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BizReport : Internet : December 07, 2017

Expert: Bots may be a marketers new best friend

Bots continue to be a big part of marketers' business within social media, especially Facebook. Some data shows that most (80%) of businesses have bots on their wanted list by 2020, to help with customer service and engagement. One expert explains how bots, specifically Facebook bots, can be a marketers best friend.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: What benefits might marketers see from the use of bots?

Joe Lobo, Botmaster, Inbenta: Marketers can leverage bots in many ways, across their websites and social media channels. Typically most bot platforms have multi-channel capabilities. On their websites, bots can engage customers and help them understand more about their products, services, and their brand. With customers going to social media channels with questions, bots can provide an "always on" assistant to interact with them and provide answers.

Bots can also be proactive in social media messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger. Businesses will want bots to increase engagement with customers via proactive outreach / follow-up / providing additional useful info / deals & special offers, etc.

Kristina: How are consumers using bots, and how can merchants and other marketers ensure their content/sites are bot-friendly?

Joe: Customers are using bots quite often, in many cases thinking the bots are real people. Merchants and marketers can help improve this perception by clearly labelling when a bot is providing assistance vs a human agent. To ensure their content/sites are bot-friendly, marketers need to ensure their content is well-structured, preferably in the form of question and answer pairs or stored in a knowledge base. Bot platforms can also access store catalogues through API and leverage them in answer product-specific questions.

Kristina: Over the next 6 months, how to you expect bots to affect the digital space?

Joe: Customers who engage with brands in the digital space crave interactions with companies via chat. So, I expect bots to become more widely deployed on websites and social channels, especially at points of business need. For instance, augmenting human pre-sales staff answers questions via chat and augmenting human social marketers who are engaging with customers. Bots are the perfect complement to a marketer's strategy of increasing customer engagement.

Kristina: Why should customers return?

Joe: Before even considering the contents of your knowledge base you need to think about exactly what you want your chatbot to achieve and how you are going to forge a high retention rate. Chatbot functions can range from facilitating transactions, entertaining customers and increasing brand appreciation to informing them about new products. Each of these and any of the other purposes will need careful consideration to ensure that customers continue to return. For example, a transactional bot would need to convince the customer that it is easier to use to make purchases than through more traditional means.

Kristina: Can your chatbot understand what your customers are saying?

Joe: This may seem like a frivolous point but given how 70% of Facebook bots are failing it will put yours ahead of the crowd if it can answer their questions correctly. The best way to do this is to invest in robust natural language processing which will ensure your bot understands the intent behind each customer question rather than simply relying on keywords which are likely to confuse it. Accuracy is a problem millennials are identifying in chatbots they encounter - 53% of people who have used one say it's the most important issue to address going forward. NLP can serve as a gap analysis to highlight what questions your chatbot is failing to answer correctly and suggest potential topics to add to your knowledge base.

Kristina: What is the most important factor for bot implementation?

Joe: Know your audience and make changes when needed. Are you creating a fashion chatbot for 11-16-year-old girls or a chatbot to help organize the lives of busy professionals? Whatever it is your users will need to be able to relate to the bot through your conversations. Similar to dealing with customers in real life, users will enjoy talking to a virtual agent which uses language they can relate to - its level of formality, the slang/jargon used and the complexity of the language. In addition, as the bot builds up a database of conversations, it is important to analyze which comments are received well and where areas of improvement might be needed. One example is in the opening sentences from your bot. Is it causing the user to engage in a way which is beneficial to you and the company? A bot that is designed to update users on the latest sports news might want to start by asking the user for their favorite teams. As your data continues to grow, machine learning will prove incredibly useful in identifying these gaps in your model.

Tags: advertising, advertising bots, artificial intelligence, bot trends, Inbenta, social media bots

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