#7 Industries that will Benefit the Most from Chatbot
Chatbots are a natural fit for the retail sector, which is struggling with mobile conversion even as physical stores close
The bots are taking over! That might be how it feels, as more industries are starting to implement chatbot solutions to deal with a host of situations and customer needs.
While virtually every kind of company can find legitimate applications for this technology, there are a few industries that stand to be completely revolutionized by the intelligent, scaled, direct messaging capabilities unleashed by bots.
We have seen firsthand the transformative power that chatbots have to increase sales, boost engagement, and lower costs in certain standout industries. Here are the seven industries we think represent the best opportunities for chatbot tech to transform how customers engage with companies, brands, and each other.
Chatbots are a natural fit for the retail sector, which is struggling with mobile conversion even as physical stores close. Bots provide a key channel through which brands can grow their e-commerce presence, from top-of-funnel branding all the way through sales and retargeting.
The most effective bot experiences for retail fuse marketing, customer service and sales with an AI engine that can optimize the user experience depending on which function the user needs and the user's past behavior and purchase history.
What this looks like is an interactive, hyper-personalized shopping experience that replaces combing through endless tiny thumbnails with AI-powered guided selling, personal styling, and even virtual try-on, reducing the number of decisions a customer has to make. Post-conversion, bots are a powerful remarketing tool, sending out segmented messages that are hyper-relevant and received inside of a customer's messaging app, where they actually read them. We see a 67% open rate on messages across our retail bots, which blows average email marketing open rates out of the water.
As a preview of coming attractions for retail bots, Facebook has a payments beta program that allows for in-bot, one-click shopping; when rolled out widely, it is likely to remove considerable friction from the checkout process and boost mobile conversion numbers to some of their highest rates. Down-funnel, chatbots can also be a key customer service tool for retail brands, able to provide service around the clock and without wait times.
Say goodbye to the days of hotel room staples like clunky binders with print-outs of activity brochures and relevant phone extensions. Hospitality is an industry where success is directly correlated to a level of service, and in this mobile-first era, hotels must be accessible via their guests' most native communication tool: smartphones. Messaging bots can power everything from check-in to a wide array of concierge services to booking restaurant and activity reservations and providing amenities info -- all of which is currently being handled by human staff in the average hotel.
A number of well-known bots have been rolled out in the travel industry, but they mostly power bookings. Many of them can be found in the newly-released Facebook Messenger Discover tab's Travel section: Hipmunk, Kayak, Snaptravel, and Istalocate (which helps you track flights). But some hotel chains are experimenting with bots for the on-site experience, and that's where we see major opportunity to redefine hospitality service to include bot-first solutions. The most notable of these are virtual concierges for at-your-fingertips resources during a hotel stay. This takes pressure off human agents to answer basic questions about amenities and also offers guests 24/7 service rather than only during certain hours, and with zero wait time as bots they don't get overwhelmed by high volumes of inquiries.
At Headliner, we have also been utilizing Facebook Messenger's parametric codes and QR codes, which guests can scan at different locations in a facility to access information and services specific to that place, i.e, a guest entering the pool deck of a resort scans a parametric code near the entrance, prompting the bot to offer information about cabana rentals, pool deck maps, and requesting seats or towels.
3. Live Events
You have no doubt been asked to download an event app in the past, whether for a business conference, concert or festival or even a sporting event. And likewise, you have no doubt declined to do so, because the download friction is insufficiently overcome by such a temporary use.
A bot is the perfect place to centralize event information in an easily accessible way. To own the entire loop, event organizers can implement the following process: First, in the lead-up to the event, a bot can facilitate buying tickets and access key information. When it's time to attend the actual event, attendees can go right back to the bot for information about the nearest parking, schedules and programs, floorplans, or even the wifi password. If there is any unexpected change to the schedule or an important update, organizers can broadcast messages to attendees in real time.
This goes beyond ease and convenience and can have a considerable impact on event revenue. More efficient parking and layout information results in people getting into the venue earlier, which gives them more time to shop at food and merchandise vendors. They can visit more booths and find the ones they seek more easily, reducing the need for an army of human staff.
The traditional publishing industry has been upended by the digital revolution of the last decade, and publishers are still figuring out how to best disseminate content for a new generation of digital-first consumers. Exhibiting a prescient savviness, publishers were some of the first to roll out high-quality chatbots, and have reaped the rewards in users, engagement, and eyeballs.
The banking and financial industry is on the brink of disruption by chatbots, as the transactional nature of most banking tasks provides an almost perfect use case for chatbot interfaces. Bots function best when they are designed to handle a discrete task. Everyday banking transactions are just those: specific, clearly-defined tasks that require a command and a resulting action that with minimal supplemental intelligence needed. Users can accomplish things like checking balances, transferring money to friends, viewing a history of recent transactions or locating the nearest ATM.
Some banks have begun pioneering with chatbots: Bank of America launched Erica, a bot to assist with most of the tasks described above. Western Union's Messenger bot offers options such as "send money," "track transfer" and "transfer again." American Express allows users to connect their accounts for purchase tracking and card information. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Apple Pay has considerably desensitized people from innate discomfort with handling sensitive private financial information on mobile, so we expect to see a swift rollout of finance and banking bots coming up the pipeline.
6. Service Businesses
There is a real opportunity for small businesses in service-oriented sectors to utilize bots as the first line of defense in their lead generation operations. Many service professionals rely heavily on inbound leads to sustain their businesses and have to field a torrent of these inquiries regardless of how hot or relevant the lead is. When the phone rings, someone has to answer it! Enter bots. A bot can engage with potential leads, capturing and auto-tagging them with key qualifying data about sorting them by degree of prioritization. Then, a human agent can jump in to close the warmest leads first. New bot platforms are able to maintain all sides of this equation: a strong user-facing experience that engages and qualifies leads, a highly intelligent algorithm that recognizes when a lead is ripe for human closing, and then a comprehensive dashboard that easily facilitates agent interaction.
Though technically weddings are live events, the $50 billion wedding industry behemoth is worth noting as a category unto itself. For innovative bridezillas and groomzillas eager to have their special day go off without a hitch, having a wedding bot as their primary communication channel with guests is far more effective than a wedding website.
At Headliner, we rolled out the first-ever wedding chatbot for a couple who used it to keep in touch with guests during the destination event. They sent out weather updates, itinerary changes, and outerwear suggestions in real-time. The couple even had the bot affirmatively ask if a guest desired vegetarian food, seamlessly calculating an advance-count to the caterer.
As chatbot technology becomes more robust, no industry will remain unimpacted by its reach. To us at Headliner, the seven described above are the low-hanging fruit, where chatbots can be easily plugged into existing operations to effectuate increased revenue and cost savings.
Dana Gibber is a Manhattan-based entrepreneur, startup founder, lawyer and digital branding expert.
Gibber is Co-Founder and COO of Headliner Labs, a company building best-in-class Artificial Intelligence powered chatbots for major brands in media, retail, and hospitality. Overseeing all product operations for Bot development, Gibber has considerable expertise in chatbot UX and UI, natural language processing and consumer conversions.