yielding incredibly powerful results - both for the business and their customers. They are typically being deployed in specialized forms on their website, social channels like Facebook and on mobile apps. However, we're still very much in experimentation mode. Some brands are hiring teams or using agencies to build chatbots from scratch, however this approach generally has high up-front costs and yields results very slowly. Others are using AI-powered chatbot platforms like Inbenta to ramp quickly by using their existing internal knowledge bases and web information. It will take at least ten to fifteen years for consumers to experience the generalized AI-type chatbot found in the movie Her, though not likely in the extreme, dramatized form found in the movie.

Kristina: How can brands and marketers prep for these changes?

Jordi: Get informed on the new technology offerings around artificial intelligence for chatbot deployments. Start thinking omni-channel and view your customer's experience through their eyes. Understand their needs and test chatbot projects in specialized areas. Get some wins before committing to any one vendor. Make sure you consider up-front costs vs on-going costs and the internal requirements around staffing. Data-readiness and normalization is a typically a challenge as well, though organizations with robust knowledge management systems typically will have an easier time with their chatbot deployments.

Tags: artificial intelligence, chatbots, customer service, ecommerce, Inbenta, mobile marketing










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