Is It Fun Shopping With Chat Bots?

Recently, eBay presented a ShopBot in beta version on Facebook messenger. This bot is aimed at helping buyers narrow down some of the best deals offered byeBay.

According to eBay, this ShopBot (virtual assistant) is powered by AI to help it understand the context of a buyer’s needs, and it has machine learning capabilities, which will be improved over time.

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Indeed, AI provides predictive modeling, machine learning capabilities, and contextual understanding. eBayShopBot powered with AI can improve the personal shopping experience (virtually) for anyone who owns a smartphone.

To start a conversation, you just need to text “Hello”. Moreover, you can start the conversation by snapping a picture to tell eBay ShopBot what exactly you are looking for. To better understand your intent and make personalized recommendations, thebot will ask you some questions because, most often, search engines fail to meet the complex needs of the shoppers.

It would be too early to judge ShopBot’s failure and success. Personally, I cannot imagine who would want to shop via ShopBot. It is like the sales person intruding on your window shopping experience. And, if it all one wants to chat with someone, there are multiple apps with which you can with real people. Unless, you think chatting with an AI bot is more fun than chatting with the friend or browsing website!

Back in 2014, 77% of customers who used to shop online wanted to interact with companies either via email or phone compared to 23 % of users who preferred live chats and social media.

There has been a major shift in consumer behavior.

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According to Forrester, 44% of customers need an assistant to guide them through an online transaction and having a person somewhere in the background – a professional who is ready to give answers.

Why would e-commerce companies deploy an army of customer care executives when an intelligent program can do similar tasks?

By 2018, popular messengers such as WhatsApp, Kik and WeChat will be acquiring more than 2 billion active users worldwide (combined). Integrating Chatbot into one or more of these services will be a great chance to expand market presence.

After all, users are not supposed to download apps of different brands onto their smartphones.

Do you remember what happened to Microsoft’s AITwitterConversation bot? The programwas shut down immediatley because of the malfunctioning bot.

Probably, Microsoft should have taken a few lessons from the WeChat team who quicklyunderstood that a computer program is still a program, hence they attached a dedicatedhuman assistant to most of the bot accounts.

It seems naturalto automate the customer services in the world of augmented reality and AI. However, a reliable AIpowered chatbot must be built by professionals and put to test for several months before release.

Our society is transforming into a convenience-driven society wherein chatbots are becoming an essential tool for keeping target customers satisfied.People are demanding to have two-way conversations with their selected brands, and fortunately the technology is enabling brands to make this happen.However, can we rely on chatbots completely? This is the million-dollar question that we need to evaluate to understand whether brands need to jump on the chatbot wagon or not.

Amardeep Bajpai 

CEO WebisdomGroup