We are all familiar with the basic chatbot on websites. It pops up somewhere in the first few minutes of browsing a website and is limited to basic question/answer responses. Generally, these chatbots are used by retail brands to provide customer service. Until now, they haven’t provided value or even sufficient capabilities for B2B brands.
However, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are creating intelligent bots that learn from experiences and develop deeper, more complex algorithms to create more natural human-to-bot communications. This technology expands the possibilities for AI bots beyond retail customer service into other areas of business as a tool to help enhance the customer experience from research to sale.
This year has been dubbed The Year of the Bot, even if it may take a few years to work out the kinks. Expected advances in AI and machine learning have set up AI bots to enter the spotlight on a broader scale. Several attempts at AI bots from Microsoft and Google had glitches in 2016, but the technology continues to evolve. As developers create more complex algorithms and larger data pools, we can hope that AI bots deliver a more dynamic customer experience for B2B companies with longer sales cycles, by measuring the sales cycle evolution more easily when multiple channels are involved.
SXSW 2017 was buzzing with discussions about the potential of AI bots. In a presentation from Dharmesh Shah, CTO of Hubspot, the rapid technological advancements from the Internet to the smart phone and from websites to apps has set up AI bots to be the next evolution of communication for companies. “Well done mobile apps embrace the constraints of the space, but well done chatbots embrace the conversation,” Dharmesh said.
AI bots move beyond a chat box pop up on a website into functioning within an existing messaging system (Slack, Facebook Messenger or iMessage) or run separately in an app-like environment (Google Allo).
Bots have the potential to create links between the unknown aspects of how marketing, business development, sales, customer support and corporate communications all interact with a user because they learn through real interactions with customers and users. They can create audience profiles and learn natural language preferences.
So what does all this mean for companies? AI bots are still in the early stages, but technology moves at lightning speed, and, if we use history as our guide, we can expect to see bots become much more popular within the next few years. Some companies may be wise to keep a pulse on the capabilities of AI bots in order to forecast how they may benefit from them. Others should consider developing databases to create algorithms for AI bots. For companies that already collect and categorize significant amounts of data, an AI bot may be closer to fruition.
In a panel from Accenture at SXSW 2017, the expanding possibilities of bots included customer questions; tailored offers, services and content; free shipping and loyalty programs; marketing automation options and automated data processing. AI bots can also help you deliver more personalized experiences, learn more about your customers and increase sales.
Although still in their infancy, AI bots could be the next breakthrough tool to creating a cohesive message to customers by delivering timely content, solving problems and handing off much warmer leads to sales reps.
AI bots was one of the many topics M/C/C employees explored while at SXSW 2017. For more topics, check out the other posts in this month’s blog!