There has been a recent trend in which companies are increasingly taking advantage of the developments made in technology and software. In particular, ‘chatbots’ have been implemented by many industries to automate business processes, or serve as an interface for customers to provide additional support during the buyer’s journey.
A chatbot is a software that engages in conversation through auditory or textual methods. These programmes are designed to convincingly simulate a conversational partner which mirrors human behaviour.
Chatbots are primarily used to automate many tasks that would normally be carried out manually by a user. An example of a successful Chatbot is Microsoft’s ‘Xiaoice’ which functions on China’s micro-blogging platform, Weibo.
These chatbots are able to complete tasks such as making dinner reservations, organising your calendar and fetching information for the user on command. In particular, Microsoft’s ‘Xiaoice’ has its own compelling personality and sense of ‘intelligence’ through systematically mining the Chinese internet for conversations.
Although the chatbot is a somewhat premature innovation, the possibilities are endless, and it is surprising to see the many ways in which we interact with them on a day to day basis.
Below are a few examples of different industries implementing ‘chatbots’ to successfully improve their business model:
E-Commerce and Retail
Coined ‘Conversational Commerce,’ by Dan Miller, chatbots used in e-commerce and retail can simplify and broaden the user experience for customers. Studies by Google have shown that consumers are using their phones more and more in-store to help them inform their purchase. Therefore, online and in-store retailers have capitalised on this process through introducing chatbots.
One of the most successful companies to truly capture the benefits of the chatbot is Uber’s integration into Facebook Messenger in 2015.
This integration allows customers to sign up with one tap, and request a ride without leaving the messenger application once. Not only does the chatbot provide the user with frequent ride status updates, but it stores receipts and details for the customer’s future reference.
Chatbots have gained arguably the most success in online and in-store retail as they have been able to improve the user experience in many ways:
- Provide customers with personalised assistance and enhance customer service
- Offers promotions based on location
- Process orders – sharing product/order updates
- Encourage and enable discovery
- Provide product recommendations
The entertainment industry has also cashed in on this trend, using automated chatbots to mirror well-known and loved film characters. Paramount Pictures used a promotional bot to chat with fans on Skype, whilst portraying Star Trek’s popular character, Spock.
Google’s forthcoming Chatbot will integrate with the user’s phone messaging system. Whilst messaging, the chatbot is able to find dinner reservations, organise schedules and can offer auto-responses which allows the user to reply with a single tap. Over time, the system will be able to learn to offer the responses best suited to the user.
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) recently installed a chatbot on the 111 non-emergency help-line. Already trialled in North London, 1.2 million residents are now able to opt for a chatbot opposed to speak to an operator.
Users are required to simply input their symptoms into the app and in return, receive tailored responses based on their information. The chatbot is able to consult a large medical database to retrieve accrurate diagnoses or medical advice.
Many commentators predict that the chatbot will be highly disruptive within the travel industry. Airlines such as Royal Dutch Airlines have already established a chatbot that aids the user with flight updates, check-in and boarding documents through Facebook Messenger.
Alternatively, Airasia’s ‘Ticketbot’ helps the user find prices for flights through messaging apps.
In the future, we should expect the development of services where users can simply input their interests, dates of availability and preferences, in order to be suggested a range of potential holiday packages.
The above example demonstrates the way in which chatbot services are helping to reshape industry landscapes. They have been used innovatively to transform existing processes in order to enhance the user experience, and who knows how else they can be adapted to replace many existing functions.
Though some are sceptical about truly achieving artificially intelligent systems, chatbots certainly give us reason to be optimistic.
What does this mean for the pricing industry
There are many ways in which chatbots can be integrated into the pricing industry – not only to improve a user’s experience with pricing software, but also to manage business processes. Already, it can be noted that some pricing software companies have made moves to implement chatbot capabilities within their brand.
Here are ways in which chatbots can enter the pricing industry:
Pricing software is dependent upon algorithmic capabilities – thus more complex and advanced. Whilst they ensure the accuracy and efficiency necessary for pricing, it comes with the fact that the software itself may be slightly more difficult to grasp and implement in comparison to more traditional methods, such as using Excel spreadsheets.
Despite this, systems like chatbots provide solutions to ease user experience, and serve as a constant source of support. Chatbots can be implemented to provide solutions to customer issues, and also supply easy to understand explanations to the more complex aspects of the software.
Chatbots can also serve as an additional interface during the sales process. Not only would a chatbot be able to readily supply a customer with all the relevant product information, but it would have the capacity to personalise this process, and thus suggest the best product for the customer’s particular needs.
More advanced chatbots will be able to retrieve data and provide the user with price recommendations and future predictions. This means user’s will no longer have to manually input data. In addition to this, the chatbot may be able to solve advanced algorithmic solutions to particular questions.
For example, a chatbot will be able to tell you if a particular price has been successfully optimised.
What does the future hold...
As society moves towards automated services such as chatbots, we can see a clear shift within industry landscapes. Whilst chatbots seem to have claimed a space within the retail and ecommerce world amongst others, it is unclear how long it will be before the pricing industry welcomes them too.
What is clear however, is that chatbots will be fundamental in improving the accuracy, effeciency and usability of pricing software - it is simply a matter of who will realise and capitalise on the benefits of chatbots first.