From chat bots to Conversational AI

Jan 27 · 5 min read

In this article, Orchard’s User Experience Designer, Nathan Bloomfield, demystifies the difference between chatbots and Conversational UI.

Are you suffering from chatbot fatigue? You aren’t the only one. Bots are developing in what we now call “Conversational AI”, connecting dots with your back-end systems.

There’s a big difference between a chatbot and a genuinely conversational experience. To start with, there are two types of chatbots: rules-driven and AI-driven. As their name suggests, rule-driven chatbots are driven by specific rules and follow a prebuilt workflow; chatbots driven by AI support NLP (natural language processing) and machine learning to understand what the user is asking for or is in search of. And it’s this second type that we now know as “Conversational AI”.

The difference between chatbots and a conversational experience lies in the integration of back-end systems to provide information to users. A “chat” is simply words going back and forth, whereas Conversational AI allows the possibility for all types of engagement and messaging.

Brands using Conversational AI

Sephora: Beauty concierge

Sephora uses this technology for its service that focuses on key areas of the customer experience, Sephora Reservation Assistant and Sephora Colour Match.
Sephora Reservation Assistant allows customers to make appointments with beauty specialists seamlessly by sending a message to the chatbot. Through the smart learning capabilities, the chatbot can understand the language intentions of the customer to make the interaction even easier.

Starbucks: Barista Bot

Keen to make ordering as easy as possible, Starbucks introduced a chatbot that operates via its MyBarista app where you can order through messaging or even by voice (through Alexa, Google Home, etc). Along with allowing customers to remain in the comfort of their homes right up until their brew is ready (the bot messages you when the order is ready for pickup), Barista Bot also allows payment and tipping, meaning all a customer needs to do is show up.

In addition, the chatbot will enable loyal customers to place multiple and specific orders and due to its ability to learn, can gauge customer preferences and habits based on previous orders.

SnapTravel: Book by bot

SnapTravel is a unique travel brand that doesn’t use a middleman platform to help its users successfully plan their trips. SnapTravel operates solely with the help of chatbots on Messenger, WhatsApp and SMS. While this travel brand still has a website, users can only receive travel information via chatbots. Snaptravel’s bot is automatically set to provide users with discounts and the best available hotel deals. By clicking on the offer, a user gets redirected to the website of the hotel with a discount already applied, as Snaptravel uses UTM links to redirect its users.

Conversational AI use cases in practise

Most conversational AI apps have analytics built into the backend of the program, which helps ensure human-like experiences in a conversational setting.

Conversation AI is an extremely lucrative and growing piece of technology for companies, helping businesses become more profitable. While an AI chatbot is the most popular form of conversational AI, there are still many other use cases across the enterprise. Some examples include:

  • Online customer support: Online chatbots are replacing human agents along the customer journey. They answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) around topics like shipping, or provide advice that is personalised for the user, cross-selling products or suggesting sizes for users, changing the way we think about customer engagement across websites and social media platforms. Examples include messaging bots on e-commerce sites with virtual agents, messaging apps such as Slack and Facebook Messenger, and tasks usually done by virtual assistants and voice assistants.
  • Accessibility: Companies can become more accessible by reducing entry barriers, particularly for users who use assistive technologies. Commonly used features of Conversation AI for these groups are text-to-speech dictation and language translation.
  • HR processes: Many human resources processes can be optimised by using conversational AI such as employee training, onboarding processes and updating employee information.
  • Health care: Conversational AI can make health care services more accessible and affordable for patients, while also improving operational efficiency and administrative processes such as claim processing.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices: Most households now have at least one IoT device, from Alexa speakers and smartwatches to smartphones. These devices use automated speech recognition to interact with end-users. Popular applications include Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Google Home.
  • Computer software: Many tasks in an office environment are simplified by conversational AI such as search autocomplete when you look for something on Google and spell-check.

How Orchard is using Conversational AI

Schwarzkopf Australia: Perfect Colour Match Tool

To help its customers in choosing the best hair colour, Schwarzkopf has developed a conversational colour match tool that offers personalised product selections* and access to a dedicated Schwarzkopf specialist advice line.

With its dedicated custom user profiling, Schwarzkopf’s advice line now benefits from advanced user insights that help in guiding customers through their purchase journey, reduce response time and triage customer queries.

*automatic selection amongst +100 products and 7 categories.

In the end, the key differences between chatbots and a conversational experience revolve around the integration of back-end systems. As more and more people prefer chatting with brands to buy products and services and to get their issues resolved, businesses and industries will continue to rapidly transform their online presence by replacing traditional UIs with AI-first design.


Written by


A creative and technology business based in Sydney & New York. Blending creative & technology to invent better outcomes that make a difference.

Invent Better

Brought to you by Orchard: Creating Customer Experiences for a Modern World.


Written by


A creative and technology business based in Sydney & New York. Blending creative & technology to invent better outcomes that make a difference.

Invent Better

Brought to you by Orchard: Creating Customer Experiences for a Modern World.

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