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Chatbots are a simple and fun way to help shoppers find what they are looking for and enhance their online customer experience. Thanks to recent advances, web developers are now creating chatbots that are ever-more human, aiding the flow of communication by recognizing verbal patterns and interpreting non-verbal signs.

Chat applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook messenger allow users to access various services via chatbots. But chatbots are also business tools, designed to provide low-cost customer support, friendly advice and instant help with consumer queries.

For many brands however, the most interesting thing about chatbots is not their present capabilities but rather what they will be able to do in the future. With their increasingly human traits, such bots will soon create an illusion of companionship which is irresistible to the human mind. Given this advancement, it’s important to ask what the implications of this will be for brands striving to create ever-more personalized digital experiences?

Chatbots Get More 'Human' – What Could Go Wrong?

When interacting with chatbots, our brain is led to believe that it is chatting with another human being. This happens as bots create a mental perception of the interaction, encouraging the customer to ascribe other human features to the bot that it does not possess. On a psychological level, we interpret interactions with chatbots in the same way we would develop a companionship or making a new friend. This perception has its benefits for brands looking to build personal relationships but can also lead to complications.

The human brain is very susceptible to a combination of intelligence and loyalty. We yearn to be heard but we do not necessarily want to listen. Bots offer artificial empathy which appears real. Humans can be selfish and independent, whereas chatbots offer unlimited loyalty, always have time and are always there for us. This may be responsible for our constant turning to technology in an effort to help us feel comforted and in control.

A recent study published by Chatbots Magazine found 67 percent of consumers now expect to use messaging apps when talking to a business. Brands cannot ignore this when designing their customer experiences. A bot can potentially provide greater convenience than apps and web searches because it can understand natural speech patterns and provide personalized experiences in an otherwise impersonal user interface. A chatbot also doesn’t need the emotional involvement and interpretation of nonverbal cues required by humans, thus making our interactions with it much easier and more direct.

So what does this mean for brands and business leaders in an age where customers demand personalized digital experiences? When can bots really add value to customer service?

Related Article: Do Chatbots Dream of Electric Sheep?

Guide Customer's Online Journeys With Chatbots

According to research from Clicktale, consumers rank fast and responsive customer support as their #1 factor for improving online experiences. With this in mind, brands must work hard to ensure that access to customer service remains a central part of their website flows and customer journeys — and chatbots will be a vital step in achieving that.

By employing machine learning, which makes it possible to interpret the mindset of customers coming to a website, brands can now develop a more accurate customer profile than ever before. This, combined with data of an individual’s shopping intent, can help brands to automatically adapt their shopping experiences. Here’s where chatbots come into the picture. Businesses can not only quantify intent and respond to it with personalized online experience, they can also design chatbots that will do the same.

A chatbot can detect our on-site actions — what page we land on, where we click or move our mouse, how quickly we scroll through which pages, how we interact with the site navigation — and determine our mindset. It can also know which options we have been checking on the site and respond by suggesting how to narrow down the options. It can tell at what stage of a buying process we are and our propensity to buy and guide us as quickly as possible through the process. 

In short, a chatbot can support our online journey, guide us and assist in real-time, offering the personalized experience customers expect from successful brands.

Related Article: A Good Chatbot Is Hard to Find