The growing importance of chatbots in the customer journey


“Hi, I’m Clippy, can I help you with anything?”

Many users of older Microsoft Office software will remember Clippy. This paperclip often popped up while you were working on a text, and always offered to help. Love it or loathe it, everyone had an opinion about it. And despite the wide range of user opinions, this helpful paperclip was a forerunner in the area of chatbots.

In subsequent years, this technology underwent major further development, and thanks to a combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning, it is well on its way to taking over an important part of the customer journey. According to Gartner, by 2020 chatbots will be handling no less than 85% of all customer service interactions.

One example of this is Smart Mirror, which provides clothing advice on the basis of your customer data. Charly, as we call this mirror, tells you exactly which sunglasses suit you, and which flip-flops match your glasses. As ironic as it sounds, chatbots offer a wide range of options for creating valuable and personal customer interactions, and you’ll see more and more chatbots in the customer journey in the future. 

Many customer journeys, an infinite number of possibilities

The customer journey is more complex than ever. Quite simply, it is no longer possible to refer to a single customer journey. Consumers dash all over the place, online and offline, and expect a personalized approach from companies across the entire omnichannel journey.

Communicating with them in the right way, and at the right place and time, is quite a challenge for marketers. A good integration of chatbots in the customer journey can provide consumers with quality injections, by making efficient use of machine learning and intelligence. Although only 19% of consumers are currently using chatbots, 95% think they will make more use of chatbots in the coming years. 

Smart mirror, smart mirror on the wall…

A talking mirror is no longer a fantasy from Snow White, but is now reality. In contrast with the mirror in the fairy tale, Charly does give an honest answer if its opinion is requested. By making use of intelligence and machine learning, this loyal assistant knows exactly what suits the person in the mirror.

The consumer links personal data (such as data from a fitness app) to his or her account, and along with historic data (such as previous purchases), this makes it possible to make a good determination of the consumer’s taste. The smart mirror also uses face recognition software, which is also linked to the personal account.

This is just one example of how chatbots can enrich the customer journey. It is therefore hardly surprising that 77% of companies indicate that they would like to implement chatbot technology, in order to increase customer satisfaction and conversion. Chatbots can also initiate efficiency improvements in the areas of costs and HR. In short, the benefits of chatbots for the business are well known, but there are still a number of challenges for chatbot developers.

Chatbot challenges

Almost half of consumers still prefer human contact at the other end of the line, so chatbots are primarily used for answering simple, everyday questions. A third of consumers indicate that they would be happy to use chatbots for all interactions, as long as the option is also offered to easily contact a person, when needed.

Looking at the challenges for chatbots, the lack of human finesse is seen as the biggest obstacle (66%). Other major challenges identified are development and maintenance (35%) and finding the right balance between human interactions and interactions with chatbots (33%).

Developers will have their hands full in the coming period with the further development of chatbots, so that, like Charly, they can do more than just simple interactions. For example, it is assumed that chatbots will be playing a significant role in e-commerce in the future. But one essential aspect for this is an integrated payment system. If that doesn’t arrive, the chatbot will never be able to serve as an effective sales tool.

The added value a chatbot can have for the customer journey has not yet reached its peak, by a long way. In the last 10 years, the chatbot has evolved from a paperclip in Microsoft Office to a mirror dispensing clothing advice. The meteoric development of artificial intelligence and machine learning will only further increase the power of the chatbot. 

Learn how chatbots in the customer journey can enhance e-commerce. Download the free white paper here

Mark de Bruijn
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March 7, 2018
Mark de Bruijn

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