Both technological capabilities and consumer preferences are evolving faster than ever before, which amplifies the challenge organizations have as they attempt to establish and maintain competitive advantage. It is not surprising, then, that organizations of all sizes are struggling to adopt artificial intelligence and weave it into a comprehensive consumer engagement strategy.
The promise of artificial intelligence (AI) is compelling; a world where humans can interact with intelligent computers to perform tasks more efficiently. While 2016 may not be the year the promise of AI is fully realized, it is certainly the year that it becomes an integral part of communication strategies for leading organizations. In fact, these emerging capabilities are increasingly being applied to business.
IBM Watson, for example, is incorporating its machine learning offerings into healthcare, finance and education. With a conversational nature and vast knowledge base, AI is a natural fit for business. It’s such a good fit, in fact, that it’s slowly rendering the apps businesses have focused on over the past few years obsolete.
An interface out of place
For the past few years, businesses have relied on mobile apps to interact with their customers, and it’s not hard to see why.
But mobile apps aren’t always going to be the best channel to engage with customers. Getting your customers to download your application is expensive (averaging $4.73 per installation). In addition, getting your customers to keep your mobile application on their phone is difficult: Despite the fact that every day over 50 million mobile apps are downloaded, 95% are abandoned within a month. Finally, getting your customers to use your mobile application more than once is difficult: 79% of consumers will only retry an app once or twice before abandoning it.
With most apps touting different user interfaces and functions, it’s no surprise that messaging apps have surged to the forefront of the app market. Their simplicity and ease of conversation, not to mention free or low cost communication, attracts users the world over (six out of 10 of the top global mobile apps are messaging apps). But keep in mind that native text messaging (SMS) lays claim as the most adopted and frequently used feature on a phone, according to Pew Research.
Given the landscape outline above, some key questions emerge. Where does artificial intelligence come into play? What are the best channels to introduce AI? Why is it that mobile applications and websites aren’t enough anymore to have a complete mobile strategy?
Enter the age of the chat bot.
Now you might be asking yourself, “What is a bot?” Truthfully, there are many definitions. Many will wait to see what Mark Zuckerberg comes up with. But for the sake of this article we’ll focus on chatbots, an evolution beyond the traditional virtual assistant. A chat bot is an automated communication tool that can process natural language via text message (SMS, Facebook Message, etc.) and actually transact.
2016 is the beginning of the post-graphical, pre-voice UI era (more on this to come), where text-based messaging is all you need to book a flight, make dinner reservations, or check to see if your local coffee shop has any of that espresso that you really like. And best of all, the messaging experience can be powered by artificially intelligent chat bots that can process natural language inputs and actually transact.
But this brings a few key questions come to mind:
- What if you could engage with your customers on an application they already have?
- What if you could engage with your customers on the application they use the most?
- What if you could engage with your customers on a channel where artificial intelligence is real and accessible to you today?
You can, and you can do it through text messaging.
According to Pew Research, texting is the most-used “app” on a smartphone, with 97% of respondents reporting that they used it at least once a day. From a business standpoint, texting platforms can also leverage integrations, such as those of artificial intelligence, to provide a personalized, more intelligent customer experiences. Texting is the first natural step for companies seeking to add AI to their business communications and be the proprietors of an intelligently automated customer experience.
This is extremely important, because currently, companies like Magic are making it possible for your customers give their business to who Magic thinks is best. Facebook M is allowing your customers to conduct commerce over Facebook Messenger. As a business owner, you should be asking, “What role does my company play in these transactions?” and “How can I let my customers engage with us in the same way, or better?”
Why rely on third-party solutions that allow customers to communicate with them over their channel of choice (messaging), when you could let your customers communicate in the same way directly with you? This is why your company needs a chat bot; so your customers can communicate and transact with you the way they want to without having to go through a third-party.
“This sounds really complicated.”
Think of building a chat bot as an exercise in composition, rather than development. Your company likely has many APIs that are already being used to power your mobile applications and internal tools. By using these existing APIs (both your internal ones and the ones offered by your existing software partners such as Salesforce, Stripe, etc.) in conjunction with powerful artificial intelligence services (such as IBM Watson), you have the technological bases covered. Think of SMS (or any messaging app) as just another interface to many of the features that you’ve already made available through other applications. Often times this ‘conversational UI’ is simply allowing you to get more value from the APIs that you’ve already built.
It’s not hard to get started with a chat bot–far from it. To get going, combine those various services you’ll need (AI, payment, communication) using a platform that allows you to iterate and pilot rapidly–preferably with a visual design tool.
The timing for chat bots is now. Businesses are just starting to realize their value, and the technology has been around long enough to reduce risk.
The only question that remains is:
“What are you waiting for?”
To learn more about providing a great customer experience through text messaging, download our whitepaper here.
Image of woman artificial intelligence courtesy of Pixabay. CC0 License.