Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Chatbots in E-commerce

Chatbots are often used on web pages in the form of virtual characters in order to replace human consultants. They answer questions about services and the company who provides them. They have been designed in the way to use as natural language as possible and seem to be intelligent.

The popularity of virtual consultants has been growing since 2016. As it was shown in the Mobile Message Report as of 2016, almost half of Internet users demand consultants’ availability 24/7, whereas 64% of them believes that companies should communicate with their potential customers also with the use of different type of messengers. What is more, they demand a quick answer! The presence of chatbots seems to be, therefore, necessary for every company that wishes to be in touch with buyers also on the Internet.

Chatbots? Do I really need them?

The answer might be yes. But it depends on how big your company is and how many customers you have.

Nowadays, customers seek information about brands and products through social media. Since they require the answer almost immediately, it is good to think about a bot or AI that would make answering to some standard queries automatic and costless. Depending on the needs of a business owner, there is a number of products to choose from: live chat or social media bots, some mechanisms to analyze e-mails and suggesting answers, smart FAQ intelligent browsers, smart search and many others. All of them have been made to make customers more satisfied and to quicken their service.

There are various types of bots with one thing in common — the mechanism that allows them to process text communication and chose the most suitable element from a database to offer products, advise or become a professional help desk, sales support or prepare answers in the form of FAQ.

Advantages of bots

One of the biggest advantages of chatbots is that they can help a company to reach a broad audience on messenger apps. They are also praised for the ability to automate personalized messages. What is more, they can be helpful in the case of work efficiency as they can be designed to take over the tasks which are not essential for human workers.

A number of companies have been successful in using chatbots in their everyday communication with customers. One of them is Tommy Hilfiger, a fashion enterprise that takes advantage of a Facebook’s Messenger bot called TMY.GRL. It was released during New York Fashion Week to offer its users different looks. The whole procedure was based on asking users a couple of simple questions to provide them with a number of pieces of clothing together with some accessories. The success behind the application made other fashion companies, including high-end brands, to have their own chatbots as well.

Another example can be the one of Sephora and its Snapchat’s application Kik. After a user has searched for some brands, they are offered a series of beauty and make-up tips, which are accompanied by a series of emojis. A user is also asked to do a short quiz about the age, brand preferences, and beauty routine. All these answers are analyzed so that the bot can provide a user with some video content on the matters they are the most interested in and tailored to their needs (also when it comes to facial shapes). The application has become a real success with 275 million users who usually spent around half an hour there.

Are there any disadvantages?

The disadvantages of chatbots originate from their concept — they are described as software that is able to have a conversation with a human. This misconception may lead to the opinion that a chatbot should be able to respond exactly as it would be done by another human. Such perception was common when Facebook opened up its messenger for bots what made people disappointed in the lack of sophisticated entry. Another example was Microsoft’s Tay — a Twitter bot that was supposed to learn and talk to other Twitter users in order to become more and more humane. The result was that Tay became a racist and could not be used as a Microsoft’s AI representative. The whole experiment showed that bots are not as intelligent as humans, at least not yet.

To sum up, bots can become handy when it comes to serving customers and providing answers to the most common questions. They will be also helpful in the case of the elimination of the tasks which can be easily automated. On the other hand, company owners need to remember that bots will not replace humans in performing complex assignments.