Guide to Chatbots

One of the hottest marketing and e-commerce tools of the trade right now are chatbots – bots programmed to answer customer queries and complete background tasks. As technology continues to advance, chatbots are increasingly artificially intelligent, becoming more conversational and knowledgeable in their customer relations. Some can even gather information about your target audience and respond to voice-search commands. Here is all you need to know about why and how to get started integrating chatbots into your business strategy.


The Chatbot In Your Pocket

You probably already interact with chatbots more than you realize. If you use Siri on iOS, Cortana for Android, Google Assistant on your Google smartphone, Bixby for Samsung, or any other intelligent personal assistant on your day-to-day devices, you’re talking to a chatbot! They can run on a multitude of apps and websites, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, text message automations, and retail sites, as well as voice-based technology like Alexa and Amazon Echo.

These are examples of chatbots you’ve used as a consumer. You may have told one to order a product for you, forecast the weather, perform complex math, find that song stuck in your head all day, or even tell you jokes. They’re designed to simplify and expedite tasks for you. Chatbots help consumers find solutions to their issue no matter where the person is or what device they’re using — no need to fill out forms, clutter inboxes, or waste time searching and scrolling through content. What you may not realize is how they can do the same for your business as well.


Why You Should Integrate Chatbots Into Your Strategy

To stay on the pulse of consumer behavior, your online business should populate marketing and commerce resources wherever they go. Messenger tools are starting to get used more than social networks, both in apps and on the web, for customer service interactions. It’s a significant business opportunity, and studies have shown that consumers are ready for it.

In a digital landscape increasingly moving towards personalization, your customers want to be assured that their specific problem matters to you and that you will be able, willing, and enthusiastic to help them. You and your employees may not have the time and resources to pick through every question after question that a customer has, though. Enter the chatbot, specifically designed to take care of both your needs.


How To Build Your Chatbot

Chatbots function in one of two ways:

  1. Based on Rules – this bot is as smart as you program it to be. It responds to a limited range of commands and questions that you assign.
  2. Based on Artificial Intelligence – this bot learns from its conversations. It responds not just to assigned commands and questions, but language.

In either scenario, they are created for a specific purpose – whether that is to purchase items, answer customer queries, schedule an appointment, et cetera.

Once you’ve set your purpose and decided on a functionality, it’s time to build your chatbot. You don’t have to know how to code to do this, as there is a wealth of online tools and builders to help you. Here are some popular ones:

  • Chatfuel for Facebook
  • Botsify for websites and Facebook
  • FlowXO for multiple platforms
  • ChatterOn for cost-effective AI bots
  • Botkit for both code-based building and a community of developers

The downside to using a service instead of developing your own chatbot is that it can limit your creativity and, since it’s through a third-party hosting service, you’re stuck with them. Nevertheless, these are great solutions for services that will get you started. If you would like to develop your own, here are some instructions for how to build a chatbot using Node.js and MongoDB. You can even download pre-developed chatbots to integrate via sites like Botlist.


The Future of Chatbots

In 2019, we’re already starting to see trends projecting the future of chatbots. They are getting more human-like because of a program called Natural Language Processing. This allows the chatbot to respond in naturally flowing, complete sentences. Plus, because of personalization tools and deep data mining, chatbots can also start learning how to craft a more individualized experience for consumers.

The advantage to these developments are twofold. One, is that leads can be nurtured at every stage of need without taking extra work for your team while keeping your customers engaged. Second, is that it helps foster trust in your business – and trust in any other digital tools you may implement down the line, like voice-recognition assistants or even augmented reality programs.