Updated: Jul 18, 2019
Transforming the landscape of future digital marketing, chatbots - a piece of software that mimics human conversation using AI - are rapidly gaining in popularity.
However, while the search dynamics for the term, ‘chatbot’ in Google Trends (01/01/2016 - 01/01/2019, worldwide) shows the increasing popularity of our AI friends, can we really view chatbots as friends? Or are they our foe? What are the pros and cons of a bot-filled future?
So, what actually are chatbots?
Whether you’re using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber or WeChat, you can now chat with automated bots to make your customer experience simpler. For example, if you were planning a night in with a friend, you could invite KFC’s chatbot to your conversation to order your takeout. There’s no need to move to a new browser or app, it’s all there at your finger-lickin’ tips.
From Uber pairing with Facebook so customers can order a taxi via Messenger, to Mastercard using Messenger for customers to check their bank transactions, chatbots allow quicker, easier customer service. But this isn’t the only reason they’ve become so popular.
Why are chatbots so popular?
The rise in chatbot interaction mirrors the rise in the amount of time we as individuals currently dedicate to messenger apps, their usage overtaking that of social networks. According to Statista, 2.01 billion people around the world used mobile messaging apps in 2018, with this number predicted to rise to 2.48 billion by 2021. Such apps are therefore becoming a key focal point for businesses and marketers who are continually seeking more personal ways to connect with us, their target audience.
The question is, while businesses believe new B2C connections are imperative for progression, do we really want to be marketed to this way? Do we as a society want to progress towards a Minority Report, Tom Cruise, eventuality where targeted marketing has a boundless presence?
Why might businesses and consumers need to be cautious of overusing chatbots?
On the one hand chatbots give us what we most desire – the most direct line to quick customer service. Yet, on the other, chatbots are entering into what has previously been viewed as a private sphere – our personal messages. Their presence can quickly feel invasive.
While we might initially be thrilled by the thought of never staying on hold again, a chatbot interaction can be far from perfect. Perhaps the bot doesn’t quite understand what we’re asking of it, or perhaps businesses use it to send spam messages about a LAST CHANCE TO BUY!!! offer, which was ironically ‘last chance’ last week. Just how much is convenience worth? For individuals already tempted by subtle marketing techniques, do we really wish to open the door to more targeted marketing?
So, are chatbots invasive or imperative?
Well, that decision is yours to make.