We may think that chatbots really only have one purpose. They’re a software written for customer service legwork. No more than an interactive troubleshooting tool. However, the future seems to have much bigger plans for machine learning.

There might be a more prominent place for AI in marketing in the future – for handling customer shopping experiences, bookings, payments and overall brand experiences. In this article, we’re looking at the latest interviews and headway made with conversational AI, to find out just how big chatbots will get.

Chatbots Today

Nowadays, chatbots are being used by small and large companies alike to boost their customer service efficiency, for one. The most favoured uses seem to be troubleshooting help, ordering food online (Domino pizza’s Dom, for example), and engaging with self-help apps (such as Casper).

Any communication more demanding than that poses a challenge for engineers and developers, as machine learning still has a long way to go before it can maintain a casual conversation. Which is why today they are used more as data collectors, there to make a customer’s experience with a business a little easier.

Mass Perception

If we take a look at Google’s voice assistant, or Alexa, or Siri, their main use reflects just how far people are willing to let chatbots into their lives. Still somewhat distrustful, they mainly ask for directions, the weather, look up songs and celebrities, or try finding the nearest restaurant.

Experts at PwC have published a report that showcased some customer concerns about conversational AI. They feel that, if a chatbot can’t understand their pronunciation or experiences bugs with something as simple as ordering takeout, how will it handle complex purchases or credit-card information?

Although, scepticism aside, people seem to be more and more comfortable with relying on chatbots to automate much of their everyday life. Which is where the future of marketing may lie.

Personal Marketing Assistants

If businesses had the option to build a marketing assistant, each personalised to specific customers that enter their online store, or visit their web page, it would change the game. With their impeccable response times, chatbots as personal marketing assistants could improve customer service greatly.

What is more, online shopping could benefit from chatbots handling checkout information, and then suggesting related items the customer might be interested in. By collecting information on product and service preferences, they could also deliver reports on current demographics and preferred means of paying or shopping.

How They Can Help Brands

When Google rolled out their latest (and greatest) chatbot, Duplex, it caused quite a stir. Not only was it able to emulate the casual tone of a human speaker, but it also used conversational fillers, such as “uhm” or “ah”. Most impressively – it can verbally schedule dinners, meetings, and various appointments. With Duplex, Google has created a chatbot that adapts to the user, instead of the other way around. You no longer need to repeat certain words because the AI was unable to pick them up, and most people couldn’t tell they were not speaking to a human on the other line.

From a marketing standpoint, this is a great opportunity for brands to explore how chatbots such as Duplex can improve their customer support service. Or better, to see the benefits of implementing an AI assistant on their website for various customer needs. This can add a touch of personalisation to the brand, as ironic as that sounds.

Why? A web pages with a chatbot leaves a more welcoming impression than one without it. It gives the illusion of a two-sided conversation, even if it’s AI.

The Human Factor

Does this mean that people in customer service should fear for their jobs? Absolutely not. While the future of chatbots seems bright and favourable, they still have a lot to learn. Literally.

Phil Hall, founder of Elzware, said in an interview that there is still significant headway to be made. Chatbots are being made by engineers, programmers, and mathematicians on their own. By including linguists, poets, marketers, or comedians even, there’s no knowing in which direction machine learning can go. It will enable chatbots to become better at predicting queries, answering them, and even acting as conversational partners, promoters, and advisers.

There is still work for the human operators, as no AI can really predict human behaviour and respond accordingly. The former are more adaptable and equipped to handle unexpected turns of a conversation.

In the End

There is a lot more to be said about machine learning, artificial intelligence, and their future in all aspects of our lives – especially in marketing and business. However, the collective consumer mindset is still set on preferring human interactions to chatbots. And for the time being, chatbots and virtual assistants are limited to online orders, text blasts, and simple customer service. The future seems bright, but still quite a way away.

Published by Michael Deane