As artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been advancing rapidly, it has been gaining presence in e-commerce arena although many of us do not realize the on-going trend. E-marketers have started to adopt intelligent assistants such as Chatbots, a domain-specific text-based conversational interface, to support users for a set of tasks.
Although a research indicates that many companies may be better off investing their money in the existing and well-established channels (improving the UX of your website or app will bring higher return on investment than creating a chatbot. Ref. 1), there have been successful examples of using Chatbots in various industries, including Domino’s Pizza bot, Bank of America’s Erica, UPS’s Ask UPS and Alaska Air’s Ask Jenn. The application of Chatbots has value proposition of providing better customer experience and lowering business cost. In the view of business process, Chatbots can enhance conversion rate and business efficiency by leveraging user experience (UX) of websites. As illustrated in the customer journey mapping shown below, Chatbots can complement websites’ design and enhance engagement with online users in real-time. Thus, improved customer experience and added value to the online shopping process are expected to increase lead generation and conversion rate.
The adoption of Chatbots has become an innovative marketing strategy for some websites. Considering the customer service and customer interaction can be automated in a neat and efficient manner, customer representatives can now focus on projects with higher demanding for human judgement. This improvement not only lowers the business cost, but also increase the human resources and then even better management of time and budget constraints which normally always account for a big challenge for many organizations. Consequently, a better project portfolio management (PPM) is anticipated upon the successful launch of Chatbots to circumvent the so-called Management Constraint Triangle. Websites that have been implemented Chatbots are techcrunch.com (using Chatbot to improve customer onboarding), 1-800-Flowers (focusing on automating transactions and recommending products with Chatbot), and Duolingo (increasing the value of their service with Chatbot) (Ref. 2).
However, most of today’s Chatbots are so far away from intelligent level that they can only handle a linear business process well. Any deviation from the linear flow could result in bad user experience. Efforts are needed to improve the interaction performance and natural language ability of Chatbots in the future development.
Overall, Chatbots are proving themselves as an innovative interface to improve digital marketing and online experience. As long as the cost and ROI of Chatbots are align with the budget of companies, it is a wise investment to boost business process and improve values in e-commerce and digital marketing domains.