Next-gen chatbots will be smarter and funnier. And they’ll be everywhere.

By | 2 minute read | September 19, 2017

In an on-demand world, consumers have come to expect more from customer service interactions. That’s why retailers are increasingly using chatbots­ ­to transform the way they do business.

Consumers, IBM research shows, want their shopping experiences to be seamless and personalized “regardless of touchpoint or technology used.” By measuring and analyzing a shopper’s behavior through data, chatbots for retail can make customers feel known and valued while simultaneously providing a fast and easy shopping experience.

But chatbots have the potential to understand consumers even better than they do now, and to expand the range of their applications for retail exponentially. The era of conversational commerce is only just beginning.

“It’s going to be the primary way consumers interact with businesses,” said IBM Cognitive Offerings Lead Chris Palmer.

That transformation starts with making chatbots integrate more seamlessly into the digital lives of consumers. In the coming years, chatbots will connect with a wider network of applications to predict their needs and make more context-aware recommendations.

“It could know based on your calendar, for example, that there’s a friend’s birthday party coming up and it could remind you about buying a gift,” said Palmer.

Traditionally, chatbots for retail — like chatbots in other industries — have communicated through phones, tablets, and computers. But the chatbots of the future will increasingly be integrated into the Internet of Things. That means you could soon be chatting with many of the objects you see in stores, including the mirror in your dressing room.

“Imagine a mirror you can interact with: You’re trying on clothes, and you say, ‘I need another size in the khaki pants.’ That sends an alert to an associate and the associate brings the pants to you. That’s going to increase the conversion rate because studies show that conversion drops off by 50 percent if a consumer leaves the dressing room,” said Palmer.

The quality of those chatbot conversations are also going to improve. By harnessing the power of AI, chatbots will get better at comprehending natural language and accurately deciphering a consumer’s inquiries. The goal, for many retailers, is to make chatbots’ responses more distinctive and reflective of a thoughtfully developed personality.

“We don’t want the bot to be simply answering frequently asked questions. We want the bots to tell stories and engage the consumer. The bot should be an extension of the brand’s voice,” said Palmer.