Author
Managing Director
8 min read|2017-12-07

10 questions towards a brand’s chatbot strategy

Digital assistants will shape the future customer dialogue. Brands shouldn’t underestimate the power of these new gatekeepers. How can they prepare and what needs to be done today?


C hatbots are entering our daily lives and will radically change the relationship between brands and consumers. The digital giants, namely Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft compete on building the universal Conversational Assistant, an intelligent chatbot .

Chatbot strategy

It’s intended to accompany and simplify our everyday life. Whether ordering a pizza, a taxi, booking a trip or shopping - everything is getting done on a simple shout or text. Enabled by the progress in artificial intelligence (AI), coupled with the widespread use of smartphones and growing adoption of smart speakers.

In particular, voice interfaces are taking off : Amazon is taking the lead with Echo devices and chatbot Alexa, selling 20 million devices so far, according to Jeff Bezos . Partners such as LG and Ford are installing Alexa in automobiles, refrigerators and TVs. Brands better be prepared for assistant omnipresence.

Consumers are free beta testers

One might smile at some of the lack of ability of the assistants today (like German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche did). But it’s just another smart move of the big digital companies. It contradicts the German engineering mentality to market an immature product. The digital giants don’t waste time on those thoughts. They are employing users of Alexa and Co. as an army of free beta testers. In order for Artificial Intelligence (AI) to work, a lot of data is needed, and customers deliver it free of charge. While consumers are getting used to it, the product matures automatically.

Above all, simplicity drives consumer adoption of Conversational Interfaces. Instead of a user interface, AI takes over. At its developer conference earlier this year, Google proved that ordering take-out with an AI chatbot is quicker and more convenient than a phone call ever was.

Google I/O 2017 - Google Assistant Panera Bread Integration

Watch the video: Google shows how fluently brands can integrate into the Google Assistant on every device. It’s just 1:30 min, watch it now!

Digital gatekeepers are coming

Going forward, digital assistants will be taking on the role of gatekeepers. They will decide who is admitted to talk to the “boss”, which providers are qualified for booking flights, hotels, rental cars and taxis. It will also assist with shopping, serve as a fashion consultant, and order your favorite food.

The next chapter of the platform business is happening: Brands can integrate into the assistants via interfaces and get into a direct dialogue with their customer. With Alexa these are so-called skills, on the Facebooks platform simply bots, at Google it’s actions. More than 100,000 bots have been released on Facebook so far, more than 50,000 skills on Alexa. New strong platforms have emerged, and brands are eager to join.

A marketer’s dream come true?

For marketers, conversational channels are highly exciting. In Messaging Apps, the opening rate of push messages is close to 100% (at least for now, before marketers ruin it ). That’s better than email ever was. Thus, an automated 1-to-1 marketing dialogue is finally becoming possible.

With Voice, it is more difficult to deliver marketing messages without being obtrusive. Google Home expanded some user’s daily summary with a brief info (“…by the way, Disney’s live action Beauty and The Beast opens today”), resulting in a minor shitstorm . Attempt stopped. Google formulates the future role of marketing as “Be Relevant. Be helpful.” Is this the end to “salesy” advertising messages we are used to?

Facebook already applies strict rules. After the interaction with a chatbot, only one push message may be sent after 24 hours. Afterwards, a renewed interaction is necessary to reactivate the channel from the brand side.

It is upon us as consumers to decide if we will simply order a pizza, a laundry detergent and biscuits and let the assistant decide which supplier will be chosen. Or to insist on a certain brand. Marketing expert Scott Galloway already sees voice interfaces as a “brand killer” . It’s not just theory: When ordering batteries in the U.S., Alexa only offers its own brand Amazon Basics. Other brands can’t be found in the dialogue.

Scott Galloway: This Technology Kills Brands

Watch the video: Scott Galloway on why Voice is killing brands.

The race is on, position your brand now

The race between competing assistants has just begun. Brands should nonetheless start to get involved. Similar to today’s usage of apps, bot usage will be limited to a small number. Only bots that create real value can hope for one of the rare places in the bot universe of users. What needs to be done?
On the one hand, brands should design their own Conversational Experience, on the other hand they have to offer it as a service that can be integrated into the major platforms. Just as it is necessary today to optimize websites for Google Search, it will soon be common to optimize your offer for Conversational Interfaces.

As with any new technology, there’s also a lot of disappointment. Most bots today offer no real value or are just too basic. But don’t be fooled. Driven by the convenience, customers will soon expect to interact with companies through natural language and personal assistants.

Here are ten questions to answer in preparing your brand for the age of the assistants.

10 Questions towards Conversational Success

Start the development of your brand’s Conversational Strategy with these 10 questions.

  1. What added value can a Chatbot offer for your customers ? Design the new Customer Journey for text and voice channel as the experience differs greatly.
  2. AI needs data to learn: What data is required and what data does your company have readily available? Mind the gap.
  3. How does the bot fit into your existing processes and regulations?
  4. Is your IT ready for integration via interfaces (APIs), for example into a booking or ordering process?
  5. How does the assistant integrate into your marketing, sales and service strategy in the medium to long term?
  6. Will the assistant be integrated into your existing channels such as website and app?
  7. At which point might human intervention be necessary and how to integrate this human factor?
  8. A question of style: How does your assistant act, what personality is it based on?
  9. Which platforms do you reach your customers on? Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Slack, Kik, Line, …?
  10. Last but not least: Which technology do you need to support your conversational strategy now and in the future?

In one of my next posts I will discuss the questions in more detail. In the meantime, let me know what you think!

Want to see LoyJoy in a guided tour?