Chatbots are essentially services with a chat based user interface. This means that you type them messages, like “3 day forecast”, and receive messages in return with answers, in our example, the forecast for your location for the next three days. With Facebook unveiling their first chatbots at the recent F8 conference, they are the currently trending tech innovation. So how are today’s businesses using bots?
Let’s look at some examples.
Everlane, an online clothing retailer, was an early entry into the bot platform, and only went halfway. Everlane provides shipping updates via their messenger bot. If the customer tries to further interact with the bot, they are passed on to a real customer service representative. This entry, debuted in 2015, was only the first step into the realm of chatbots.
Sephora’s chatbot, which launched recently on the messaging platform Kik, is a major entry in the style/fashion market. It begins with some questions for the user about their age group, make-up brand preferences and must-have items. After that, it is meant to provide an experience like interacting with a specialist in a store. Depending on your interests, it can provide how-to videos and tips, as well as product reviews and recommendations on lipstick, nails, and contouring, for a start. While users are aware that they are interacting with a bot, Sephora’s bot is an example of a great bot meant to personalize the brand a bit for younger users.
Similarly, H&M has developed a chatbot to recommend outfits. In this case, it gets to know your style by having you select which of two offered outfits you like a couple times. From there, it provides outfit recommendations.
Taco Bell has created Tacobot, a chatbot used on the popular Slack messaging platform. This bot lets you order your food by having a conversation, as one might with a waiter, rather than by filling out a lengthy online order form. While it may still have a slightly mechanical feel, the chat based interface is slightly more natural, and integrates the experience of ordering food with a service that customers are already signed into, rather than forcing them to open up a new app or website to order their food.
Mitsuku is an entry deployed on Kik and Skype, as well as via a flash game online at Mousebreaker Games. Created by Pandorabots, Mitsuku is artificial intelligence based and learns from conversations that it has. Rather than being a narrowly focused offering, Mitsuku is meant to act as a companion, and can answer questions and give advice on a variety of topics, including job interviews and relationships. While bots created for specific brands and companies are unlikely to reach this level of sophistication, one can see the potential for a bot having a conversation with users about clothing, food, law, or personal finances.
While entries from most companies are still limited, the demand for personalized feeling interaction with a company is there. Rather than the one dimensional interaction of an order form or online shopping cart, people increasingly want personalized service from the comfort of their homes. This desire is gradually being fulfilled by chatbots offered by various companies. Have you tried one?