Bots today are what sites were before the 90s. The era of bots is yet to come

Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian

By: Iva Bolta, Digital Strategist, Bruketa&Žinić OM

My first encounter with a bot happened a few years ago, while I was buying clothes at a famous webshop. I was pleasantly surprised by the kindness, patience and precision in detecting my wants and needs. For years I cited that as one of the best examples of customer support and understanding of customers, until the same thing happened to me on another page, and I realized that there was actually a (ro)bot on the other side of the screen.

Bots are virtual assistants who help solving various types of problems or needs of users through personalized chat. They are currently dominating the internet and are in expansion, evidenced by the fact that they generate 60% of internet traffic globally. The range of their applications is very wide, from shopping systems to smart aircrafts.

Different bots, different tasks  

The most widespread are the voice bots and chatbots. We have all met with Siri and Cortana, the most famous examples of voice bots who can provide information, send messages, check the calendar and the like, all through a conversation with a user on their smartphone. Chatbots on the other hand are available as standalone native apps or integrated through existing chat platforms like Facebook Messenger, Viber and the like.

Many brands use chatbots because of the ease of achieving interaction with the user, and the possibility of personalized messages, which significantly improves the user experience. CNN, BBC and TechCrunch were among the first to test chatbots for content distribution in order to better respond to the individual needs of users for specific topics.

The others didn’t wait long to jump on board, so H&M offered its customers digital assistant to help in the selection and purchase of products, KLM facilitated the process of buying plane tickets, while Uber integrated into Facebook Messenger where customers can order drives and conduct the transaction without opening their wallets or entering a credit card number. The goal of chatbots is providing services according to individual interests and needs of the end user.

Bots in brand communication

Brands also embraced bots as an alternative solution to apps, because they don’t require previous installation and can be integrated on any platform, which are already the natural environment of the users. Through bots, today we can make the return of goods, book a table at a restaurant, check our account balance, and all that without the human factor that would otherwise be required for these activities. This means that brands significantly reduce resource costs, and due to the speed of processing they are also shortening the very process of solving tasks, which results in happier users because they get faster and better service.

A good example is the Taco Bell and its integration in Slack, one of the most popular communication services among companies. Taco Bell used a chatbot to introduce a new approach to ordering and food delivery, where users can solve the eternal dilemma – what to eat for lunch at work – in just a few clicks. Through personalized communication, whose primary characteristics are fun and humor, the brand connected with its customers, which contributed to the positive brand perception and ensured customer loyalty.

Bots serve brands as intelligent agents in collecting data on customers and potential customers, as they can remember the history of conversations, connect information gained through previous interactions and adapt communication to achieve a better effect to the mutual benefit.

Bruketa&Žinić created its first chatbot in 2012, as a corporate greeting Chat s djedom BiŽićnjakom (Chat with BiŽ Santa)

Did Trump win presidency thanks to bots?

Before the internet era, the presidential elections were abound with bogus public opinion surveys, aimed at manipulating public opinion. With the arrival of the internet, methods have become more sophisticated. There is a well-known case of the 50 cent army from 2004, in which the Chinese government paid an army of people to participate in political discussions and leave various comments online.

After Trump’s win, there have been numerous theories according to which he can thank bots for his victory in the US elections, as they generated positive news and comments about him, which affected the perception of public opinion. An image was created that he enjoys great popularity and that the public supports his opinion and attitudes. Thus, using a variety of bots to deceive the general public on social networks, secured a victory for him. People created preferences that they didn’t have about him, and finally checked his name on the ballot. If the speculation is true, this is the best indicator of the power of the bot.

Good vs. bad bots

Bots are actually all around us and offer their users instant solutions at a distance of one click. The activity of bots is actually a reflection of user’s behavior on the web. Just as in life there are good and bad things, so we have good guy bots and villain bots. The good guys help in gathering information, while villains delete data and attack sites. The challenge with bots is that, unlike mobile apps, they don’t have to go through a detailed examination of various systems before launch, and are often used for illegal purposes. An example of such bots are spam mail and hacker bots. However, bots are in their nature actually very positive because their higher purpose is better informed people.

Bot era

We are currently witnessing a growing trend in the application of bots in the operations of many companies, where the intermediary between brand and consumer is being erased. Customers have many options and alternative choices in almost everything, so it is necessary to maximally optimize operations and offer customers what is useful to them. Bots are the best solution in situations where you need dialogue, providing personalized services that facilitate the exchange of information and making of purchasing decisions. This shows understanding of customer needs and builds long-term relationship focused on the development and quality of interaction.

Although limited to solving certain problems because they have no awareness, through learning and optimization they are becoming more intelligent. Bots today are what sites were before the 90s. Era of bots is yet to come, and we, the users, will decide whether we define them as new best friends, or stalkers who intrude on our privacy.