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Website Bots: Will the Trend Continue?

This time last year, website “bots” were all the talk in predictions for website design and marketing in 2018. We’re now at the end of 2018; did chatbots live up to expectations? While many businesses opted to automate customer service and website interactions with bots, it’s unclear whether they’ve had a positive impact – or whether they’ll continue as a trend into 2019. Look at the state of bots today and predictions for next year to see whether this type of automation is a wise investment for your company.

The Rising Popularity of Chatting

Chatbots bloomed into popularity in recent years, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that allowed ideas that started in the 1960s to finally come to fruition. Yet tech isn’t the reason website bots took on the form of instant-messaging chats. This was instead a spark of innovation from current consumer trends and the push toward online chatting. More than one quarter of the world’s population will be using messaging apps by 2020, according to eMarketer predictions from 2016.

Messaging apps and online chats have replaced the written word and spoken conversations for millions of people around the world. Just as sending a text has replaced making a phone call, chats with online customer service representatives are quickly replacing live conversations with company reps via telephone. Customers today prefer to communicate with a company through online chatting rather than seeing someone in person or making phone calls.

It is easier than ever for customers to use this form of communication with a company thanks to new technologies and advances in the chatbot industry. Google, Apple, IBM, Amazon, even Mercedes have capitalized on the push toward chat, creating new tech such as Siri, Alexa, and other voice assistants to engage in conversations with consumers. Yet when it comes to standard business owners, chatbot implementation has not been as widespread.

The Pros and Cons of Website Chatbots

The global interest in chatbots has increased over time, based on gathered query information from Google Trends. Fifty-three percent of consumers say they prefer service providers to contact them via chat, because it will help them resolve issues faster. Another 45 percent say chatting is more convenient than other forms of communication with a business. A main benefit of implementing chatbot technology on your website, therefore, would be to accommodate users who prefer this method of communication over others. Others potential pros include:

  • Creating a written record of communication between a company and customers
  • Sending customers tailored messages based on their locations
  • Avoiding having to make customers download special apps to communicate
  • Providing 24/7 customer service and quick answers to questions
  • Easily communicating with customers and facilitating the buyer journey
  • Establishing yourself as a friendly and caring customer-oriented company
  • Showing that you’re tech savvy and keeping up with the times
  • Marking yourself as an authority in your industry using chats with “experts”
  • Providing a more fulfilling and enjoyable customer experience
  • Saving money through increased productivity and greater automation
  • Replacing mobile apps, which can be frustrating and time-consuming for customers
  • Giving customers a more conversational user experience on your website

Installing a chatbot on your website can also come with a few cons – especially if you use outdated technology. An outdated chatbot could cause more consumer problems than it solves. It could also give the impression that your website is outdated and may have security risks. Many consumers still prefer communicating with humans and may see a chatbot as impersonal or a nuisance. The cost of implementing this technology can also be a con. Analyze your customers’ needs and desires for communicating with your company before opting for a chatbot over more conventional forms of customer service.

How Many Companies Use Chatbots in 2018?

In 2017, Global Human Capital Trends reported that 41 percent of chief executives claimed to have already implemented chatbots or had plans to do so in the near future. Another 34 percent of survey respondents said they’d launched chatbot prototypes. To stay competitive, it may be necessary to implement a chatbot on your website. Look at your competitors’ sites. Are they using some form of automated chat service? If so, you may do yourself a disservice by ignoring the chatbot trend. Your customers may expect you to comply with their expectations and create new ways to communicate.

Thousands of companies installed some form of chatbot technology for their websites in 2018, and with good reason. Chatbots are helping brands stay connected to their customers, offer the around-the-clock and on-demand support they desire, and get the information they need to continue down the sales funnel. Instead of relying solely on the content on your website to answer questions and address customer needs, install a chatbot for added customer support during the buying process. That way, customers can get immediate answers to simple questions about products, services, return policies, and more before buying.

Which Chatbot Is Right for You?

If you believe your brand could benefit from installing a chatbot, your next step is to find the one that speaks to you. There are chatbots available specifically for companionship, data gathering, medical diagnoses, lead generation, news releases, customer service, brand awareness, and more. The modern chatbot is advanced, uses machine learning, and sounds conversational thanks to natural language processing. Invest in a high-quality chatbot feature for your website to make sure it helps, not hurts, the user experience.

First, identify your goal for installing a chatbot. Do you want to provide 24/7 customer support on your website, or would it be more beneficial to your company to have a bot that acts more like a mascot to boost brand personality? List your chatbot goals before you find the right technology for your company. Then, trust a professional provider to install the tech on your website. Bugs, errors, and security breaches from a low-quality installation are the last thing you need a bot to give your website.

Looking Forward: The State of Chatbots in 2019

Chatbots aren’t a passing trend. They are a new way to interact with consumers that continues to take the sales world by storm. E-commerce stores and other websites are integrating chatbots to help with customer service and to automate tedious tasks. The future of this technology looks bright. Consumers can expect to see even more chatbots on the web in 2019. By 2020, 85 percent of business-customer interactions will involve chatbots, according to forecasts from Juniper Research.

Website bots have great potential to transform the way users engage with brands. In an era that craves personalized service and brand authenticity, installing a bot could be the easiest way to show you care. Listen to the needs of your customers and consider whether a bot would fulfill them. Bots aren’t right for all companies, but they can be assets for brands that wish to enhance the conversational user experience and/or cut business costs through smart automation.

Now that brands have spent the last year testing chatbots and measuring their success, 2019 is poised to be even bigger for bots. Companies are learning that website bots are a real way to interact with customers and meet their changing needs – leading to a continuing push toward this tech trend as we head into the new year. If you wish to answer customer questions faster, eliminate frustrations, and engage with users in a unique way, consider adding chatbots to your 2019 marketing strategy.

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