Why AI Chatbots Work Better for Marketing & Commerce
In the old days, people might’ve imagined talking to a robot either meant “The Tin Man” or “The Terminator”. You could have something that didn’t have a heart, or something that just wanted to kill you. Today, we know neither is the case – people are using AI chatbots for everything from product discovery and purchases to customer service, and are also talking out loud to their “robot” mobile voice assistants and smart speakers every day.
The thing is, most people assume AI chatbots are still just for support. Support is actually the simplest function of AI chatbots, and one where humans can still achieve better outcomes for a variety of reasons. When you look at marketing and commerce situations, AI chatbots have come into their own because of high usability – achieving amazing customer feedback and allowing brands to capitalize on totally new opportunities with consumers.
Why AI Chatbots Aren’t Just for Support
Poor customer service experiences are among the most common ways that big brands lose their customers. Customer service automation is expected to solve that by offering people quick, easy, instant answers to nearly every problem that they face. The thing is, most customer service automation situations treat “deflection and containment” as success.
This would sound practical in theory, but in reality this means every time someone hangs up a phone, closes a live chat or simply avoids escalating an issue, it’s treating as a problem solved – even if that’s not really the case. What’s worse, in most of these cases, people actually want to talk to a real person – whether it’s to get the highest quality assurance, or simply feel that their human aggravation is being acknowledged by someone who actually represents a brand.
To deal with this, even brands like T-Mobile are abandoning the idea that they can automate the customer-facing aspects of support. They’re investing in bigger teams, more human expertise and greater responsiveness to customers with live agents. They’re only incorporating automation in ways that enable these agents to more quickly understand customer issues and enhance their experience (in the most traditional sense of customer experience).
This, of course, doesn’t mean AI chatbots don’t have real applications for brands – it just means that brands have been looking in the wrong place. Instead of thinking that you can only replace live agents, think of AI chatbots as a totally new opportunity. They offer the ability to position virtual product advisors in every aspect of your consumer decision journey. You can finally give people the same great experiences they get in retail stores everywhere they go on the web.
AI Chatbots Have Usability That Make Marketing & Commerce Come Alive
The reason virtual product advisors are better than solutions like AI assistants are multi-faceted, but first it’s important to understand why they’re even possible and what they offer to consumers.
Consider first the way in which consumers would like to get questions answered. When you’re searching for a product or trying to access services, you don’t always think of the exact best way to phrase what you’re looking for. Even if marketers optimize for particular keywords or common phrases, AI chatbots with Natural Language Understanding and other capabilities can develop deep understanding on products and service offerings and, even with limited data, relate that back to the exact demands consumers make.
This kind of technology is essential for a high-performing AI chatbot, and as they become more accessible to consumers, more of them are satisfied by these experiences. All this culminates in some specific features that are essential to get the most possible conversion from every AI chatbot experience you offer. These include:
The ability to type in multiple concerns:
Often when we’re trying to troubleshoot a problem or get answers for ourselves, it takes time for us to realize that the problems we’re having are actually separate, smaller issues. For instance, if I am concerned about both aging and dry skin, how am I supposed to know what skin cream is right for me? Sufficiently sophisticated AI chatbots can actually tease out these multiple concerns and address them both individually and cohesively, offering consumers the most complete answers and maximum value as a result.
The ability to offer category distinctions:
By the same token, when we engage with a solution, we may not know exactly how to ask the questions we want to ask. Allowing consumers to define their needs on the bases of flexible, adaptive and variable categories is a scale of consideration that is only possible with AI-powered solutions. This means something as simple as telling the difference between a foaming skin product that cleanses pores and a creamy skin product that fights aging can be differentiated without the consumer having to ask – essential in clarifying product choices and making it easier to find the best one!
The ability to provide confidence in recommendations:
When we think about the usability of a solution, it has to be with the frame that we are putting the conversation in customer-centric terms. Programmatically going through conversation flows without responding to the way consumers communicate is a recipe for disaster. AI chatbots can do things a little differently, however, by understanding the broader components of a core category as well as the differences and nuances between categories.
For example, not just offering category distinctions, but being able to tell consumers about active ingredients or key features in products is a transformative way to actually get the value of a product across at scale. With AI chatbots for marketing and commerce, you can offer this kind of experience to each consumer in the most personalized possible way.
Amazing Customer Feedback
When you actually incorporate the complexities of everyday conversation into an AI chatbot, you empower consumers to get the answers they need when they’re looking to buy. This leads to much of the amazing qualitative feedback consumers provide. These kind of natural responses are most frequently around the informative, quick, easy, fun and friendly nature of a thoughtfully deployed AI Chatbot. This kind of feedback shows that when the experience is tailored with the right features, consumers really feel cared for and respond positively.
What’s more, with all these features, consumers often feel like they’re actually talking with a real person. Where real people get tired of answering the same questions over and over again, AI chatbots give you something that’s easy to scale, predictable and offers a consistent, reliable experience across your entire customer journey. When you do this on an existing live chat where representatives may already be actively selling, you also free up those agents to focus on complex tasks, winning back dissatisfied customers and playing the roles they’re already better suited to than what people typically assume AI chatbots should be used for.
Consumers Are Looking For Alternatives
To say AI chatbots are better for marketing and commerce isn’t a stretch, but why they work so well is in part due to do with what the alternatives are. In particular, consumers are always actively looking and engaged with products and trying to find the best choices to brighten their day. However, without the guidance, recommendations and instant, personalized responses they need, they often leave purchase decisions aside, frustrated and disappointed that there isn’t a good choice for them.
AI chatbots show is that this doesn’t need to be true. Consumers are willing to engage when they have the opportunity to actually achieve their purchasing goals, or simply frame their decisions in a clearer and more personal way. Our own study with Wakefield Research shows this in a few succinct data points:
- 70% of beauty consumers are overwhelmed by product choices and 63% of consumers are confused by product claims.
- Over two-thirds of consumers perform extensive online research before making purchases. A further 71% of consumers use their mobile phones to do additional online research while standing at shelves in-store.
- Approximately two-thirds of consumers prefer to be left alone while shopping, but nearly half (49%) of all respondents said that they would definitely use or likely use a virtual beauty advisor when shopping for beauty products, whether online or offline.
This isn’t the only data to support this, however. Consumers are actively engaging with AI chatbots for marketing and commerce at a massive scale. 66% of US adults now regularly use conversational AI, 15% of US consumers have already made a purchase through a chatbot and 81% of those consumers would do it again.
Most consumers report a positive experience and many say that technologies like chatbots and voice assistants are transforming their expectations of companies. It’s a real sales and conversion, tool whatever channel you deploy it on. Conversational AI will drive $7.3 billion in retail sales this year, but by 2023, that’ll be $112 billion. Yes, a 15x increase in 4 years.
Deploying AI chatbots actually offers the opportunity to access consumers in more places, at more times and with more deference than your conventional omnichannel marketing approach – whether through instances digital or in-store – allows you to. This means brands can develop deep, continuous connections with consumers both before purchase and afterwards.
Making the Most of AI Chatbots Across Every Channel
By connecting the conversations you have with consumers across channels, you give them the opportunity to get the answers they need whenever they need them. This means that you can increase the engagement and insights you generate with every interaction, while the increased sales benefits that come with AI chatbots achieve greater return across every one of the channels you use.
Whether it’s through advertising, websites, social media, voice assistants or other means, connecting the conversations you have with consumers meet new expectations for omnichannel marketing and even marketing automation. In the end, this doesn’t just show that AI chatbots work for consumers – they also work for your brand in more ways than you can imagine, and bring you in a more direct relationship to the consumer than ever before.