In February 2020, Facebook announced that, along with other changes to its app, it is hiding chatbots away for a faster and simpler view. Games, business, the whole Discover part is pushed back. This is a big shift after 3 years of everyone in the industry talking about how chatbots are changing the way people shop.
Does Facebook know something we refuse to see? Did chatbots not live up to expectations fast enough?
The only relevant opinion is that of the shoppers – if they use chatbots, how they feel about them, is it working? That’s the ultimate proof of anything in ecommerce, all else is just companies trying to sell their tech product.
After we all on the software side of ecommerce expected chatbots to revolutionize customer engagement and increase sales, current customer sentiments don’t prove us right. While back in 2017, 40% of respondents didn’t care if it was a human or a chatbot answering as long as they got the assistance they needed, consumer perceptions changed in the last 2-3 years.
Numerous studies now show that people are used to chatbots and open to using them, but for limited tasks only. The overwhelming majority prefer talking to a person if there’s a big issue. Let’s see some numbers.
A consumer survey by Usabilla found that:
The overall takeaway from this survey is that shoppers do not want chatbots to replace human customer service as they are not capable of solving complex problems.
The survey also found something else that’s very interesting: people now actually want less automation. 73% choose to talk to an agent straight away and not use the automated phone-tree on phone support – the predecessor of chatbots. Also, 50% of millennials don’t mind spending 10 more minutes with phone support over chatbots. Are we tired of too much tech?
The silver lining is that 54% overall would choose a chatbot if it saved them 10 minutes so customers value their time more than are tech-averse.
This graph shows how marketers need chatbots to be working and how actually their companies chatbots efforts are doing right now:
It seems that chatbots in ecommerce are not yet up to the expectations. All context and nuances, characteristic for human interaction, are lost to them.
Chatbots are awesome technology for ecommerce marketing and we are not saying to stop using them. Only use them for the tasks that actually bring results and your customers are not put off at having to communicate with a chatbot. These would be:
Overall, chatbots’ best use is to handle the time-consuming, but easy tasks so customer service teams have more time for more important tasks. They’d be much needed during holiday rush, for example, answering questions on delivery times and gift wrap options available. But this does not substitute having well-trained customer service agents. They are the ones that will drive customer satisfaction and loyalty.
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