The Rise of the BOTS

Jan 23, 2017

Marketers the world over are scrambling to gain a footprint on our precious Smart devices and in particular our mobile phones. Predictions that we will all one day own such powerful technology appear to be being realised in even the most remote parts of the globe and with them come the ability to download ever more sophisticated Apps offering us everything from casual gaming to important health monitors. Named the ‘Digital Assistant’ the humble mobile phone has been transformed into a must have device that many of us cannot now live without.

This computer in all our pockets is now the most sought after marketing channel available to any organisation wishing to attract a slice of a consumer market. As such the rush to offer sophisticated and well-meaning Apps has led to the availability of thousands with such narrow interests that most fail to interest any significant size of audience.

Certain industries are doing better than others, Financial services being one where the convenience of mobile banking is obvious. Whereas, many retailers have struggled to make such a breakthrough. The attempt to keep customers and manage their loyalty through the convenience of a mobile app is compelling when you think through the implications. If a large retailer or a bank or an airline can sit in your pocket and serve you with useful, relevant advice, promotions and tips, many consumers will take the bait and stay loyal. Relevance, convenience and the power of a valued brand have always been some of the more powerful ingredients of a customer loyalty strategy.

The rise of the BOTs is a quiet revolution that brings Artificial Intelligence into contact with the everyday consumers. BOTs are now changing the rules of the game and enhancing B2C organisation’s ability to influence its customer base. Organisations large and small have subtly been incorporating BOTs in seemingly simple ways that allow them to learn about the consumer and to serve them better.

The relative low cost of mobile app technology together with the speed of new evolving Bot technology is allowing companies to adopt ever more sophisticated technological driven approaches to engaging customers in order sell them more and to keep pace with their demands. This allows consumers to get even closer to the brands that we like, as well as the freedom to manage our lives on the go.

Most consumers will not even be aware that they have interacted with a Bot. Having been in use for a number of years to support web based customer communications, servicing customer queries and questions using instant messaging (IM) services such as text; or internet relay chat (IRC) such as group chats. BOTS essentially sit in the background of applications and use a series of rules to govern their behaviour to monitor and respond to certain phrases, formulating responses to questions. BOTS are often used for tasks like providing the weather or sport updates. Probably one of the most obvious examples of this from recent higher profile development has come in the form of Siri and Cortana; the iOS and Android chatbots that provide answers to questions and perform basic tasks on request.

This technology is a potential silver bullet for retailers where customer communications are a significant challenge. There are a growing number of retailers and Banks making greater use of this technology to service communication channels. Organisations such as H&M, Dominos, RBS and Facebook have all made significant investment is this area.

As a retailer with a prominent profile on the high street, H&M has diversified its engagement strategy by using this technology to make social media and its brand more integrated. With the deployment of a Mobile App called ‘Kik’, H&M has provided a way for its customers to send images of themselves or a garment, (photographs), from which H&M will provide style analysis to make recommendations regarding the latest styles/outfits. This allows H&M customers to get personalised style recommendations whilst out drinking with friends, planning for an event, in fact anywhere, anytime. H&M see this as a customer loyalty initiative and who would argue with them?

Dominos is another good example; for lovers of Dominos Pizza once an account is set up via the Dominos App or Web site – ‘Easy Order’ the Facebook Messenger app allows users to send the message ‘Pizza’ using ‘Dom the Pizza Bot’, the messenger then provides details of stored favourites and previous orders giving quick and easy options for ordering without having to access the Domino app or web site to place an order. Such convenience for Dominos lovers is clearly very compelling.

The adoption of BOT technology provides convenience and simplicity for the user without the need to flick between apps to perform complex transactions. The successful adoption of these technology enhancements lead to an undoubted impact on the consumer. The follow-on benefits for the organisations using them are immense particularly when you consider that the gathering of data about consumer behaviour will significantly improve the ability for brands to connect and provide timely and personalised communications.

Traditional loyalty schemes are evolving and will retain their place in the armoury used by marketers the world over. Developments in customer service and particularly in customer communications that go hand in hand with a 360-degree approach to customer loyalty will define the big winners of the future.

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