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The Evolution of AI: Chatbots for Enhanced Customer Experience

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The Evolution of AI: Chatbots for Enhanced Customer Experience

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Chatbots Are Taking Over The World
The notion that chatbots could one day work alongside, let alone replace, human customer service workers, was once the stuff of science fiction. There are all sorts of concerns about what the repercussions of chatbots in the economy will be, but it looks like the robots are winning.
As AI technology becomes integrated into a greater range of products, retailers are just waking up to the possibilities. AI (which stands for artificial intelligence) has proven popular with very large businesses, which will go to extreme lengths to cut costs. Even smaller retailers, however, could benefit from using chatbots for improving their overall customer experience. 
The Spying Origins Of Artificial Intelligence
The field we know now as AI has a fascinating history that few even know about. Back in the Second World War, British computing pioneer Alan Turing devised a way to crack the secret codes of Nazi Germany.
The methods Turing and his team devised laid the groundwork for “intelligent machines.” According to Turing, machines would be intelligent when they could hold a conversation with a human being. It was not until the 1950s, however, that the term “artificial intelligence” came into use.
Enter The Chatbots
Since the 1950s, there have been good and bad times for the field of A.I. The most notable was the A.I. winter of the 1970s when artificial intelligence was all but given up as a dead field. Fast forward a few decades, and A.I. is now back on top.
While A.I. in the form of self-driving cars has received perhaps the most attention, retailers have been quick to spot the abilities of chatbots. These are intelligent computer programs that can carry on conversations with humans in a natural-looking style.
Because chatbots can mimic human conversational style so well, they can be used to man your customer service or serve clients when no-one is available.
The Big Retailers Using Chatbots
In a sign of what’s ahead, some big names in retail have been quick to deploy chatbots. It’s easy to dismiss their efforts as cheap stunts to save money while ruining customer service. When you take a closer look, however, it appears it’s not as bad as that. 
In particular, the retailers using AI chatbots claim these chatbots have improved customer service.
Trendy fast-fashion retailer H&M in among the retail businesses that have embraced chatbots. It helps that H&M caters to a young audience which includes teenagers. 
In 2016, the retailer launched a chatbot on Kik, a social media chat app popular with fashion-conscious teens. 
The bot has impressive abilities. It can learn a user’s preferred styles, then guide a user in creating ideal outfits. The user can also use the bot to purchase their outfits from H&M. 
Burberry, eBay, And Others
Burberry and eBay have also used chatbots to connect better with shoppers. Burberry, for example, launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot to recommend items to shoppers. 
EBay, on the other hand, focused its chatbot around updating shoppers on the status of auctions they are watching. 
In both cases, the bots take account of the shopper’s profile, including their interests, to deliver a level of service much akin to having a personal buyer.
Why Chatbots Are A Gamechanger For Retail
In reality, there are many more retailers rushing to launch their own chatbots each day than we could list. The excitement about chatbots is not just hype, however, since retailers are able to vastly improve the customer experience with this technology.
Around The Clock Customer Service, For Starters
Here are some big advantages that retailers adopting chatbots can now offer their customers. Each business can pick and choose which parts of the full spectrum of chatbot capabilities they want to deploy.
  • Around the clock customer service - Constrained budgets used to mean poor customer support. Now, with chatbots, you can have service available 24/7, even when your office is closed.

  • Eliminate long hold times - Customers hate spending hours in the queue to get hold of a customer service rep. Chatbots eliminate this, since a single chatbot can serve thousands of callers simultaneously.

  • Nurture prospective buyers - Undecided shoppers can interact with chatbots to gather more information. 

  • Personalize your product offerings - Chatbots can tailor product recommendations to a customer’s shopping profile
The Data Is In: Chatbots Are Delivering
Chatbots have now moved beyond hype to offering practical benefits for businesses. According to a report from Juniper Research, chatbot-based retail sales will soar to $112 billion in 2023 from around $7 billion in 2019.
In other words, this is one of the brightest spots in the retail industry. It’s growing incredibly fast at a time when retailers are struggling to make sales in the traditional ways.
Getting A Chatbot For Your Retail Store 
A daunting fact about chatbots is that most retailers, especially those operating smaller stores, have no idea where to start. This is a simple problem to resolve, however, given the many options now available. 
In just about every major city, there are developers specializing in A.I that can get these sorts of chatbots developed for you. 
The real question is whether you should have a chatbot developed or plug into an existing chatbot platform.
Top Chatbot Plug And Play Options For Retailers
Going with a plug and play chatbot platform is great if you want to launch a chatbot fast. Rather than spend months building the technology yourself, these platforms let you take a shortcut

  • Chatfuel - Platform for creating Facebook and Telegram chatbots

  • Botsify - Offers Facebook chatbots

  • MEOKAY - Creates chatbots for Facebook Messenger
DIY Chatbots
If you have the budget or special requirements, you might want to develop custom chatbots with your own team. The process can be complex, needing expert data scientists and AI developers. The biggest advantage of this approach is that you can eventually have a chatbot that’s just right for your business and its unique needs.
How AI Has Evolved
The field of AI has survived a long history, including its near death in the AI Winter to become a major drive of business going forward. Retailers, who have been beset by declining traditional sales, see in AI chatbots a potential saviour to revive their flagging fortunes. Whether chatbots will live up to the promise is yet to be seen. One thing is clear, however. The chatbots offer plenty in the way of improving the everyday customer experience.
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