Opinion Opinion | November 14, 2016

Conversational Bots are the New Norm to Engage with a Passive Audience

Elusive consumers are growing by the day, and this means that marketers and brands need to adapt to changing technology in order to reach them. Consumers are not only looking for personalization but they’re looking to reduce effort and the number of steps they take to perform simple tasks such as filling forms and making bookings. We find an increased number of users interacting with the web for a plethora of information from cricket scores to weather patterns. Bots, capable of robust Natural Language Understanding (NLU), are the new norm to engage with these users. 

So what is a ‘chatbot’? Chatbots are computer programs that carry out conversations with people using a lightweight messaging app UI, language-based rules, or artificial intelligence.

Alfie Atkinson
Alfie Atkinson, Managing Director, Canada

Alfie Atkinson, Managing Director, Canada, and Dennis Yurkevich, Associate Product Director, at Media iQ, presented a session on ‘Conversational bots’ to address the problem statement ‘How to engage with the passive consumer or the passive massive?’.

The new president of the United States has been replicated by a bot! Brad Hayes, an MIT Computer Science Major, created a sophisticated Twitter-based conversational bot. He believes that Donald Trump’s style of speech lends itself extremely well to some types of generative machine learning models. Mostly because the models are nowhere near perfect, and require a lot of post-processing to clean up the output. He recognized that Trump’s simplistic style of language lent itself very well to a machine learning technique called ‘recurrent neural networks’. How can advertisers harness this advanced technology and how do these bots help you reach out to the evasive consumer? Alfie and Dennis strongly believe that this form of Artificial Intelligence can be used to offer personalized and scalable solutions for brands that wish to reach out to difficult consumers. They stress on some vital statistics to substantiate this.

Messenger app usage has surpassed social network usage. Messaging Apps were used by over 1.4 Billion people in 2015 – this will be 2 Billion in 2018. A whopping 60 Billion Whatsapp messages are sent every day (at its very peak, SMS was at 20 Billion). Messenger Apps have 75% global smartphone penetration, even bigger than Facebook.

messenger apps

active users

dennis
Dennis Yurkevich, Associate Product Director

How is this directly linked to reaching out to your consumers? These conversational bots allow brands an opportunity to interact with consumers within the app, without having to open or download another app.

Brands can start a direct conversation with consumers to yield a more personalized approach in a consumer-conducive environment. A lot of brands are already using these channels. Within Facebook messenger, you can order from Pizza Hut, buy flight tickets with your credit card, so on and so forth.

Conversely, there is a decline in other types of apps:

retention of apps

The store, with over a few million apps, has cluttered consumers mobile devices, and consumers just want fewer apps. They’ve hit a saturation point and this makes it tougher and more expensive for brands to reach out to them. An increasing number of people are beginning to interact with brands through messenger apps and this could possibly indicate the ‘third run time’. We began with the web, which was then unbundled into apps. Could we be heading from cost per click to cost per download to cost per bot interaction?

What if 100 people were to message a service company at the exact same time with specific needs or questions? Bots can help a business scale and be incredibly cost effective, which is why VC’s are backing this piece of technology.

vc backing

Media iQ has been delving into bot technology over the last year and our first foray into the world of the conversational user interface came as part of a hackathon project last year. One of the six teams participating, trained a bot trained a bot who lived in Slack (business messaging app), and was available at the beck and call for any internal information or resource needs, such as “Please show me a list of clients from last month” or “How do I set up an advanced (capture) pixel?”. We then decided, to create more internal slack bots to increase productivity, namely a bot who managed our cloud computing infrastructure. We now have a dedicated part of our R&D team based in Bangalore working on language and conversational UI projects, including a planning tool to be released in Q1 of 2017 and a variety of APIs for better insight, targeting, and workflow improvements.

The ultimate goal of a conversational bot is to create the illusion that you’re dealing with humans, as opposed to computers and corporations. Surveys have consistently shown that the most trustworthy form of advertising is word-of-mouth recommendation from people we know. The bot aims to achieve exactly this, add a human element to an otherwise mundane interaction. This new wave of ‘conversational bots’ will essentially consume all of the users’ online social data available and simulate word-of-mouth recommendations. They will transform into the new age salesman, tapping into their power to reassure users into purchasing a particular car or detergent. Advertising is constantly evolving to dispel the notion that it’s a one-way road and brands are coming up with more interactive and personalized ways to deliver messages to consumers. Bots enable conversation, making it the perfect technology to create a two-way dialogue between advertisers and users. With web apps on the decline and messaging on the rise, it’s only prudent that brands and marketers follow users onto their preferred environment.

Advertising is constantly evolving to dispel the notion that it’s a one-way road and brands are coming up with more interactive and personalized ways to deliver messages to consumers. Bots enable conversation, making it the perfect technology to create a two-way dialogue between advertisers and users. With web apps on the decline and messaging on the rise, it’s only prudent that brands and marketers follow users onto their preferred environment.

 

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