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Don’t Build Another Boring Chatbot

Don’t Build Another Boring Chatbot
written by
Planit Agency

Design Your Chatbot Around Your Customers’ Interests

Chatbots have become one of the leading trends in marketing technology. They’ve gained popularity at a rapid-fire rate for their ability to seamlessly adapt to consumers’ demanding lifestyles. When successful, chatbots can increase consumer engagement and retention upwards of 300 percent.* However, most brands aren’t seeing that kind of success or return on investment. So, how do you build a chatbot that can get you there? How can you be sure your bot is one your customers will actually want to interact with, repeatedly?

The Market Opportunity

Over 8 million consumers own a voice-activated device (think: Amazon Echo, Alexa, etc.), meaning there’s an incredible opportunity for brands to use chatbots to grow and retain their ecommerce audiences. With advancements in AI technology, customers will inevitably come to expect these types of personalized shopping experiences.

What’s a Chatbot?

In case you’re still trying to wrap your head around the concept, a chatbot—bot for short—is a computer program designed to engage in conversations that mimic the natural exchange of dialogue between humans. Many are powered by artificial intelligence (AI) technology. They’re often accessible via messaging applications and are evolving by the minute. In the near future, we can expect to see bots that intelligently interpret our requests and anticipate our needs. Hence, the excitement for bots in the ecommerce space.

Making an online purchase through a chat window may seem unusual, but the reality is, most of us are already shopping through these types of computer programs. Consider the last time you posed a question to Siri or ordered household essentials through Alexa. Chatbots are the first step in merging the gap between consumers’ dependence on mobile messaging apps and their love for online shopping.

Why Most Chatbots Don’t Measure Up

With over a billion people using messaging apps, the huge market opportunity for chatbots is hard to dispute. However, the reality is that when it comes down to successfully engaging consumers, chatbots have a higher than average fail rate. Why the disconnect?

From a technical standpoint, chatbots are in their infancy. AI software still has a long way to go before reaching seamless functionality, and frankly, technical glitches are annoying and weaken the user experience.

Beyond technical issues, many brands develop chatbots using standard frameworks. They’re not personalized or unique to a brand’s offerings. This lack of personality makes them too robot-like and inconsistent, leaving consumers with little desire to engage.

How Do Chatbots Succeed?

Like most things in life, there isn’t a simple formula for engineering a successful chatbot. However, focusing on an end goal of increasing the time customers interact with your brand is a good place to start. To do that, your chatbot should be built around your potential customers’ motivations, interests, and triggers—meaning your bot should be a master student of your customer personas.

Take Poncho, the bot whose sassy cat personality has captured and retained the attention of a younger audience. Though just a simple weather forecast tool, the larger-than-life “cat bot” knows exactly who he’s talking to and is thus able to provide customers with a one-of-a-kind experience.

Another great example of this is eBay’s ShopBot. The ecommerce marketplace launched the bot to enhance auction bidding by serving as a personal assistant to their customers. The chatbot sends notifications through bidders’ phones 15 minutes before a bid expires to help them “win” their desired item(s). And as the bot learns more about each customer’s habits, it provides custom product recommendations, further enhancing the shopping experience.

The Takeaway

If implemented correctly, chatbots are uniquely poised to increase the amount of time consumers spend engaging with brands in the ecommerce space. As AI technology continues to advance and develop, it’s only a matter of time until bots are essential to expertly honing a brand’s personality in a way that appeals to its target audiences on an individualized level to boost ROI.


*300 percent noted from, “How to Quickly Improve your Chatbot’s Retention & Engagement,” from blog, December 5, 2016.