Chatbots – apps driven by artificially intelligent processes that can conduct 'natural' conversations with consumers – are becoming increasingly powerful tools for brand marketers looking to engage customers more efficiently and effectively (see Invisible Marketing for more).
A new report from Juniper Research forecasts that chatbots will be responsible for cost savings of more than $8bn a year by 2022, up from $20m this year. Meanwhile, global analysts Forrester revealed last month that 57% of global businesses are either already using chatbots or plan to begin doing so this year.
Used by marketers in every industry, here are some of the most innovative chatbots recently brought to market.
- Pringles' Mr P: US snack brand Pringles has just launched a chatbot for Facebook Messenger that generates personalised music videos. The bot asks users for their favourite music genre, asks them to film themselves dancing, pulls in relevant imagery from cloud-image service provider Cloudinary, and automatically creates a bespoke video. They can then be shared using the #TasteTracks hashtag.
- Truss's Vera:Truss is a US start-up delivering an AI-powered service that enables people to find office space (currently only in Chicago and Dallas). Its chatbot Vera gathers tenant requirements and provides information such as monthly rent costs. This week the firm won $7.7m in Series A funding, and plans to expand the bot's capabilities to retail and industrial support.
- Nadia: Australian tech firm Soul Machines has created a virtual assistant called Nadia. It features the voice of actress Cate Blanchett and a face designed by a facial-motion-capture designer who's worked on films such as King Kong and Avatar. Nadia is powered by "emotional intelligence" technology that allows her to improve her interactions with people based on their emotional and facial responses via webcam. The chatbot was developed for the Australian government to improve services for people with disabilities.
- Leeds University's Becky: The UK institution has developed a chatbot called Becky to aid new students through the university's enrolment process. Becky can analyse keywords and learn which prospective courses students aim to attend, scanning for availability and offering up the best options.
- Alexander Wang & Adidas Originals: Last month, US fashion brand Alexander Wang launched its latest Adidas Originals collection in New York via a chatbot. A code printed on posters displayed across the city enabled people to text the chatbot at midday on July 29 and order directly from the bot. Items were then delivered by bike messenger the same day.
- Hyundai Card's Buddy: Korean credit card company Hyundai Card launched a chatbot service for members this month. Buddy used IBM's Watson's natural language processing technology to better understand the complexities of Korean grammar and inflection, so that it can answer clients' customer service questions more effectively.
For more on chatbots, see Invisible Marketing and Cannes Lions 2017: The Automated Future.