Conversational Commerce: How Chatbots Will Make Traditional Advertising Obsolete

b_21_bigWe’re standing on the front line of a sea change in digital marketing. Advances in bot technology have suddenly made AI a part of the leading social media platforms. Until recently, bots have been limited to fulfilling very specific requests. Now, it looks like 2016 will be the year that conversational commerce – using chats, messaging and other natural language interfaces to interact with brands – takes over the digital marketing scene.

The conversational commerce revolution

The rise of conversational commerce stands at the intersection of several trends.

First, there’s the increase in mobile messaging apps. A whole generation of consumers are accustomed to messaging as their primary interaction paradigm.

Then there’s the improvement in artificial intelligence and natural language processing. Bots now have over 90% accuracy in understanding spoken or typed requests. Chatbots today are conversational, context-aware and highly personalized – and they’re getting more so every day. Notifications are increasingly sophisticated and available across different devices, allowing a seamless interface for users.

Finally, there are huge advances in data science and analytics. The quantified-self movement is bringing levels of personalization and predictive assistance that were never before dreamed of.

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Why chatbots beat ads

Chatbots hold some huge advantages over advertising. They’re much more adaptable than any ad campaign can ever be. Deep learning and predictive analytics allow them to have long-term, evolving relationships with the user. The longer you stay in the thread, the better they can anticipate your needs.

They will soon be able to understand what each user values and offer recommendations, not just on whatever the person is buying but a whole range of related services.

With conversational apps, we’re moving towards a world of cross-device synchronization, where you can move between desktop, laptop or mobile without losing a beat. This flow, without the need to install and coordinate a bunch of apps on all your devices, is what everyone is looking for these days.

As conversational advertising becomes a part of that flow, bots can present the most relevant products and services at exactly the time users want them.

The future of human-bot interaction

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Going forward, I’m seeing that more and more of our commerce will be through messaging and chatbots. We’re looking at a future where booking a hotel room or a taxi isn’t a matter of going through their app, but just communicating with your own bot – which is in contact with bots from the companies that provide the service you need.

There are many possible scenarios for what the service relationship between humans and bots will look like, but I think it’s likely that within the next few years, “one bot to rule them all” will emerge to streamline the process.

The user interacts just with this bot, and it talks to all the other bots required to complete the task. If you want to go to SXSW, just tell that to your travel bot: it will book your event ticket, plane ticket and a ride from the airport, by working with the bots from SXSW, the airline and Uber.

Even the most complicated task becomes a one-step process.

Whether this super-bot will be a version of Siri, Alexa, Cortana, or a dark horse that hasn’t yet hit the market remains to be seen. However, I think it’s a fair bet that when it arrives, it will change the whole scope of digital marketing.

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