“Hey Siri, what’s a chatbot?”
My phone’s amiable AI thinks for a moment. Then, she replies, “All right, here’s what I got,” as she pulls up a Wikipedia page about chatbots.
Perhaps she missed the humor in me asking her about what’s essentially a text-based version of herself. Oh well, it wasn’t that funny anyway…
The point is, like with so many other technologies in development, chatbots are going to have a profound impact on the way you do marketing.
A Real Chatbot in Action
Training computers to talk to us is nothing new. So what’s the big deal now?
Well, it’s the fact that they’re getting “smart,” resembling a back and forth human interaction rather than human-to-computer.
For example, in March of 2016, Microsoft debuted an AI bot designed to emulate a 14 year old girl. She was a fun millennial who wanted to learn from human millennials on Twitter.
Unfortunately, her experiment turned dark after a group of trolls deliberately coaxed Tay into becoming a racist and genocidal AI with a disturbing affinity for Adolf Hitler.
Yeah, it’s pretty clear there are still a few kinks to work out.
Chatbots Marketing of the Future
On the plus side, as soon as the tech world figures out how to defend against internet trolls, chatbots will be able to do some amazing things.
Right now, when you call up your credit card company, you talk to an automated voice in a phone tree that directs you to various recorded messages. If you’re really patient — and maybe a little lucky — you can talk your way into a conversation with a live (human) representative.
But what if there were a text-based version of that interface, where you could pop into your account and ask to see your balance or report a lost card? This would be entirely conversational, as if you always had a knowledgeable human on the other end to help you.
On the business side of things, conversational interfaces will make it so you can talk to your customers without actually talking to them. There’s no business on the planet that wants to have an army of customer service representatives on the payroll — what if you could simulate that experience, or even improve on it, for a modest fee?
Well, that’s the promise of chatbots. Not only can they answer your questions today, but over time, they’ll learn from previous conversations and deliver a level of service and assistance that a random customer service rep you just reached will never be able to do.
Chatting For Fun or Profit
Like Tay, there will be chatbots that don’t have to be all business, all the time. Some chatbots exist for entertainment purposes. While the novelty would wear off eventually, having a custom chatbat that can make your clients laugh or keep them entertained may be a marketing tactic to think about!
On the profit side, chatbots could actually move beyond mere business applications and boost your productivity as a business person. Imagine if a single chatbot were your personal assistant, an intermediary between you and every one of those pesky apps.
You’d be able to summon an Uber, set up a meeting, and hear from chatbots on other platforms about when your Amazon package is scheduled to be delivered. With greater efficiency during your day, you’ll have more time and brainpower to think about the bigger picture.
What’s Next for Chatbots and Marketing?
Advanced chatbots aren’t mainstream yet, but they’re definitely headed that way. Skype already has a large number of chatbots at its disposal. They can do everything from pulling up memes on subjects you recommend to monitoring your daily medication schedule. Slack also has its own bot that is rather endearing with its daily quotes and its admission that “It’s only a bot and makes mistakes”.
But once they are everywhere, chatbots will be able to converse with a customer and make personalized, on-the-fly sales recommendations. Think about chatbots that can go through the process of qualifying leads for you. What about chatbots that can talk a customer through the installation of a product they just bought from you?
There’s also a treasure trove of data that can be mined from chatbots that routinely track customers’ purchasing patterns and the questions customers ask. You can even adjust your sales and marketing process based on which questions seem to get brought up the most.
It’s clear as day… The future is bright for marketing, and it’s thanks to you, chatbots!
P.S. If you listen closely, you can almost hear them reply: “You’re welcome!”