Making it easier for customers to buy is the way forward for any business and is a sure catalyst for growth. Chatbots are the new customer support reps, and businesses are already leveraging this new trend.
– By Techpoint
The advent of social media, and the app store after it, brought about a global revolution in business. Beyond reshaping the way businesses approach sales, marketing and customer loyalty, they also inspired new fields of expertise in these disciplines.
However, as the app and social media space become more saturated, people are beginning to grow tired of them. Consequently, the bulk of online social activity is moving from public spaces (like Facebook and Twitter) to private groups (like WhatsApp).
Of the average 4 to 6 apps that smartphone users interact with on a daily basis, at least one is a messaging app. Over 70% of WhatsApp users interact with the app every day, the average (Facebook) Messenger user spends an accumulated 50 minutes a day in the app and WeChat alone captures over 30% of China’s mobile app usage.
In response to these usage trends, proactive businesses are gradually repositioning themselves where consumers spend most of their time.This has given birth to the era of chatbots.
Chatbots are computer programs that the user can “chat” with using your preferred messaging app. By simulating natural human conversation, over an interface that billions of people around the world are familiar with, chatbots are able to simplify user experience in a way that graphical user interfaces have never been able to. All that is required of the user is the ability to read and write.
Some of the biggest global brands and companies such as National Geographic, MasterCard and The Wall Street Journal, to mention a few, are already utilising chatbots to engage with consumers on a more personal and direct level.
Here in Nigeria, a couple of small and medium scale businesses are beginning to embrace this global trend. Lara.ng is a Lagos-based startup that utilises chatbot technology to assist city commuters in a conversational manner. Using simple phrases like “I’m going to Ikeja from Yaba”, users can interact with “Lara” the chatbot, in just the same way they would a friend, and get detailed bus directions and fare estimates.
Leveraging on the Facebook Messenger platform, Kudi.ai employs a similar approach to make the process of online bill payments so simple that even your grandmother can do it. Eat.Drink.Lagos, a popular restaurant review online platform, also has a chatbot that helps users find affordable restaurants close to them.
Jumia, one of Nigeria’s biggest ecommerce platforms also recently launched Jumia Bot on (Facebook) Messenger in a bid to improve the shopping experience. Rather than spending several minutes or hours navigating the website, shoppers can simply specify a particular item — including the brand, colour and other details — and the chatbot will present them with options.
While chatbots are still a relatively nascent technology, there is no denying the potential they hold for businesses. Because they require little to no human supervision, chatbots can serve as a cost-effective and efficient customer support service. They can sift through large amounts of information faster than humans and thus provide answers faster. If used properly, they can also be effective in driving the customer journey towards an intended outcome (sales, daily habits, etc.). The opportunities are boundless.
The good news is that even for the smallest of businesses, the barrier to entry is relatively low. Many popular messaging platforms like Skype, Slack and (Facebook) Messenger have integrated chatbot functionality that anyone can leverage on. There are also third-party tools like Chatfuel and Motion AI that make it possible to build chatbots with very little or no programming experience.
Techpoint is a digital media platform dedicated to chronicling the impact of technology on the African narrative. It is a team made up of passionate individuals who are storytellers by nature, going where the rubber meets the road in local technology and starting real conversations about the startup ecosystem and how technology impacts the lives of real people and businesses.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.