And You Thought Chat Bots Could Only Chat?

They are the latest ‘in’ things in messaging technology – chat bots. Artificial intelligence – based computer programs that can simulate dialogue with people, chat bots are mostly used to have conversations (aka chats, ergo, ‘chat’ bots) with people on messaging apps. Chat bots ‘learn as they go’ and could be used in any chat product such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, etc.

As of now there are different kinds of chat bots that can chat with you and tell you about the weather, current affairs, or help you with your daily schedule, all from your smartphone. There also ‘shopping’ bots that can help you shop (by showing you selections based on your previously indicated preferences) right from your messaging app.

Chat bots are big news, because for the first time, right now, the number of people using messaging apps is greater than that using social media! Yes, messaging is bigger than social media!

But then, all these chat bots are focused on creating a good user experience for existing customers. What if they could be jigged around a little bit and repurposed so that they widen the reach of a product or service and draw more new customers? Wouldn’t it be really exciting to have chat bots do something really revolutionary, such as…?

  • Making your business fun AND attracting new customers: Facebook Messenger has come up with this funky cat named Poncho the Weather Cat that can not just provide weather forecasts but also find recipes, movie reviews, and more. Imagine something like this as a mascot for the Weather Channel! Would it not increase the number of people accessing a site traditionally seen as ‘boring’ (Chat about the weather? Really?) It could increase the ‘buzz’ factor about the service, attract more footfall and gather more information about potential leads…the possibilities are endless.
  • Injecting a bit of personalized fun into mail chains: We all dread those emails (that we’d rather see drop directly into our spam folder) that promise “Buy One Get One Free! Last day to shop!” Instead of this, what if we got a personal message from a chat bot from our favourite clothing store announcing, “Hi Tina, we got you that dress shirt you were looking for in your size at a 40% discount!” and you could buy it right there from the messenger by sending a message?
    Such a bot would be invaluably useful in case of repeat purchases such as printer ink. It would significantly increase brand recall value and in turn, increase repeat sales.

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  • Giving advice that nudges a searcher to a purchase: We all need advice from experts every now and then – about latest trends in fashion, the best restaurants to eat at, the best neighbourhoods for buying a home. All these are data-based queries that could well be answered by a bot. From giving advice to pointing the ‘asker’ towards a specific purchase is a short hop, with a possible human interface in between to cement the deal.
  • Crafting more intelligent surveys: It is common knowledge that surveys are boring and monotonous (no one ever jumps up in joy when asked to fill a questionnaire). If chat bots could conduct surveys that were adaptable – in that they changed the questions according to the responses – there is a great chance that deeper insights into the customer behaviour could be gleaned, which could be used to deliver better customer service and products. Not only would such surveys get a heartier response, they would also provide a more realistic picture of customer expectations.

There you are. Call it wishful thinking or just thinking ahead, if chat bots could be programmed to do the above (and, who knows, even more maybe?) they could pretty much revolutionize marketing, changing the way we shop, dine, rent, buy and more… all because of one simple act – chatting!

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