Human Assistant vs Chatbot: a Battle for Time and Money

3 min read

Of all digital marketing buzzwords, “real-time marketing” is among the most promising ones. Real-time marketing means reacting in real, or near-real, time, sending relevant messages, listening to and anticipating customer needs. Chatbots, the by-product of this new normal, bring huge opportunities for e-commerce: from up-selling to personalised marketing to driving sales to data collection and analysis. And the retail industry is the one to benefit the most.

Even if you’re not a big fan of statistics, these numbers should certainly pique your interest. 36% of Americans want a personalised experience when engaging with a retailer. 58% of us are more likely to buy from a retailer that recommends goods based on our past purchases, and 68% are okay to share their data to get a personalised experience in return.

Juniper researchers assert chatbots are here to help. One day, AI chatbots sophisticated enough to hold a fluent conversation could… no, not lead to WW III as Elon Musk believes, but take away some of the repetitive tasks of human workers. Better for us.

So let’s ignore Elon Musk and understand all the reasons that speak in favour of why building a bot for retail.

Chatbots are cheaper

It is much cheaper to implement a customer support chatbot than to hire a human assistant to carry out simple, repetitive tasks.

The Juniper researchers found that a chatbot that has automated 40% of requests could give a company around a $12 million cost saving in just 5 years. Implementing a full-functioning Viber bot can be cheaper than developing an app and easier than hiring employees for simple tasks.

Using chatbots in retail can cut the response and interaction times via phone and social media channels. By delegating some tasks usually carried out by human assistants to customer service chatbots, businesses and people could save a potential $11.5 billion and 2.5 billion hours by 2023. So no, bots are not about to replace people — they are about to make their work easier and more interesting.

Chatbots are automated

Basically, a chatbot is a chat application that makes decisions based on a set of rules. A bot can automatically respond on the go, gather data, and send users the relevant messages based on their behaviours. People can do this too. It’s just that bots do it faster, and on an ongoing basis.

Chatbots are about personalisation

Chatbots offer a valuable way to personalise the customer experience like no other digital medium.

For example, shopping cart abandonment is a headache for many marketers. If customers abandon their carts, a Viber bot reminds them about goods they didn’t buy. Or after the purchase, a chatbot can recommend similar items or send an offer based on the customer information. Or it can send coupons and time-limited discounts. This feature is amazingly powerful, and the possibilities are endless!

Messenger bots allow brands to have two-way conversations at scale and collect the information needed to create a unique retail experience.

There are two ways of collecting user information: active and passive.

The active way means directly asking questions. For instance, a bot might ask a person about their age or gender, tag this information, and use it in future conversations.

Data gathered passively comes from people’s actions and behaviours. Let’s say, a salad bar launches a Viber bot that helps people choose and order food and drinks. The chatbot can use information of customers to offer them, say, their favourite salads at their lunchtime or inform them about new menu offerings.

In any case, personalisation not just greatly simplifies the purchasing process, but, more importantly, makes people feel special.

Chatbots are inevitable

Let’s accept the fact that bots are impossible to ignore. Although when Facebook’s virtual assistance died, we almost believed chatbots were dead too.

The retail sector is the one that stands to gain most from the use of chatbots, estimating that by 2023 over 70% of chatbots accessed will be retail-based. Both customer service and e-commerce are key use cases, with benefits such as cost savings, upselling, marketing and cart recovery as major retailer chatbot ‘push’ factors.

In a nutshell

There is promise of good times ahead. It’s about technology that is to do with creativity, opportunities, and challenges. And this is your turn to seize the moment and develop your own e-commerce chatbot. Have an idea in mind? Let’s have a chat!

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