Taco Bell's chatbot.

Chatbots for Breakfast: What Makes Them Work

By Eli Mandlebaum and Dorian Benkoil

Chatbots are taking over the world — or at least  growing in popularity. At a recent roundtable breakfast, a panel of leaders in the field shared wisdom on what makes them work.

You may have seen automated bots through Facebook Messenger, Kik’s bot shop, Line, Microsoft’s Xiaoice and other platforms. Chatbots are huge in China and Japan, where they have become the “on ramp” to retailing, ticket buying, advertising and games. People use them to book, buy, interact with each other and have fun.

(Sign up here for our next breakfast, on the role of advertising operations.)

There are bots for weather info, grocery shopping, news, life advice, personal finance, scheduling, friendship — the list is growing. Taco Bell’s “Tacobot” is changing the way some people order food.

Goodbye Websites, Hello …

So, how can marketers and other messengers make them work? At the breakfast, the experts (see a full list of them and more on the breakfast here) offered some best practices:

  • Make it easy. Simple buttons, for example, may be better than typing.
  • The fewer the steps, the better. People lose interest the more they have to click, click, click. “Too many interactions means you’re missing up somewhere,” said David Berkowitz, Sysomos’ chief strategy officer and an Industry Index friend. “If ordering pizza takes 20 interactions, you’ll just pick up the damn phone.”
  • Artificial intelligence plays a role, but programmable content can perform fine. For example, Bud Light partnered with Snaps to create its #MyTeamCan Beer Delivery Bot for football season. It asks fans their favorite team, then, an hour before kickoff every game, it sends a push notification asking if they would like to order Bud Light. Answer  “yes,” and cans of the beer are delivered in under an hour.
  • To measure success, a great metric is how much people are sharing the bot. Another is engagement, how much people use it.
  • If you see a lot of “mutes” you’re probably doing something wrong, being overly chatty or intrusive.
  • Create user-centric experiences that cannot be replicated through apps or websites.
  • Help people get stuff done — book travel, get a table at a restaurant — without having to open a website or app.
  • Don’t just build a bot, make sure there’s a reason to do so. “Lots of people are saying, ‘Let’s build a chatbot,’ without considering what they’ll actually do” that creates value for them, said Asaf Amrir, CEO of Chatsuite.

Eli Mandelbaum is Managing Director, PluggedIn BD. With Industry Index, he hosts intimate breakfast gatherings offering insights around topics in MadTech every month. Sign up for the next one, on the role of Advertising Operations, here.

Author: Dorian Benkoil

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