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Voice interfaces, chatbots and the future of ecommerce

February 1, 2018

Voice interfaces, chatbots and the future of ecommerce

As artificial intelligence (AI) has matured, chatbots – programs designed to emulate human interaction in messaging applications – have become more sophisticated.

And as humans have matured, they’ve become more comfortable dealing with chatbots and doing their business with a computer.

Voice is shaping up as the next major advance in human/machine interfaces. Voice interfaces are nothing new, thanks to Alexa, Cortana, Siri and their friends. But before we begin speaking to our websites and phones all the time, many of us are having conversations with type-enabled chatbots.

Chatbots take advantage of natural language recognition technology to understand your queries in context. They’re like a search engine that already understands what you’re talking about, because its host site, application or provider situates it within an area or topic.

They’re (literally) plugged into the relevant services and information sources, making it easier than ever to conduct your business. Chatbots are an increasingly popular first port of call for customers, making customer care more efficient and cost-effective.

Thanks to rapidly evolving AI technology, consumers are warming up to the practice of interacting with chatbots for quick online solutions. In fact, a recent survey by LivePerson – a provider of cloud mobile and online business messaging solutions – showed that 75 per cent of Australians prefer to deal with customer service bots for simple tasks.

WHY USE CHATBOTS?

Chatbots are becoming more popular because websites, especially e-commerce websites, can’t do everything. Around ninety percent of calls to a company originate from the website, because customers can’t get the answers they want.

Chatbots that are well-programmed and frequently updated can take these calls and resolve many queries without needing to go to a human operator. They can interact with customers over the phone, or more popularly through messaging apps or website ‘live chats’. The Museum of Australian Democracy, for example, uses a Facebook Messenger chatbot to help kids engage with Australian history.

In these text-based formats, chatbots can answer simple questions or walk customers through actions on the website, such as paying a bill. The benefits for enterprises are obvious in terms of cost savings but using chatbots for routine tasks also eliminates tedious work for customer care agents by monitoring customer engagement.

Consumers, on the other hand, receive quick assistance for simple problems, and can be passed along to a human at any point if their issues prove too complex.

WHO’S USING CHATBOTS?

It’s not uncommon to engage with a chatbot when browsing an online retail store, but what about industries that deal with our sensitive information, such as banking and insurance? Research by Accenture shows that 60 per cent of Australians would use entirely computer-generated support for banking/purchasing insurance/investment advice.

The finance industry has been quick to embrace new technologies to connect with customers, and chatbots are no exception. UBank has introduced RoboChat, which it claims is Australia’s first virtual assistant to help potential home buyers and refinancers with their applications.

BEYOND CUSTOMER CARE

Chatbots aren’t just a way to ease the burden on your customer service department; they can also generate sales leads for companies. Website chatbots provide two-way communication on a company platform that has historically acted as a one-way street.

This means users who are interested in products can get information and ask questions immediately, allowing businesses to catch leads while they’re hot. By using chatbots to ask customers questions and gather valuable data, human salespeople can also follow up with tailored solutions.

As AI technology continues to grow in complexity, chatbot functionality and realism will also improve. Now is a great time to start considering a technology that can save money, improve the happiness of staff and customers, and generate new business for your company.