March of the Chatbots: How Chatbots Will Disrupt the Media and Marketing Industry

Posted by Holly Maunders on 30 July 2018

We have another top 3 whitepaper by one of our amazing Squared Online Module 5 groups. A huge congratulations to Colin Atkins, Rocel Junio, Abigail Dede, Andrew Hutton, Ian Godfrey and Katie Boston for this outstanding paper on the rise of chatbot technology and its potential to disrupt the marketing sector.

Introduction

The recent surge in artificial intelligence (AI) has irrevocably transformed today’s business landscape. On a daily basis, consumers interact with such automated systems as self-serve grocery store checkouts, voice-interactive customer service lines, and the most recent digital innovation: the chatbot.1 While this transformation presents a myriad of opportunities for the marketing and media industry, the sheer volume of data presents huge challenges, too.

Intro 3
Data analysts suggest the digital universe will be 40 times bigger by 20202 and as Brian Solis states “technology is evolving faster than the majority of businesses or consumers can adapt to or assimilate”   to the extent that digital “evolution is disrupted, giving way to a revolution.”3 
 
Furthermore, IBM asserts that “marketing in the cognitive era is different. It requires embracing data in previously unseen ways to deepen customer connections and fuel strategic growth. That means tapping into structured and unstructured data, spanning the information you possess, the data outside your firewall, and the data that’s coming.”4
 
On the other side of the data mountain are people without the ‘bandwidth’ to sift through the volume of available content (books, movies, songs, TV shows, ad infinitum). Much of this content is curated by consumers through apps. However, apps can add complication to the curation process. Finding the right app, signing up, signing in, learning a new interface, functionality disappointment, searching for a better app — all take time and still may not meet customer needs.
 
In tandem with this growth in data is a growing consumer expectation that brands will know them and address their needs at every stage of the customer journey. As Solis states: “people expect information to come to them and they expect it to appear personalised and contextualised”5.
 
This requires marketers to achieve a holistic understanding of the customer journey which is increasingly challenging in a multi-channel world. (E.g. just four touch points across four channels yields 256 possible paths to purchase.) The marketing and media industry needs to find a way of processing this data quickly and effectively.6
 
In addition are the societal concerns that people, especially children, are becoming addicted to their devices. Much of the activity online — search, comparative product or service research, diary organisation, grocery shopping, making payments, booking tickets — if delegated, could sharpen the quality of time spent online thus providing the media and marketing industry with further opportunities.
 
Recent innovations

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The development of chatbots or conversational artificial intelligence (CAI) is driven by innovations in artificial intelligence such as machine learning, natural language processors, multilingual interfaces together with mobile platform capacity and multi-channel capabilities.7 The more data that is fed into an AI platform, the better it becomes at understanding and responding to the tasks demanded from it. Whether the interaction with a chatbot is ‘human enough’ doesn’t really matter as users prefer chatbot communications.

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“This reflects our comfort level with bots and how they’ve become part of our personal lives.  And now, the time is ripe for chatbots to disrupt our workplaces,” said Farzin Shahidi, founder and CEO of Nextplane and Intrprtr.“Chatbots are the beginning of a new form of digital access, which centers on messaging. Chatbots bring commerce into this part of our lives, and will open up new opportunities,” adds Christie Pitts of Verizon Ventures9
Case Sudies
 
The increasing prevalence of chatbots and consumer 
communications is put into perspective by Gartner’s estimate that “by 2020 the average person will have more conversations with chatbots than with their spouse.”10 It is in this respect that chatbots have enormous potential to impact the industry by helping marketers achieve a holistic understanding of the data in pursuit of continually improving user experience and by managing the simpler direct brand and consumer communications.
 
Chatbot innovation has already reached a degree of functional maturity. ‘Informational’ is a bot’s understanding of natural language and its response, leading to the understanding of context.  This has enabled the advance from simple information exchange to ‘personalised’ user-specific messaging utilising customer data.  Which then gives us the mature ‘transactional’ chatbots that emulate human conversation, execute transactions and handle complex consumer intents.11
 
Benefits
  • Increased customer convenience and satisfaction- instant, 24hr customer engagement
  • Increased conversion rates
  • Personalised user experience based on existing customer data and current behaviour
  • Can offer specific guidance based on user behaviour
  • Handles customer service queries and FAQs- reduced need for support staff
  • Replaces apps that require download, storing and effort to use
  • Out of the box solutions are available; low development cost for lightweight bots
  • Provides intel on customer intent
  • Cross-organisational analysitcs & insights into the true 'voice of the customer'
  • Saves time and money by automating certain functions
  • Easily scales in response to business growth
Risks
  • Potential to be hacked
  • Spamming and phishing bots may reduce customer trust and therefore usage
  • Negative brand experience if query is too complex to handle by a bot
  • Displacement of low level workers
  • Negative experience if a query is not passed to a human soon enough
  • Poor implementation leading to poor customer experience
  • Customer thinking they are chatting with a human can lead to frustrations
  • Data security breaches on potentially large amounts of data
  • High value customers are not recognised and handled as effectively
  • Voice recognition errors (e.g. grammar, accent, pace) leading to customer frustration
  • Successful implementation dependant on top-down planning
Challenges
  • Natural language programs- limitations, access and implementation
  • Integration with existing CRM anbd analytics tools
  • Resources needed to maintain & develop bots
  • Limitations on data handling, manipulation & analysis
  • Cannot replace the 'human touch' element
  • Limitations on current AI to be able to answer queries 'outside of the script'
  • Ensuring data management is compliant with GDPR
  • Enterprise level bots need extensive development resources and budgets
  • Lack of trust from consumers in using technology-powered machinery
  • Chatbots should be encrypted and can hold highly sensitive information
  • Buy in from the C-level
Solutions to Risks and Challenges
(A)
As with any emerging technology, there are risks and challenges that need to be identified, assessed and mitigated. Input from senior executives and cross departmental collaboration is critical to set objectives with supporting goals, targets and KPIs to plan and measure the success of the chatbot. The appropriate solution can be chosen based on whether the objectives are to improve the customer brand experience by providing information/support, engagement or transacting functionality.
 
Careful consideration must be made on deciding whether to develop in-house or to work with a chatbot development partner – there are particular hurdles relating to security, CRM and analytics integration that may be overcome more efficiently and effectively by a partner.
 
Placement, branding and tone of voice are important considerations to ensure that user experience is consistent with other brand-customer touch points. It is also important that the chatbot is developed in alignment with the overall customer engagement process and does not interfere with existing high converting funnels. 
 
Recommendations
SfC 3
Emerging technology has enabled anyone in the media and marketing industry to create a chatbot. Consider development platforms that provide simple drag and drop tools to create chatbots (Chatfuel, Botsify, and ChatbotLab) and publish these bots on popular messaging platforms including Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and Instagram to increase reach. Through machine learning, your chatbots will ensure all available data is captured, analysed and re-interpreted, freeing up time and enabling you to focus on identifying key insights from which to develop your marketing strategy.
 
Providing customer service via a chatbot will make users comfortable and lessen the barriers to communication with them, delivering a better experience than having customers use their precious time calling or sending emails. Chatbots can provide answers immediately, a major benefit in a society driven by instant gratification where purchase decisions are taken in a moment. This will benefit your customers who will receive exceptional customer service and support on demand, while at the same time relieving the pressure on your marketing and customer service resources.
 
Moreover, with chatbots’ data-driven insights, tailored experiences with more relevant content will only strengthen the brand-consumer relationship. As Stefan Kojouharov, founder of Chatbots Life asserts, the key to chatbot success is “creating a great experience which leads to high engagement”12 resulting in “affinity, loyalty, and advocacy (that) are by-products of positive engagement and experiences”.13
 
Conclusion
“It’s the beginning of a brand new era — there was web, then mobile, then apps and now bots. It’s an incredibly powerful paradigm shift.”14 Chatbots are the future and so media and marketing professionals, whether agencies or client side, would be naive not to enlist the help of chatbots to manage the masses of data generated through multi-platform content. Furthermore it is in the interests of the customer that they embrace this trend. Fundamentally, chatbots improve the customer experience, produce tailored resolutions and gain faster insight than human capability. Chatbots are also applicable to business growth, for example a chatbot can be integrated into communication methods like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, saving on time and money. Businesses have also seen an increase in conversion rates as a chatbot’s AI functionality influences behaviour and raises the customer’s attention to new opportunities.
 
Simply put, without chatbots, marketeers have a harder task communicating to their target audiences. Chatbots streamline data processing, act as a customer service tool and enable brands to succeed in our technology driven society and to “come alive and speak at a personal level”15 to their customers.
 
The digital revolution has claimed many businesses, ones that appeared invincible to any market condition. (e.g. Blockbuster Video, Borders Books). How many businesses will the march of the chatbots claim? More importantly, will your business be one of them?

Sources
3  The End of Business As Usual, Brian Solis p.4
5  The End of Business As Usual, Brian Solis p.70 
11 Chatbot Executive Primer, www.247.ai X. http://www.andchill.io/ 
13 The End of Business As Usual, Brian Solis p.189
14  Mediative.com, 10_trends_for_Digital _Marketers_to_Prepare_for_in_2018
15  The End of Business As Usual, Brian Solis p.189 
 
Picture Sources
Introduction:
 
Recent Innovations
 
Solutions to Risks and Challenges
 
Recomendations
 

 

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Topics: Squared Network, Digital trends, Digital marketing, Business case studies, Whitepaper