Chat bots might sound like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, but they’re very real and extremely powerful.
Let’s start by defining what chatbots are:
Chatbots are computer programs designed to imitate conversation with a real person online or via text.
Siri, Alexa, and Cortana are all chatbots, and so are customer service chat windows that pop up on some websites. Some bots, like Alexa and Siri, can handle complex conversations (OK, maybe Siri struggles sometimes!) Other bots, like some online banking apps, are programmed to respond to one-word commands.
So what’s the big deal with computer-generated conversation?
Chat bots are great because they can do things like answer customer service inquiries and help shoppers find what they’re looking for. And they're so effective because they're built on platforms people are already using.
Chat bots work with apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat. These apps have a whopping 5 billion users every month! Your customers are definitely among those users. And any marketer will tell you, going where your customers are is never a bad idea.
Once your chatbot is there, what can it do?
Your Newest Employee is a Chatbot
You’ve probably used customer service chatbots on other sites and that’s a big part of what they’re used for. They can do so much more, though!
- Customer Service: Up to 75% of customers think it takes too long to reach a live customer service agent when they contact a company. Although chatbots aren't live agents, they can help lessen frustration by providing responding to customers 24/7. Not bad for artificial intelligence!
- Shopping: By detecting keywords in customer inquiries, bots can help customers find exactly what they’re looking for, faster than ever.
- Upselling & Cross-selling: Bots are great for upselling and cross-selling in a way that feels natural and not at all pushy.
- Customer Retention & Personalized Recommendations: While these aren’t the same things, they go hand-in-hand when you’re talking about bots. Bots can help with customer retention by providing personalized recommendations to customers days or weeks after they've purchased. Just don’t go overboard with recommendations!
Sounds good, right? But can one type of chatbot do all of these things? No. There are a few different types of bots that serve different purposes.
Types of Chatbots
Chatbots can (and usually do) fall into more than one category:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) bots are programmed to handle complex questions and commands. Think Siri and Alexa.
- Command-based bots respond to certain keywords in your customer's inquiries to provide service. Think of banking services that allow you to check your balance by texting “balance.”
- Informational chatbots provide answers to questions using a predetermined set of knowledge, like your company’s FAQ. They can also send content like sale info to customers.
- Utility chat bots perform an action after following a prompt like “show me sandals under $50” or “I’m looking for a blue yoga mat.” In addition, they’re great at solving problems.
Ready to build a chatbot? Luckily, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
How to make your own chatbot
You have a few options when it comes to building your own chatbot: hire a professional developer to build it, go the DIY route, or use a Shopify plugin.
Hiring a professional developer is the most expensive option but it probably provides the most peace of mind. You don’t need to have any programming or coding skills to hand the reins to a professional!
Here are a few options if you want to make your own chatbot:
- Quriobot - this builder is user-friendly on the front end and back end
- Facebook Messenger Bot - requires some coding skills
- Chatfuel - you don’t need any coding know-how but it only works with Facebook Messenger
- Hubspot (formerly Motion.AI) - this is probably the most powerful DIY bot-builder, and it doesn’t require any coding skills!
Measuring your ROI. How do you know your chatbot is working?
Sure, your chat bot looks cool, but how do you know if it’s getting results? Many bot-building platforms have native analytics that will allow you to see if it’s leading to conversions or sales. You can also use an outside analytics service like Dashbot to get even more insight into your bot’s performance.