Chat bot technology is certainly not new; they have been around long before the birth of the Internet. But new technologies such as SMS messaging, easy API access and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are resulting in a resurgence of chatbots across digital media. 

So what are chat bots and why should you be using them?

What are chatbots?

Essentially, chat bots are computer programs that pretend to be a human being. The original chat bot, Eliza, was created in the early 1960's by MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum. It was intended to mimic human speech and conversational patterns.

Fast forward to today, chat bots are software programs that work on websites or alongside messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, Slack. They have evolved to be useful tools that helps users complete simple tasks, such as book flights, order food, or manage bank accounts.

Chat bots are very easy to use; you simple ask it a question, then wait for its response. For example, if you wanted to order a Domino's pizza, you simply type "pizza" within the Facebook Messenger search bar. The Domino's pizza chat bot will then ask you if you would like to "Order", Re-order", or "Track Order".

There are two types of chat bots: those that are unintelligent, which act upon a pre-defined set of rules, and those that are intelligent that use machine learning. Machine learning bots are able to remember past conversations and learn for new ones. They are forever evolving. 

How can I use a chat bot?

There are numerous benefits to implementing chat bots within your brand or business:

Seamless interaction

The biggest benefit of using chat bots is for users themselves. They no longer need to download and switch between multiple apps, they simple use Facebook Messenger for multiple purposes. This saves the user immense amount of time.

Instant customer service

Chat bots are a efficient way to deliver 24/7 customer support. Customers no longer need to contact the help desk during work hours, they can message the chat bot instead. This lowers HR costs and enables staff to deal with other tasks. White a chat bot cannot replace real customer service they can make a good first point of contact - there are still some tasks only a human is able to carry out.

Collect information

Chat bots have the ability to collect large amounts of information by analysing the behaviours of their users. Using that data, brands can then offer improvements and more personalised services.

Helps sells products and services

Chat bots can be used to up sell products. As they offer a 24/7 online service, they can make money outside business hours. H&M's bot KIK asks users about the style of clothing they prefer and invites them to choose their favourites. Using this data, H&M can make recommendations, offer tips and more importantly up sell.

Make payment

Facebook Messenger now allows users to make payments directly within the app. They no longer get directed to an external site or app. A "Buy now" link appears in relevant chats, that once active, reveals a payment confirmation tab. This defaults to whichever credit card the user has linked to their Facebook Messenger account.

Key takeaways

The chat bot revolution is still in the early phase, but they are clearly here to stay. Found within messaging applications such as Messenger, chat bots are opportunities for brands to connect with users on a personal level. As technology grows so does the role of chat bots. In the future, will we be surrounded by chat bots? And will be everywhere?!