You may or may not know it yet, but Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to continue to change the way we use the Internet, both on a day-to-day consumer level as well as in the digital marketing sphere. In fact, a recent article from Business Insider claims that 80% of companies will be using chatbots by 2020.
If you’re someone who’s at all familiar with digital marketing, you may already have a basic understanding of how AI-based platforms can boost ROI; since they currently offer a range of services, it’s feasible that in the near future they’ll be quite commonplace in the digital industry.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why chatbots for business are poised to be one of the best tools of the future and explore some of their key applications.
Using chatbots for marketing activities such as ad targeting, lead generation, and SEO is becoming more and more commonplace. We’re also going to see a rise in AI-based machines making bigger and bigger business decisions in an automated way. At least, that’s where the technology is headed. They are certainly becoming easier to integrate into regular existing platforms as well as websites, so at a general level, it makes sense for businesses to focus on incorporating them into their core service features.
When you think of AI, what do you think of? 60’s sci-fi with robot servants, or dark post-apocalyptic scenarios where machines rule the world? While it’s true that machines are poised to do more and more “thinking” for us, we’re not likely to see either of these two scenarios in the real world. AI technology is really focused on analyzing data in order to make decisions, not to be used for unethical purposes.
AI technology harnesses machine learning to function – that is, machines essentially teach themselves to problem-solve and think. You’ve probably already experienced AI technology if you’ve used Siri or a personal assistant such as Microsoft’s Cortana, which has the capacity to set reminders and answer questions based on voice recognition.
Remember when Facebook took over WhatsApp and Instagram? Well if you don’t, you should know that they’re now both one and the same, in some ways. One reason for this merger is that instant messaging is going to be key to the success of businesses in the near future – and it’s already being used extensively: according to Statistica, some 2 million people are expected to be using mobile messenger apps in 2018, and this number is only expected to rise.
Messaging applications are extremely promising communication tools not just for social media, but as standalone tools. They offer a new context for organizations to stay in touch with both B2B and B2C customers. Chatbots are already incorporated into Facebook messenger, and both businesses and consumers are using them to make all kinds of purchases.
Right now, digital marketing is based on a lot of guesswork, and while computer-generated metrics allow us to build marketing strategies that are far more advanced than anything from the Mad Men era of marketing, there’s a lot of room for improvements.
For instance, a lot of digital marketing today is testing, experimenting and adjusting in order to constantly improve our marketing strategy. This takes up a lot of time, expertise and brainpower, of course. But with advancements in AI, we’ll be able to take extremely large datasets (metadata) and incorporate them into automated tools like chatbots for superior customer service experiences without having to pay staff to essentially “answer the phones.”
One thing that businesses struggle with today is providing optimal customer service during non-standard business times. This is something that is even more pronounced with the advent of globalization – many expect immediate customer service because, as online businesses, they are essentially “available” 24-7.
But with AI technology in the digital consumer sphere, all we need to do now is simply “go” to a website, and the chatbots are not only just there doing unpaid labor, they’re becoming increasingly aware of what you are looking for and how they can help you find this in the blink of an eye. This type of personalization has been virtually unheard of in the automated sphere up until now. Other features that customers can enjoy include:
Chatbots offer businesses the opportunity to have customer service inquiries of all types answered at any time of day, from anywhere and even through holidays and weekends when storefronts are typically closed, and staff is out of office. And even if a chatbot is not advanced enough to solve a complex problem, offering a personalized, immediate response to customer concerns can go a long way towards building brand awareness.
Chatbots have the ability to interact with customers essentially emotional - and bias-free. They are, at least in theory, the perfect “employees” because they will not, for instance, get angry with customers. This, of course, can go both ways, since customers will likely want to “know” that they’re interacting with a human if they are emotional – but in general, there are some positive applications to the non-emotional side of service.
One of the most important applications of machine learning in business is that, in its ability to synthesize metadata, AI-based applications can quickly and easily personalize the customer experience. This may take on the form of product recommendations (as you already see when you shop on Amazon, for instance) or even having a website set up so that customers are more likely see their “best” products first.
Customers already love the different experiences chatbots are offering the public in retail and customer service. Some appreciate the extra personalized service and correspondence that’s more immediate than email. Popular brands currently using chatbots include Spotify, which gives you music recommendations based on your activity, Whole Foods, which has their own Facebook Messenger-based bot that helps you search for store goods, and makeup tutorials from Sephora.
There are certainly some grey areas to work out with regards to ethics and privacy as well as overall quality assurance when it comes to using automated technology as “people.” For a business, this is especially critical with the incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) policy, which protects the privacy of EU citizens and the data they share online.
There are many ethics and policy standards that businesses need to consider as they incorporate this important new innovation into their platforms, with privacy and data ownership being two key issues. While these issues are really at the hands of privacy experts, IT specialists and developers, businesses should still be aware of the ethical dangers of chatbots.
Whether chatbots will eventually “replace” people is anybody’s guess at this point. Some jobs that they are currently taking on include personal assistant, fast food server, and social media manager, but it’s going to be quite a while until they make enough of an impact in the job market that we really feel the difference.
This is a question that many people have, and there’s no real definitive answer right now. Ethically, companies and creators do have an obligation to manage this, so there’s probably not much to worry about at this point. Businesses absolutely need to be cautious about their use of chatbots and ensure that they have real-life customer service available as well.
The future of digital marketing will be heavily directed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications including chatbots. While it seems that there’s a positive response to many chatbot applications in the customer service world, it’s important that a measured approach is taken to implementing these technologies.
As with any aspect of the digital marketing industry, you need to gain a solid understanding of this fascinating technology in order to weigh the benefits of it against your business objectives.
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