How chatbots are challenging brands’ digital presence

by Adam Stewart — Content Manager at Mentally Friendly

Mentally Friendly
Dec 19, 2016 · 4 min read

1 billion. That’s how many people Facebook Messenger can now humbly call active users. If that hasn’t quite hit home, that’s around 1/7th of the ENTIRE world’s population. So if that’s the case, why do so many brands persist in adopting a ‘build it and they will come’ ethos when it comes to their own digital offerings. Users are already flocking in their billions to chat on apps like Wechat, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, and brands needn’t lock themselves out of these conversations. Artificial intelligence has made Chatbots a viable solution to this, allowing brands to enter this already familiar forum and engage in personalised conversations with users on a mass scale. And with the potential global annual revenue generated by Chatbot transactions on messenger predicted to be $19.14 Billion, compared to the $16.5 Billion average of IOS and Google Play Store revenue in 2015* this is most certainly no passing fad…

The global annual revenue generated by Chatbot transactions on messenger is predicted to be $19.14 Billion vs $16.5 Billion average of IOS and Google Play Stores in 2015*

There are over 30,000 active Messenger bots now in play, so companies need to consider carefully the various ways in which a Chatbot could both generate and save them significant revenue.

Customer Service: Consumers treat brands’ social pages as a customer service platform, acting as the first port of call for any queries and complaints. Considering the fact that a whopping 53% of users expect a comment on social to be answered within 1 hour, regardless of the time** and with Facebook pages receiving four times as many private messages compared to public***, a Chatbot could indeed offer a 24/7/365 solution to this new breed of super-demanding consumers. However, this path needs to be trodden with care; if bots are unable to process a plethora of complex queries then their human counterparts will need to be readily drafted in to resolve them.

Sales Solutions: Not only this, but Chatbots also have the potential to be a powerful Ecommerce solution. Consumers are already familiar with these messaging apps, so browsing natively within them may prove far easier than navigating the unfamiliarity of a brand’s actual site or app. Without the potential drop offs from a lengthy path to purchase, the user journey within messanger apps is paramount to conversions but this needs to be far more intuitive than simply presenting them with an entire product catalogue. This sales capability is already expanding and bots can now initiate the conversation as opposed to just replying, with Facebook rolling out Chatbot adverts that are targeted and served to consumers based on browsing history. With this capacity for high-personalisation, profiling and scheduling, CRM activity looks to be majorly disrupted. Indeed, initial stats are far more healthy in comparison, with a 85% open rate and 53% click rate through Messenger Chatbots compared to a 20% open rate and 2% click rate expected through traditional email****

Marketing Tool: Artificial intelligence can also be a vehicle for marketing campaigns — creating an evolving, highly personal and sustained story which the user can dictate and influence. A storytelling device like this presents a major opportunity to deliver an emotive and compelling brand persona. But with bots lacking this emotional capability and more than often being tested by users with demands such as ‘tell me a joke’, the humanising factor is definitely one of its most significant obstacles in delivering effective campaign messaging.

The Olly Murs Chatbot wasn’t keen on sharing his joke…

Undoubtedly, combining all three of the above functions make messanger Chatbots one impressive tool — but we should keep in mind its limitations. Artificial intelligence is not quite sophisticated enough to convincingly replicate human conversation. Therefore brands need to consider whether they inform the user that it’s a bot upfront, or attempt to use keywords to initiate a free flowing conversation. The solution most likely lies somewhere in between, with various call-to-action buttons and prompts steering the conversation, but with keyword recognition for when things start to go off-script. The deciding factor in a Chatbot’s success will be the simplicity of purpose and function, as delivering an overly-ambitious jack of all trades bot will cause more irritation than value and need human intervention to resolve when thing go astray.

From their humble beginnings in the form of Microsoft Word’s PaperClip Assistant or MSN’s SmarterChild, Chatbots have certainly evolved since then. Their integration with global Messenger apps is a hugely powerful revenue tool for brands, who can now speak to existing and new consumers directly as a marketeer, salesman and helpline all in one. With messaging at the heart of mobile experience, brands seriously need to reconsider their digital offerings, because there are billions of users out there and they’re all waiting to chat…


*BrandWatch 2015

**Lithium Technologies case study

***SocialBakers

****Ubisend 2016

Mentally Friendly

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Designing for wellbeing outcomes across products, teams and policy.

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