Among those exploring consumer facing technology, chatbots are currently all the rage. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have enabled a new generation of chatbots that are rolling out across all sectors, marketplaces, and corporate organizations. The industries employing them report with enthusiasm. Not only are the chatbots communicating better with customers than live personnel, they actually demonstrate a measurable capacity to convert visitor traffic, increase sales, and boost customer engagement, while also lowering the costs to do business.
"We're seeing a true revolution in mobile commerce; chatbots are the optimal platform for converting sales," says Dana Gibber, COO of Manhattan-based Headliner Labs. Headliner Labs is pioneering the development and integration of best-in-class AI-powered chatbots for ecommerce. "We're rolling out a product that's bolstering direct-to-consumer sales by up to 63%, while also positively increasing brand engagement," she notes. "Suddenly, this is not a question of if companies will start implementing chatbots like ours -- it's when."
According to a new survey, 80% of businesses want to integrate chatbots in their business model by 2020. So which industries can reap the greatest benefits by implementing consumer-facing chatbots? According to a chatbot developer, these 5 major areas of direct-to-consumer engagement are prime:
In the hospitality industry, success is directly correlated to the speed and quality of service. Hotels cater primarily to a clientele that is, by definition, always "on the go." They must be accessible 24/7 via their guests' most native communication tool: their smartphones. In the hotels that use them, chatbots power everything from check-in to a wide array of concierge services. They can book restaurants and activity reservations, help organize conference logistics and relay amenity requests.
"The most exciting development is the 'virtual concierge'," reports Gibber. "Basic questions about amenities can be handled 24/7, with unlimited volume and no wait times, which frees up the human concierge to handle more specialized guest requests."
Chatbots are also positioned to disrupt the banking and financial industries. The transactional nature of most banking tasks makes them a perfect fit for a chatbot interface. Bank of America recently launched Erica, a chatbot that assists online customers with basic tasks like supplying bank balances, enabling quick money transfers between friends, and locating the nearest ATM. Even the former telegraph company, Western Union, has embraced chatbots. They're using the technology to handle online customer tasks such as "send money," "track transfer," and "transfer again."
"There's growing acceptance of utilizing your phone for payments -- Apple Pay being a prime example. This shift in how business is done has eased the innate discomfort consumers initially felt when handling sensitive financial information on mobile," observes Gibber. "Because of that growing level of comfort, we expect to see a swift rollout of additional safe and secure finance and banking chatbots."
Chatbots allow brands to grow their e-commerce presence, from top-of-funnel branding all the way through sales and retargeting. An AI engine powering a chatbot can dramatically optimize the customer experience by analyzing the visitor's past behavior and purchase history to predict their current needs. The result is a highly interactive, hyper-personalized shopping experience guided by an AI-powered "sales assistant" who is proficient in reducing the number of decisions and dead-end searches a customer makes. "At Headliner, we see an astounding 67% open rate to messages initiated by our chatbots," says Gibber. "That blows the average email marketing campaign open rates out of the water -- and has our corporate clients very excited."
Are you under the impression that chatbots are only appropriate for large companies and established industries? According to Gibber, there's actually a tremendous untapped opportunity for small businesses to use chatbots for lead generation. For those service professionals who rely on inbound leads to sustain their businesses, chatbots can do most the heavy lifting. They can readily handle inquiries, regardless of how qualified the lead is. Chatbots can be authored to engage with potential leads, capturing and auto-tagging them with key qualifying data, and then sorting them by degree of prioritization. "For a business of any size, chatbots can add immeasurably to the lead generation equation," explains Gibber. "An ideal solution will include a strong user-facing experience that engages and qualifies leads, a highly intelligent algorithm that recognizes the hot leads from the cool ones, and a comprehensive dashboard that easily facilitates human sales agent interaction."
Disseminating content to the new generation of digital-first consumers remains a challenge for traditional publishers. Interestingly, publishers such as the Wall Street Journal, NBC News, the New York Post and Digg have been the first to use Messenger bots to address digital challenges. According to Gibber, publishers are also seeing significant increases in user engagement rates. "We recently built a Messenger bot for Women's Wear Daily. It sends out a morning digest of the top WWD stories to bot users, and allows them to search by category or keyword for other stories of interest. The results have been fantastic, with their bot user base growing by 8% day-over-day -- and overall engagement eclipsing all our initial projections."
According to Gibber, no industry will remain untouched by the emergence of AI-enabled chatbots. As their use and intelligence becomes more robust, chatbots will be readily adaptable to virtually any existing operation and can be used to produce considerable revenue as well as serious cost savings.
Have you considered how implementing chatbots will impact your industry?