Vaishali Sharma
Guest Article

"Siri, Call Home"

Chatbots are the next step in the marketing chain of evolution, says our guest author.

A simple voice command and the phone springs into action, bowing to every instruction making artificial intelligence (AI) an integral part of everyday lives. When AI entered our lives, we never assumed it would change the way we consume technology on a daily basis. Marketers have quickly learned that using AI, as part of their overall marketing approach, can yield better results. In social media, giving the much needed 'push' to content, using AI-based chats is an encouraging two-way street that tips the scales of engagement.

Enter the 'chatbot' or a computer program that conducts a conversation via textual methods. Creating a two-way connection with customers and followers has now become the most important factor to measure success for many brands. Instead of a passive, one-sided push notification through a website or social media updates, brands now prefer using chatbots to stay connected with users. A chatbot today has the ability to create extremely engaging conversations, thereby enabling businesses to leverage inexpensive and wide-reaching technology to engage with more consumers (increasingly).

"Siri, Call Home"

Vaishali Sharma

Even though marketers in India have recently realised the important of bots, they come with a long history. The first ever bot was developed in 1966 and called Eliza. It could mimic human conversation by matching user prompts to scripted responses. Since then, we have seen four generations of evolution starting from a rudimentary FAQ bot to a stylish AI-driven bot that can serve all aspects of conversational business by delivering convenience and personalisation to each customer. Some of the types of bots that are quite popular with consumers are Siri, Google Now, Alexa and recent favourites are the bots for messengers. Now chatbots have developed a personality similar to that of humans or, to be more precise, of their customers.

Right from ordering food to finding the schedules of your flights or even get recommendations for pretty much anything you can think of, chatbots and virtual assistants are now the most important tool of marketing and customer support! Bots have already started to improve an online shopper's experience. In fact, more shoppers enjoy their interaction with chatbots that address their queries and make recommendations. According to a recent PWC report, globally, 55 per cent of consumers would like to select their media by curating a list that draws heavily on AI recommendations or simply have it completely selected by a bot.

With internet evolution and the increasing number of smartphone users in India, brands across the country are also adopting the technology of chatbots to stay connected with their consumers. Companies across service categories in India including e-commerce, banks, insurance companies, the travel industry, and entertainment firms have already started implementing these. Stock exchanges like the BSE also couldn't resist the charm of bots and recently launched the 'MotaBhai' bot which helps people with all the information related to stocks, on an immediate basis. Another classic example of a bot is food delivery company Zomato's interactive chat. The need to be connected with a customer, until the food is delivered, is efficiently fulfilled by the bot.

But the future of great customer experience is not just a bot but a chatbot which can connect with them in their own language. According to a 2017 study by KPMG and Google, English speakers are expected to grow by 3 per cent over the next few years, till 2021 and non-English Internet users are expected to grow by 18 per cent over the same period. 90 per cent of new internet users are expected to be non-English speakers, in the next few years. We need technology to detect whether the user is talking in English or Hindi and then respond; and a perfect example of that is Sony MAX's first-of-a-kind NLP based bot - Filmykaant.

Bots are now being perceived as a next step in the marketing chain of evolution as they automate and personalise conversations between humans and the computer in the most natural way possible. As NLP becomes more powerful than ever, chatbots will move on to the next stage of interaction to provide better responses and deliver better services and ultimately, elevate services to a realm that customers find convenient to use and entertaining to interact with.

(Vaishali Sharma is Head - Marketing & Communications, Sony MAX Movies Cluster & Sony SAB).

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