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Chatbots Are Back, but Will Conversational Commerce Live up to the Hype?

Tommy

Chatbots are back in fashion. After Facebook announced Bots for Messenger in 2016, you might be wondering if they’re finally here to stay. Since chatbots seem here to stay after so many false starts, now is the perfect time to use them for ecommerce, right? Before jumping on the bandwagon, let’s think critically.

If your website’s UX gives the user what they’re looking for, would they still use a chatbot? Hua Yuan Science and Technology Association board member Connie Chan spoke about this. She pointed out that texting takes more time than clicking buttons. Aside from that, users lose helpful visual cues. For voice searches, like with the Amazon Echo or Google Home, this doesn’t matter. Chan notes however that, “if a screen is present, then relying on chatbots feels like going from Windows to MS-DOS.”

 

How can chatbots prevail in ecommerce?

 

Some people are optimistic about chatbots in customer support. If the customer’s problem isn’t answered by an FAQ, having something responsive would be more helpful. However, with phone support, most people want to bypass automated systems as quickly as possible. At GML, we implement live chat software with human representatives on the other end. Customers can speak to someone who’s better at parsing language than an AI. Customer service representatives also have more agency and are more likely to resolve issues. This is why people usually want to skip robots and get straight to a human.

Chatbots have an uphill battle to take over customer service. Despite that, ecommerce may still have uses for them. Here is a comparison of three interfaces for ordering a pizza. Two of them are visual interfaces and the other is a chatbot. They each succeed in satisfying different needs.

 

Tailored orders

 

Domino's online pizza builder

 

The traditional image-based webpage from Domino’s. This design makes it easy to tailor orders by clicking buttons. It also makes the product more attractive than the pure text or limited images from chatbots.

 

Mixed and bulk orders

 

Big pizza order on Just Eat

 

With this type of UX, you can’t see the order like with the Domino’s example. However, in this instance, that’s probably for the best. This UX is built for displaying information and would get crowded if every item was visible on screen. The buttons make it easier to add and remove parts of the order than typing would.

 

Quick orders

Chatbot on an iPhone

 

For simple orders like the one in this picture, the chatbot could be the quickest way to complete the transaction. For gourmet pizzerias, the lack of choice and visual stimuli won’t do the business justice. When ordering for many people with different tastes, this UX would get frustrating. However, the simple order in this image shows a good use case for chatbots.

When something like chatbots are at the height of the hype cycle, they’re seen as the future rather than a new option. Companies unsuited to overhyped projects start wondering if they’ll miss out by not jumping on them. They should instead think about the best way to engage with their customers. Let the needs of your business dictate your web presence, not the other way round.

If you’re wondering what kind of web presence will help you the most, contact us now. Our marketing and dev teams will be able to devise the best solution for you.

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