AI Assistants: Rise of the Chatbot
The world of ecommerce is growing at a surprising rate. More and more customers are turning to an online vendor for their shopping. And why shouldn’t they? The switch from brick and mortar to click and mortar has made the process of purchasing an item or service more simple, streamlined and efficient than ever before.
The age of technology has fundamentally changed customer expectations. We now live in an age of quick and easy communication. The world’s knowledge is at the tips of our fingers. It has never been easier to learn about or compare products. But with this paradigm shift also came a shift in customer expectations. Technology has automated so much of what we do on a daily basis that the modern shopper expects near instant access to both information and product – something physical stores with physical employees simply cannot deliver at the same caliber as AI. Artificial intelligence has made it easier for companies to meet these increasing consumer demands by offering expert advice, product reviews, information storage and retrieval. On the business side chatbots help with lead generation, keeping customers engaged and increase conversion rates.
Despite the shift in how customers shop, the way in which they shop has remained the same. Shoppers have always fallen into two categories:
1. Customers that have done the research and know the exact product they want. They know where to buy it, whether that be a physical store or website. They then purchase their product and are finished.
2. Customers that have a vague perception of what they want and are looking for assistance in making an informed decision.
The second type of customer presents a major problem for many online businesses, particularly those offering services or experiences as their products. In years past, a customer would physically enter a brick and mortar store with either a vague perception of what they want or not knowing at all. They would then expect an attentive clerk or salesperson to assist them in meeting all of their needs. This need for assistance becomes especially important for businesses with no physical product to research.
For businesses that offer a service, there are always a plethora of questions that need to be asked in order for the customer to feel well informed on what they are receiving. The necessity and demand for assistance has never changed, but the speed and efficiency in which it is expected to come, has. This presents a major problem for service-based businesses. How does a business answer all of the questions a customer may have in a timely fashion without hiring an around-the-clock staff?
Enter, the chatbot.
The reality is this: people, regardless of age or technical prowess, still need assistance in making an informed decision on a product or service and they don’t want to have to talk to a person to get it. This has been made apparent by the fact that chatbots are equally popular among both baby boomers and millennials. According to Mobile Marketer research, around 40% of millennials say they chat with chatbots on a daily basis. That’s right – nearly half of the most well informed and tech-savvy people still prefer to use an AI assistant over striking out on their own to perform research, call or email customer support.
Chatbots provide expert level assistance to customers in need with no hassle and at the rapid pace they have come to expect. That is why 56% of people would rather message a customer service platform than call. And with good reason. Chatbots are the ultimate assistant. There is no language barrier to overcome, no miscommunication and no time spent performing human processes like typing, locating, and storing information. The chatbot has relevant information on hand at all times and eliminates all human error. That is why most major banks have already come to love using chatbots and by 2022, banks could automate up to 90% of their interactions using chatbots alone.
It is not just service-based industries and online businesses that are taking advantage of artificial intelligence. The world of AI has expanded the potential for countless industries, and businesses are beginning to take notice. AI is able to automate customer service, generate potential leads, and dig down to the core of what the customer is looking for in a product or service. Right now, just 15% of enterprises are using AI, but a larger 31% said it is on the agenda for the next 12 months. Top performing companies have already broke into this new technology. They are over twice as likely to already be using AI to assist with their business than their peers.
And for good reason. Companies that rely on marketing outreach to keep their customers informed tend to stick to the same old communication channels. Email marketing has an average clickthrough rate of 4%. Clickthrough rates for chatbots range from 15%-60%. Even at the absolute lowest end of that spectrum, chatbot clickthrough still surpasses email marketing by nearly 4 times the amount. A less obvious advantage that chatbots offer is that fact that customer engagement is wholly on their own accord. We are all familiar with finding random emails sitting in our inbox from less than on-the-level newsletter signups. Chatbots eliminate this disingenuous practice and promote more trust in your business.
Customer feedback from chatbots is immediate as well. Email marketing is generally a one-way avenue. Chatbots promote communication by engaging with customers over the world’s leading medium for communication channels – texting. Users of text platforms spend more time monitoring these channels than email, meaning that chatbot communications get seen more frequently and remain top of mind. This makes chatbots ideal for communicating time-sensitive information and events.
Chatbot awareness is growing across the board. In 2016, the chatbot market was valued at $190 million. According to Global Market Insights, that number is expected to jump to $1.25 billion by 2025. That is just one reason that 96% of businesses believe chatbots are here to stay, grow, and take over customer service on all fronts.
The trends and statistics don’t lie. Neither does customer feedback. If your business isn’t taking full advantage of chatbots and other AI capabilities on site, the time to implement them is now.