The Internet is increasingly a preferred channel for marketing and for business entities offering services and goods of various kinds. Static sites are about thirty years old but are now prehistoric in a universe that is rapidly experimenting with new forms of automation aimed at ensuring timely and efficient services.
All of today's IT giants, including Apple, Microsoft and Facebook have ongoing projects to develop and evolve Smart Bots, scripts or software capable of simulating human behavior and interacting naturally with a user.
What are smart bots?
The Smart Bot are based on sectoral artificial intelligence, such that they are able to replace human resources in different areas. In particular, these next-generation software aim to offer information or technical support services on different channels, including in live chat conversations with the user, simulating a conversational style that is realistic and, most importantly, enables the user to complete the required task.
The first robots on the Internet, science fiction movies aside, were developed and used as early as the last years of the last millennium. The famous Office assistant might have been an example of a primordial bot, much less sophisticated than those currently in use.
Apple's Siri is a modern Bot that can interpret the user's voice requests and use the Web to respond to their needs. Google, too, has developed a virtual assistant that is as reliable as an English butler and most useful especially when accessing the search engine from mobile devices or Smart TVs.
Facebook is preparing its grand entrance into the world of Internet Bots, with software that, integrated with FB Messenger, will be capable of interacting and conversing via chat with real users, interpreting and responding to their requests.
One bot definitely worth mentioning is Cleverbot, an experiment started way back in 2006, but already thought of by its creator in 1988. What does this bot do? It responds with fuzzy logic (Wikipedia) and according to the context he is in, to his interlocutor's questions, building on the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of conversations he has already had with other people.
This Smart Bot responds so well to questions and conversations that many people think it is actually a disguised chat, and that users are communicating with each other anonymously, in real time. In reality, it is sophisticated software that does it all by itself, mimicking users' behavior and vocabulary.
The best-known examples of Bots, however, represent only a small part of an industry in total ferment, engaged in the production of software that is likely to determine a new evolution in the way business and marketing is done on the Internet.
Artificial intelligence and automation: how smart bots are used
The first generation of software robots was not so lucky, perhaps because of the disparities that their performances showed in the merciless comparison with the Bots invented in the movies.
The celebrated Supercar Kit, to take one example, was unparalleled at a time when the concept of artificial intelligence was barely sketched out. In recent years, however, the Internet has established itself as the gold standard for both public and private service delivery, commerce and, of course, entertainment and social activities.
Many leading businesses in their respective industries have shifted their business to the Web, needing human resources to provide assistance or, in general, interaction with ever-increasing streams of users.
An e-commerce site, for example, generates more profit when the user has the ability to ask and get information in real time, such as via chat.
Having qualified staff on hand to respond 24 hours a day requires considerable effort, which is not always compatible with company budgets and policies.
A Chat Bot capable of answering questions from human customers can work without hours and without going on break, can interact with multiple users at the same time, and generally succeeds in reducing the cost of running a service offering while still gaining efficiency.
The continuing demand for increasingly high-performance software that can replace human labor has led to increasing investment in research and development. Today, the Supercar Computer Kit is no longer a utopia.
The Google Car, made in Mountain View, is a prototype car that does not require a driver, recognizes and avoids obstacles and is capable of reaching a destination by deciding the route to follow.
Smart Bots are also able to interact with humans in a natural way, even being able to recognize and indulge in irony, in true Kit style. Operating systems such as Windows 10, social networks and search engines use Smart Bots to interact with the public and provide assistance.
The use of Smart Bots is not limited to audience interaction. Purpose-built scripts make it possible to automate several key tasks in the background. Google, for example, is using increasingly sophisticated Bots to quickly explore the web, catalog the news of already active sites, and enter new active domains into its database.
Bots optimized in the titanic task of information gathering allow Google to consolidate its position as the leading search engine. The processes of scanning the network, classifying data and generating search result pages (SERPs) are automated, efficient and fast, thanks to the relentless work of Bots capable of replacing human intelligence in a given area.
How web marketing and user experience will change
The planetary need among Web users is for reliable services that increasingly shorten distance and time. Every effort in the Internet is aimed at increasing speed in every sphere of action.
Modern web marketing makes proximity with the customer a strong point capable of affecting lead generation very positively. For example, a site that entrusts its email contacts with users to generic autoresponders is penalized compared to one that can provide real-time human interaction, perhaps through an easy-to-access chat.
Stating also the evolution of support and customer relationship services offered by competitors, very often users are not willing to wait hours to receive an answer to a question they consider crucial to the finalization of an online purchase. They are more likely to choose to look for a reality that can provide timely and immediate answers.
Electronic commerce, the travel industry, and the provision of subscription services are a few examples of industries that aim for rapid completion of a sale that is defined as an impulse sale. If the user were to leave the site, waiting for information, he or she would most likely not return at a later time, given the breadth of alternatives offered by the Web.
Even from the aspect of customer retention, some web marketing techniques such as subscribing to a site's mailing list seem to appear obsolete, compared to new strategies that make use of Bots.
The mailing list has certainly been one of the most successful web marketing solutions in years past, but probably because of its widespread use, it has lost some of its appeal. Antispam and, above all, an audience that is tired of receiving emails are obstacles that cause conversion rates to drop irretrievably.
The smart bot for your online business
Alternative software such as Manychat allow experimenting with new and more effective automated user retention techniques. The program harnesses the power of Bots and the large audience of social networks for multichannel marketing that multiplies profits.
The software integrates with Facebook Messenger, can be placed on the site, and invites users to join the discussion.
This is where a Chat Bot capable of effectively simulating a human interlocutor comes into action, offering a valuable conversation to the user who will be encouraged to stay in touch.
Facebook's choice opens up millions of possible members to the network and, in general, to an audience more likely to be contacted by message and receive proposals. When they find themselves on a successful social platform like Facebook or spot its logo, users are more trusting and attentive. Their stay rate and propensity to finalize an action increases, increasing the chances of a successful Web marketing action.
The example of Manychat is just a small taste of what may be in store for Messenger Bot-related information technology in the future and, more generally, to software and scripts that can simulate human intelligence.
Most likely, web marketing as we know it now will make a decisive turn toward almost completely automated strategies that will allow interacting with users in real time, profiling them effectively, thoroughly understanding their tastes, and anticipating and facilitating certain actions such as purchasing a product. In this sense, for years the giant Amazon has been investing in scripts capable of understanding a user's behavior and even predicting the eventual finalization of the purchase in the near future, so as to anticipate the eventual shipping process.
Artificial intelligence, mobile integration and speech recognition are making great strides, and it is safe to assume that even better than today, some software will be able to automate research and customer relationship activities, opening up new scenarios for a web marketing that is already in a new technological era.