In 2017, digital shoppers are likely to encounter the latest retail strategy aimed at increasing consumer engagement: the chatbot.
No, chatbots are not a brand new technology, but up until this point, automated instant message bots have not been advanced enough to make a real difference. They lack the necessary personalization and reliable interactivity needed to influence the consumer experience. But that’s all changing as the technology grows stronger.
When implemented correctly and creatively, chatbots can offer genuine artificial intelligence that will approximate natural, one-on-one human interaction. And that means retailers can reach hundreds upon thousands of shoppers in the right place at the right time—every day.
Digital shopping is obviously here to stay. Young consumers in particular demand text-based communication with online retailers, and chatbots enable that communication en masse. Chatbots are most readily applicable to shipping and returns and other customer service interactions, but their potential extends even further.
The water is still murky, however. When implementing chatbot technology, retailers must plan for smooth transitions between human and machine communication. Think of the annoying 20th century equivalent: the automated phone message (For billing questions, press 1…. For customer support, press 2). At some point, consumers simply want and need to communicate with a human. The effectiveness of those handoffs will play an important role in the success of chatbots.
Artificial intelligence may very well be a game changer in the online retail experience. The coming year will tell us a lot.
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