THE BLOG
12/14/2016 12:05 pm ET Updated Dec 15, 2017

Chatbots: A Guide for Brands

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By Jill Sherman, SVP, Social Strategy, Social Practice Lead, DigitasLBi North America

Chatbots aren’t coming. They’re here. And as will most shiny new objects, there’s excitement and uncertainty around how companies can leverage them. New original research from DigitasLBi conducted by Harris Poll reveals surprising news statistics around customer willingness to purchase from, engage with, and trust chatbots. The findings provide clear implications for brands, including:

• More than 1 in 3 Americans (37%) would be willing to make a purchase through a chatbot.

• Consumers would spend an average of $55.80* per purchase.

Offers, Coupons, and Shopping Recommendations have Greatest Appeal

The study shows that while only roughly one in five Americans (22%) have heard of chatbots, more than half of Americans (59%) have or would be willing to communicate with chatbots to either receive offers and coupons (36%), receive recommendations or advice (37%), and/or conduct online banking (14%).

Americans are interested in receiving recommendations from chatbots for:

• Product recommendations from retail stores (22%)

• Hotels/accommodations (20%)

• Travel destinations (18%)

• Product recommendations from a pharmacy (12%)

• Fashion/style (9%)

Nearly half (48%) of millennials have or would be willing to receive recommendations from a chatbot. 

Income and Privacy Concerns

Nearly one in three (28%) Americans with household incomes of $100,000 and over find it invasive that chatbots can remember past interactions and store a customer’s previous purchase history and personal preferences. For consumers whose total household income is under $50,000, the percentage lowers to one in five (20%).

User Experience: First Impressions Matter

Nearly three quarters of Americans (73%) reveal that they would likely not use a company’s chatbot again after having a bad experience with it.

A significant majority (60%) of consumers who believe they have interacted with a chatbot knew they were communicating with one because of the robotic and artificial nature of the responses.

A Guide for Brands

The findings reveal five clear implications for brands:

• Price matters. Consider your customer threshold.

• Explore special offers and coupons to entice consumers across all demographics.

• Consider product and service advice, especially when targeting millennials.

• Be transparent. Allow consumers to opt out of sharing personal data. 

• Make a good first impression. Wow customers during their initial engagement.

A Final Word for Retailers

Smartphone users want fewer apps doing more work, and chatbots are one way of making that possible. But for retailers to benefit from the bot opportunity, they need to convince consumers that commerce through a chat interface—instead of a traditional website or app—is as easy as texting a friend, but with more perks. Think personal assistant, concierge, or VIP service. Something that guides a person to the right product or service. The clearer the benefit to the consumer, the straighter the path to adoption.