Chatbots have become a staple in design -- from websites to apps and beyond. That's because they are extremely efficient, give users a positive experience and lead to actions on the part of the consumer that benefit your brand.
In fact, chatbots aren't the robotic responders of years passed. Thanks to AI technology, some of the most advanced bots can answer questions and lead users on a journey that might even be more helpful than if they were talking to a real-life person.
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Modern businesses can -- and should -- integrate chatbots into their business strategy. What's more, the best agencies understand chatbots' hidden ability to drive sales, increase conversions and establish a strong, stable brand identity.
So let's learn more about chatbots and all that they're capable of.
What Is A Chatbot?
A chatbot is a service powered by a form of artificial intelligence (AI) that you can interact with through a chat interface (Facebook Messenger is a great example of what this may look like). The purpose of the service varies from website-to-website and product-to-product. It can serve a value-added function, or be just for fun.
According to Poll Maker,81 percent of people will use a chatbot, 7 percent don’t know they’re using a chatbot and 12 percent aren’t sure if the person they interact with is “real” or not.
This might make some consumers wary, but with the prevalence of this technology, the benefits outweigh the costs -- as long as you know what you're doing.
What Is AI Technology?
Artificial technology is the act of creating an intelligence within computers, items or machines that are comparable to human intelligence. Chatbots are just one piece of the AI technology puzzle.
Many chatbots also incorporate another layer of artificial intelligence called machine learning. This is a complex system where a computer, through analyzing various situations and collecting data, makes fact and behavior-based decisions. It is machine learning that powers a lot of human-like interactions or computer-centric personalization surrounding customers.
Machine learning uses algorithms that help the software absorb more information and make decisions accordingly. But it should always be guided -- or corrected -- by a human.
So, How Smart Is AI?
There’s no denying that through machine learning, AI bots are smart — to an extent. But how intelligent are they exactly?
Well, according to recent studies, is Google’s AI. While all four virtual assistants perfectly understood all 800 queries throughout the study, the percentage of correct responses differed.
This year, Google’s AI answered 85.5 percent of queries correctly, followed by Siri with 78.5 percent, Cortana with 52.4 percent and Alexa with 61.4 percent.
Last year, Google’s assistant had an IQ of 48, while Siri was well below it, with an IQ of 23.9. Bing and Baidu had a similar IQ around 32.
How Chatbots Actually Work
Chatbots recognize trigger points, questions, phrases and user intent. The first thing you need to understand is that while they are good at this recognition, they aren’t perfect.
Chatbots have an entire mapping process that will help them understand user intent depending on phrasing and beyond. From this, they craft a response from a catalog of pre-installed responses.
If the chatbot is confident enough in its response, it will send out an automated message. If that confidence falls under a certain percentage, the chatbot will invite a customer service agent to join in and continue.
If we want to get more technical with this explanation, we would say that bots use several techniques to map the questions and responses. For example, they use entity recognition — where they look for certain categories, like product name, address or anything similar.
They also analyze speech parts – nouns, verbs, subjects and objects in a sentence. Furthermore, good chatbots will analyze a customer’s happiness and whether the experience they are receiving is classified as a good one, or if it’s deteriorating and it would best benefit from a human intervention.
Chatbots are equally complicated and simple. They rely heavily on machine learning and artificial intelligence to engage with users and, essentially, figure things out as they go along. But they are a great tool for brands and businesses, and can actually change consumer perceptions for the better going forward.
Is Alexa A Chatbot?
Well… All voice assistants are bots powered by AI, and all have a chat function. So the answer could easily be a yes, but usually, when people say chatbot, they’re thinking about written chat.
That being said, there is an interesting correlation between chatbot users and owners of a smart speaker.
Roughly the same percentage of people who use chatbots also own a smart speaker — 16 percent, in fact.
In America alone, there are around 39 million people who use chatbots and smart speakers. And more importantly, this number continues to grow.
More than 66 percent claim they use their smart speaker so that they can perform basic functions like play music, get news updates and more. But it looks like more people are actually using these smart speakers like an AI chatbot.
People have become more reliant on smart speakers and other devices that infuse AI voice technology. And this tells us one important thing — people are more than ready to interact with AI technology like chatbots.
And that's a good thing for your business. It means that you can more fluidly integrate these technologies without worrying consumers will be turned off by them.
Fun Fact: Did you know that chatbots as an idea originated in the 1950s?
Chatbots have become an essential part of our digital experience. They exist in many places and in many forms. And while they might rub you the wrong way, they are actually an important feature in web design — because they work to alleviate more stress than they incur. And they can make your consumers feel at ease.
This makes it even easier for your audience to trust you and follow through with a purchase -- which is ultimately your goal.
Why Are Chatbots Important In Web Design And How Do They Increase Conversions?
Well, in short, the real opportunity around chatbots stems from the fact that people are using messaging platforms more than they are using social networks, and they have been for some time now.
This shift towards message-based apps over social networking platforms means that your company’s target audience is more present on Facebook Messenger, What’s App, Viber and other chat services than Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
With this in mind, the underlying benefit of chatbots relates to the potential for designers to get creative and develop new ways that users can interact with chatbots, and for what purposes.
What The Top Professional Agencies Know About Chatbot Technology -- And You Should, Too
The best web design and development agencies are working on more and more chatbot platforms. Luckily, they have experts in place who are well-versed in the technology and able to implement strategic chatbot solutions for clients. In fact, many businesses use conversational design as a cohesive marketing tool across many channels.
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But most importantly, top design firms know how to navigate this ever-changing tech-savvy trend in order to produce the most effective website possible. Here's what brands should know before implementing a chatbot on their site.
1. You don’t have to be an expert in artificial intelligence.
One concern that many businesses have regarding chatbots is that they need to have a bundle of knowledge about artificial intelligence in order to integrate an effective chatbot. But that’s not necessarily true.
In fact, the most important and trickiest part of a chatbots design is the actual user experience itself. Hence, this is where UX designers, in particular, will come into their own.
Remember that the main thing you’re creating is essentially a conversation, so spend time considering how you’re going to integrate the ‘right’ words alongside the additional elements like chat bubbles and emojis to create the best UI and user experience possible.
2. Navigational flow is still crucial.
There’s often a misconception with chatbots that navigation structure and flow goes out the window purely because it’s a chat box or message app. You should really be thinking about possible scenarios at every stage of the conversation.
Which interactive element can, and should, the user use?
What will happen if they misunderstand any step, and what are the consequences of this? For example, can they ‘go back’, or skip steps?
When should words be replaced with GIFs, emojis, or images - and when should words always be used?
3. You can use chatbot tools to prototype your website designs.
Just like interface design tools, chatbot prototyping tools are beginning to spring up and we’ve found a few that you might find useful when designing your first chatbot. Each varies in terms of who will be able to use them due to more/less exposure to designing chatbots previously, but each is worth some consideration.
Bot Society: Export your designed conversation on a video. New additions are being made to the platform on a regular basis, so expect this tool to improve over the coming months.
Bot Frame: You can generate a customizable conversation and export it to png.
Octaneai: Geared towards commerce platforms - allows you to automatically send welcome messages, receipts, shipping notifications, abandoned cart campaigns, and much more.
Chat Fuel: Offers chatbots for Facebook Messenger and you’ll be able to build one in literally a matter of minutes - pretty impressive!
4. Create a personality for your chatbots.
Giving your chatbot a personality is important, and it’s worth considering the implications of the type of personality you opt for.
A great example of forming a personality around your content is Quartz's news app. It's an ongoing conversation about the news and global economy, but they’ve opted for a light-hearted touch to break up what can naturally be quite heavy or deep reading.
The Quartz app is just one example of how chatbots can be leveraged to provide a far more engaging conversation than the typical blog and comment section usually can provide.
5. Have a human back-up to your chatbot in place as a failsafe.
We can’t stress this enough. You can’t rely on chatbots to handle ALL your customer service needs. You can’t expect them to perform better than humans – yet.
When designing a chatbot it’s important to consider the points where a user may need or be better off with a human to discuss something with. For example, when booking.com released their ‘Booking Assistant’ they opted to include a human back-up as part of their customer service team to ensure that should any user get stuck or need additional help there would always be someone readily available.
In their case, a smaller team of customer service employees were able to categorize and address any queries which couldn’t be resolved automatically via the chatbots.
When people are outraged by something, they want to talk about it. And it’s likely that they will want to talk to a real person about their issues. A good, experienced customer service rep can diffuse the situation, offer some perks, and even strengthen the brand loyalty in that customer in ways a bot can’t.
It’s probably even happened to you personally — you complained, got more than a satisfactory response, compensation, or benefit and then you boasted about that company’s customer service.
Brands are trying to conquer the market by appealing emotionally to their target audiences — by acting like human entities.
People will judge a brand, not by their mistakes, but by the way they handle them.
That is the essence of customer service and customer experience.
How Chatbots Can Increase Your Online Conversions
1. A More Positive Customer Service Experience
People want to have a positive experience with your brand. They want to be happy with your products, the process and everything in between. Chatbots can help guide users where they need to go by answering questions. And they are also an essential tool for dealing with customer complaints.
A chatbot can easily understand a user's experience and guide them to the right people or the right resources to ensure that their problems can be solved.
$1.6 trillionin revenue is lost every year thanks to consumers switching from brands due to bad customer service.
People who have a negative customer service experience are likely not to return, and chatbots can alleviate those stressors so your customers keep coming back and keep buying.
2. Quicker Checkout
23 percent of consumers will abandon their cart if it takes too long or requires too many steps.
But luckily, a chatbot can shorten the process by providing users the ability to streamline the entire process.
This comes in the form of a shopping assistant or AI technology that checks in with the user while they're shopping to ask questions and provide any insights they might be looking for.
3. Exciting Upsell Potential
Another key benefit of chatbots which help them drive conversions is that they're always learning.
Thanks to AI and machine learning technologies, chatbots can take the information they've learned about specific consumers and then offer them more products or services to choose from.
They can base this off of their previous buying habits and the information they've provided through these communication channels.
This helps your brand sell more and get more consumers hooked right off the bat.
Tips and Tricks for Creating A Successful Chatbot
Before you decide to create and embed a chatbot into your designs, there are some things you need to consider:
Which interactive element can and should your brand use?
What will happen if they misunderstand a step, and what are the consequences of this? For example, can they “go back,” or skip steps?
When should words be replaced with GIFs, emoji, or images — and when should the words only be used?
But remember this: chatbots should empower your customer service, not frustrate your audience.
Throughout the process, remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Why are you integrating AI chatbot technology? Is it for customer service? Is it for brand identity? Is it for the user experience?
Your goal will drastically affect how it is integrated.
Here are some quick tips and tricks for using a chatbot:
Create a navigation system that lets users lead the conversation — and go back if necessary.
Users must have an option to pose different questions and go back, at all times. Designing a chatbot can uncover faults in these navigations, and the last thing you want is a customer stuck in a “20-questions” scenario, without the possibility of backing out, thanks to a misinterpretation in the beginning.
Use pointers from an existing customer service team.
These are the people who work tirelessly to service a lot of customers, and chances are, they already have well-formulated responses for the questions they habitually receive.
Your customer service team should be your guide through the chatbot mapping process, pointing out trigger points, obvious answers and possible conversation topics.
Create a chatbot with a clear purpose.
Don’t try to incorporate everything into one chatbot. Be clear about your goals and design the chatbot accordingly. You can have a bot that will upsell, offer sales pitches, deals and promotions, just like you can have a chatbot that offers customer service help, answers simple questions and more.
Let people know — or don’t.
Determine whether you want people to know immediately if they’re chatting with a bot, or keep it a secret. It’s entirely up to you and both have their pros and cons.
If people know they’re talking to a chatbot, they won’t be surprised by some answers and mistakes in the conversational process. They’ll be aware and ready for them.
If people don’t know they’re talking to a chatbot, and they expect a human, realizing the contrary might give them some doubts about your intentions. They might be outraged both by the fact that you tried to hide it and by the fact that their complaint hasn’t been heard by a human being.
Lyft lets you request a ride right from their Facebook messenger app, or you can even use your Amazon Echo to order a ride. They will even let you know of current ETA times, driver’s plate numbers and car model. This AI technology is exceptionally and creates a seamless user experience.
Order your caffeinated beverage or a snack in advance through text messages or voice commands. You can use the Starbucks chatbot in the Starbucks app — which also increases app engagement and helps them stay relevant.
App abandonment is a real issue, and this chatbot provides Starbucks with continuous use of their app. Not only that, but it also helps customers order in advance, get info about their bill and lets them know when they can pick up the goods.
Spotify uses a Facebook Messenger bot to let people listen to music, search for songs and even share them. If you input some answers, you can get playlist personalization services and recommendations that are based on the genre you’re interested in, your current mood or whether you need something to take your mind off of things to aid you in specific situations like studying.
A simple chatbot in the Facebook Messenger can help you order a pizza in advance, both for delivery and carryout. Also, this chatbot lets you know about current deals and promotions, thus upselling and increasing the total bill and encouraging higher sales.
The Wall Street Journal cleverly uses Facebook Messenger to deliver stock quotes at customized alert times. You can compare companies, get live stock quotes, research company information and more. This builds the brand up and gives it an authority that is unmatched in the industry.
What Lies Ahead For The Future Of Chatbot Design?
As mentioned, the emphasis on chatbots is on creating a conversational flow that not only makes sense, but that is engaging, compelling, and actually results in a user learning something new, buying an item and having their concerns or queries addressed effectively.
It's an increasingly popular tool that brands should be leveraging to boost customer service, drive conversions and keep their audience happy.
Chatbots are the features of the future -- with more businesses embedding these bots into their websites, apps, messaging platforms and more.
They work to alleviate consumers stresses, transform consumer opinions and lead users on their journey. And with the number of consumers already willing and happy to accept chatbots, your business needs to jump on the bandwagon or get left behind.