Chatbots – also known as conversational agents are software programs capable of doing automated chatting. Chatbots function by mimicking written texts or speech to interact and conversate with the users. Be it voice based chatbots like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant or any other chatbots, they are transforming our daily lives in a way that almost felt impossible, a few years back.
History of Chat bots
Although, the term chat bot seems to have entered the general lexicon recently, the origins of chat bot can be traced back to 1950. Alan Turning laid the foundational ideas for chat bot revolution in his essay ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’. He discussed the capability of a computer program to ‘impersonate and converse’ with humans to an extent that human judgements fail to distinguish it reliably. In 1966, the scientists at MIT developed ‘ELIZA’ who simulated human conversations from a list of scripted responses. ELIZA only created an illusion where the users felt that the machine had understood them. But nevertheless, it was a milestone in conceptualizing the notion of chat bot.
In 1972, Stanford psychiatrist Kenneth Colby developed ‘PARRY’ who had superior abilities to ‘ELIZA’ and could simulate with a paranoid patient suffering from schizophrenia. In 1995, the Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity (ALICE) was launched that could attempted to conversate with humans by applying experimental patterns. However, this failed to pass the turning test – that determines a machine’s ability to exhibit artificial intelligence.
Evolution of Chat bots
The development of chat bot has experienced a staunch growth due to the internet and information technology. In 1997, a chat bot named Jabberwacky was released online to simulate human chat through the use of humour. It was received positively due to its interesting and entertaining values. A predecessor to Apple’s Siri, Smartchild was launched in 2001 which presented amusing personalised conversations across SMS networks, MSN messengers and AOL’s buddy lists. IBM launched Watson in 2006, which has ever since helping to disclose information from a large amount of data.
The ground-breaking invention in the history of chat bots is attributed to Apple’s acclaimed intelligent personal assistant – Siri, who uses natural language user interface to respond to user requests and perform numerous tasks. Siri laid the foundation for the development of following successful chat bots such as Google Now (2012), Amazon’s Alexa (2015) and Microsoft’s Cortana (2015). In 2016, Facebook encouraged developers to create chat bots that could interact with the users through a messenger platform. As a result, about 34000 bots were created within a year that provided a wide range of utilities.
Current Applications of Chat bots
Chat bots are programmed to detect patterns in a speech and produce actions linked to them, when they are prompted by particular keywords and phrases. In the present day, we can see chat bots like Siri and Google Assistant are useful in helping people to navigate or find nearest outlets. Although the current chat bot applicability seems limited, developers believe that by continuous improvement the efficiency of a chat bot can be optimized.
Chat bots can be highly beneficial in collecting customer insights, that can be stored, responded and applied in a suitable based on the past conversations. This can help a great deal in improving all the stages of marketing. According to Gartner.com, by 2020, almost 85% of the customer relationships will be amounted by AI. Further, the cost of chat bots has reduced radically due to Facebook’s decision to allow third-party applications to develop chat bot on their Messenger platform.
How to use Chat bots for Marketing
Organizations such as Kore have started giving access for others to develop individual chat bots based on customer requirements. The predetermined menu options have made the development highly structured, simple to create and easy to use. As a result, many chat bots are being created for the purpose of customer interactions. These facts indicate the scope of chat bots in marketing arena, where they can be used to interact with the users and make purchases.
Here are some tips on how chat bots can be incorporated with marketing strategies to maximise business:
- Communicate with website visitors. Provide them with website information. Help them make a purchase.
- Integrating chat bots with messaging platforms saves a lot of time in email marketing.
- Sell your products using chat bots. 71% of people like personalised ads. Chat bots can persuade them better!
- Gain consumer insights to improve the quality of customer services.
- Increase proactive customer engagement, since it’s a critical part of marketing.
- Build brand loyalty by offering customised services.
- Customise chat bot, based on geography to target appropriate audience.
- Upgrade the chat bot regularly and fix technical glitches.
Some of the chat bots have already been successful in marketing products. For instance, Sephora, a beauty and cosmetic store released a chat bot that would conduct quiz on request from the users, and provide them beauty tips. Similarly Bank of America released a chat bot that guided the users on their bank details and spending habits. Pizza Hut has also released a chat bot to take delivery orders.
The Future of Chat bots
Although no chat bot until this day has passed the Turing test, the present developments indicate some thrilling advancements in AI field. For instance, Google DeepMind’s software AlphaGo Zero has proven the potentials to alter the ways of developing AI itself in the future. This has a massive impact on the conversational levels of a chat bot. Further, the increasing popularity of Google Assistant and its applications in all smart devices hint at the incorporation of chat bot in all digital devices in the future. Giant corporations like Facebook claims to have a team of 10000 experts who focus of developing chat bots. Similarly, world’s fastest growing business tool Slack has invested USD 80 million on chat bot slack-bots. These figures indicate that the future will be dominated by chat bots.
One may conclude, in the near future, the chat bots shall govern our lives. Be it navigating, ordering food, booking tickets, making a purchase, or even consulting a psychiatrist; personalised chat bots seems to be everyone’s friend (And literally, an omnipresent entity!).