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November 17, 2017

Chatbots: The Great Equalizer for Small Businesses

“As an industry, we are on the cusp of a new frontier that pairs the power of natural human language with advanced machine intelligence. . .” – Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Chatbots are a major topic in technology and business circles today.

Huge corporations like Microsoft, Spotify, Apple, Google and Facebook are among the many large organizations heavily investing in AI technology like chatbots. Even those you may not consider tech-power players are getting into the AI game.

For instance, Uber acquired two AI startups over the course of 2016. Even brands like Bud Light and Trolli have implemented chatbots via Facebook Messenger; alongside the other 100,000 bots that exist on the chat platform.

In case you’re not familiar with this technology, chatbots are essentially an AI-powered messaging application designed to handle a predetermined set of tasks. The term “chatbot,” however, spans categories including stand-alone applications, AI, analytics, and many other classifications; not just integrations with existing messaging services.

As far as small businesses are concerned, this technology provides incredible new levels of reach and efficiencies, without having the expenditure of expanding your employee roster.

Here are four ways that chatbots are poised to be SMBs greatest ally.

1. Constant User Support

Most brands today have some sort of presence online; be it through a dedicated website, on social media, or a combination of the two.

The Internet, however, does not have set hours of operation like a brick and mortar store does; this has drastically altered consumer’s expectations on customer service availability and responsiveness.

Using chatbots, however, businesses gain a digital representative that is available to consumers 24/7, without the need for a break, lunch, or even a paycheck.

The interactive experience chatbots provide gives users the same feeling they would get from working with a live agent to place an order, resolve an issue, or acquire information.

This application of AI-powered tools is revolutionary for small business with limited bandwidth.

2. Minimal Barrier to Entry

For years, building a chatbot for a business was a resource-heavy task; it consumed lots of time and money. This ended up limiting the type of businesses that could adopt the technology to large organizations with sizable R&D teams or exceptionally deep pockets.

More recently, however, third-party AI platforms have made creating, buying, and selling intelligent chatbots a financially feasible opportunity for even the smallest of organizations.

MiniApps is an excellent example of one such platform that is helping to democratize AI implementation.

MiniApps is a blockchain-based marketplace that supplies developers with the means to create chatbot templates by leveraging the company’s API, AI, machine learning, and other technological offerings.

Utilizing MiniApps’ Visual Builder, creators can develop chatbot templates by piecing together a visual storyline that’s a simple as building a Lego masterpiece.

Through this paradigm, a variety of chatbots related to customer service, booking, food orders, logistic information, and a plethora of other tasks can be obtained at a reasonable price.

3. Chatbots Drive Sales

Because many chatbots are intelligent and possess learning capabilities, this technology is primed for helping companies drive additional sales by better understanding user preferences. For instance, based on someone’s purchase or on-site browsing history, chatbots could be leveraged to send users coupons or promotional information relevant to that customer.

In fact, there is already concrete data showing that chatbots are beneficial for boosting revenue.

During his keynote speech at this year’s F8 conference, David Marcus, vice-president of messaging products at Facebook, discussed several examples of this.

The first came from beauty supplier Sephora. The company reported that its use of a Facebook Messenger chatbot was the direct result of an 11 percent increase in booking rates. Moreover, those who booked in-store services via the “Sephora Reservation Assistant” spent an average of $50 more.

Another example of this sales-boosting technology at work came from Tommy Hilfiger. Using its Messenger bot to assist consumers in purchasing clothing featured on the runway during Fashion Week in New York, the company saw an 87 percent increase in people returning to use the company’s chatbot again.

Additionally, Tommy Hilfiger also noted that 3.5 times more was spent through its Messenger bot than any other of its digital portals.

4. People Love Chatbots

While some still remain quite skeptical about AI technology (looking at you Elon), the vast majority of consumers are open to accepting these AI companions.

This was recently highlighted by a study from NeuraFlash and Bentley University. Through surveying 100 people, researchers found that:

  • “People create first impressions with ChatBots just as they would when meeting people. In both scenarios, people reach into their own experiences to create lasting impressions.”
  • “85 percent of people would rather interact with a ChatBot during a routine transaction than when they are in a hurry.”
  • “100 percent of people feel a ChatBot conversation is preferred if it can show evidence of saving time and making problem solving easier.”
  • “100 percent of people believe a ChatBot will function better if it can predict the pain points of an experience and respond appropriately, offering only those services that are contextual to the moment.”

While the sample group was relatively small, this is still a powerful example of how accepting people are of the technology.

Chatbots have yet to reach the upper echelons of their fullest potential. The abilities and skills that these machines tout is still quite rudimentary to what they will be able to handle in five to 10 years’ time.

Despite that, this technology is quickly becoming one of the most affordable and effective modalities to engaging users around the clock. And in a time where engagement is everything, those who reap the most rewards will be the ones that enter their hat into the AI arena now, not later.

Does your business have any experience with chatbots? If so, how has it impacted your brand?


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Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.

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