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Chatbot Conversations Just Got More Human

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 08 May, 2017
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How marketers can capitalise on new AI technology to deliver more effective chatbots

Chatbots are no longer the robotic, clunky machines from the days of old. If you remember bots like AOL Instant Messenger’s SmarterChild, for example, you might be interested to learn that advanced designs are allowing for the creation of more interactive conversational pathways — meaning these days, chatbot conversations look a lot like their fluid human counterparts.

What’s more, companies developing these technologies are increasingly able to iterate upon each chatbot, optimizing specific types of interaction within the messenger conversation. As a result, a new element of artificial intelligence technology is emerging, and it’s called natural language generation.

Generating ‘Natural Language’

NLG is simply the creation of human-like language by a machine representation system. These systems begin with the idea of figuring out what the communication goal is or what the user wants to know. What follows is an analysis of the most important aspects: identification of data necessary to convey the information and delivery of that data as a more easily digestible narrative.

According to Gartner, 20 percent of business content could be machine-generated by 2018. For example, instead of a quarterly sales report with pages of data, a bot driven by NLG technology could produce the most important aspects of the report in the form of a conversation.

From advertisements to re-enactments, human beings connect with stories. If machines can be taught to create stories that are genuine and relatable, the advertising and marketing potential is certainly worth investigating.

The Real Effects of AI

Many brands are testing chatbots with varying degrees of success. For example, we created our Influencer chatbot in conjunction with our sister company, Automat, for the COVERGIRL line. It was successful because it created a branded conversation around the products and, ultimately, a pathway that drove coupon delivery for 48 percent of chat sessions.

One of the biggest reasons this bot was successful stems from its simulation of a real person, Kalani Hilliker. Although it was made clear to users that the bot was only a simulation, its personality was based off of Hilliker’s social media posts, and it was very effective at humanizing the brand, generating 91 percent positive sentiment.

As the app marketplace becomes more and more crowded, digital assistants are becoming more prominent. Convenience is ultimately the driving force. Imagine you always order pizza from a local Domino’s, but you visit relatives where Papa John’s Pizza is the only delivery service. Instead of downloading a new app and creating a profile for online ordering (or keeping an app on your phone for every major pizza chain you might order from), it’s much easier to ask the same assistant you always use to order for you.

The applications that receive the heaviest use are for messaging, so it’s natural that these familiar apps like Facebook Messenger could be destined to become the basis for more than human interactions. For instance, Facebook Messenger recently partnered with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to allow travelers to receive itineraries and boarding passes, rebook flights, and access customer service representatives through that app.

And according to the above source, Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, announced a similar integration of bots into the Skype messenger, allowing users to book hotel rooms and order takeout through bot interaction. “Human language is the new user interface,” Nadella says. “Bots are like apps, and digital assistants are like meta apps or the new browsers. …”

Capitalizing on Chatbots

If Nadella is right, integrating chatbots early will be a great way for companies to tap into the emerging marketplace. Here are some ways marketing leaders can harness this technology:

1. Leverage chatbots as digital extensions to drive e-commerce. Not only can chatbots assist with brand personalization, but they can also serve as standalone e-commerce websites. Driving users to the chatbot experience will directly drive online sales, and it’s a great way to expand a company’s online presence.

2. Use platforms as a piece of the discovery experience. Using chatbots to answer questions and provide personalized recommendations based on the needs of a specific user humanizes what was previously the role of search engines.

3. Integrate chatbot technology in stores. Including the chatbot code Facebook offers in COVERGIRL’s actual retail experience means customers can scan codes and ask questions about a product in real time (instead of relying on retail assistants who might be busy with other customers or who lack the expansive knowledge of an artificially intelligent system). The majority of retailers’ revenue still comes from in-store commerce, so it makes sense to use chatbots to drive conversions.

Chatbots have come a long way from the early frameworks that more closely resemble the way computers communicate. By including “humanizing” elements, the technology has become a much better simulation of human interaction that encourages participation by its intended audience.

Just as the development of apps was driven by an effort to streamline certain experiences — like checking the weather or getting a ride — AI has the potential to completely revamp how people interact with technology in their daily lives, and the capacity for NLG is at the heart of it. As of 2015, 49 percent of app users operated between six and 10 apps in a week's time. Thus, incorporating chatbots into a few commonly used messaging apps built around human communication is likely to be the wave of the tech future.

Justin Rezvani is a first generation American entrepreneur, investor, Forbes’ 30 Under 30, and CEO of theAmplify: a data-driven advertising technology platform that produces influencer advertising campaigns for premium brands across social platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and Periscope. theAmplify has produced major campaigns in every vertical for industry leading clients including Lionsgate, COTY, Unilever, Taco Bell, Campbell’s and Nissan. Rezvani is a notable keynote speaker for global marketing events and has been featured in cover articles in the Wall Street Journal, AdWeek, Forbes and The Los Angeles Business Journal. Follow his story on social @justinrezvani.

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