Instant Messaging Chat Bot: Your New Best Friend?

Instant Messaging Chat Bot: Your New Best Friend?

Min Chung Han (Kean University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5763-0.ch009
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Recently there has been a resurgence of chat bot use among businesses, which employ them as part of their marketing strategy. To provide better insight into instant messaging chat bots as a marketing tool, the present research focuses on mobile users' current understanding and perceptions of chat bots. This study examines what mobile consumers think of instant messaging chat bots, and whether consumers are willing to use the new chat bots. This study employs focus group interviews and online surveys to examine consumers' perceptions. The results indicate that a majority of mobile users have employed chat bots for customer service and for entertainment. Mobile users found instant messaging chat bots easy to use and useful, but not necessarily entertaining.
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Recently, there have been attempts to employ mobile messenger chat bots among businesses for such purposes as providing instant customer service, assisting customers in getting information and attracting more web traffic to businesses. Chat bots, or conversational agents, which first appeared in the 1960s, involve computer programs that interact with people, using auditory and textual methods in natural languages to mimic human conversation and to communicate with customers, in order to carry out tasks such as taking online orders or providing product information (Rawlins, 2016; Shawar& Atwell, 2007).

Although chat bots have been around for a while, they have recently gained renewed fame. This resurgence is due to the development of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and the growing fatigue experienced by people with too many mobile apps to download. Most mobile users probably have heard or experienced chat bots, such as Apple’s Siri, Google’s Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. Artificial Intelligence-based chat bots’ advanced ability to communicate in more natural language provides for easy usage and adds the feeling of a human element (Lee, 2017).

According to a Comscore White paper (2014), the number of mobile app downloads has been decreasing in recent years (e.g., average downloaded apps per person in a month dropped to zero in 2016 from 10 in 2008), because people do not want to download so many apps that basically provide the same service (e.g., Uber, Lyft and Gett for riding share apps; Spotify and Pandora for music). Furthermore, mobile users now spend 80% of their mobile time on just three apps (Comscore, 2014).

Thus, businesses had no option but to utilize apps that already exist on consumers’ smart phones and that are used on a daily basis, such as messenger apps. As the popularity of instant messaging apps has surpassed even social media (e.g., the combined users of the top four instant messaging apps—WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Wechat and Viber- are greater than the combined users of the top four social media; BI Intelligence, 2016), businesses have integrated with popular mobile instant messaging apps (e.g., Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Twitter) to provide enhanced customer experience through chat bots.

The biggest social media service, Facebook, announced chat bots for Facebook Messenger Platform in April, 2016. Facebook Messenger is the second most downloaded app on iOS after Snapchat, with 1.2 billion active monthly users, and has become a “primary” communication channel for many people (Constine, 2017). Facebook boasts that chat bots can provide contents such as weather forecasts and traffic updates to shipping notices and receipts of orders. Facebook promised that the 500 million businesses on Facebook Messenger could build deeper relationships with their customers on Facebook Messenger Platform through chat bots (Marcus, 2016) to take advantage of already secured billions of daily active users.

Flower retailer 1-800-Flowers was one of the first retailers adopting Facebook Messenger chat bots to serve customers. Although 1-800-Flowers built its reputation and brand name on the use of a toll-free telephone number to attract customers, ironically, customers never have to call 1-800-Flowers to order, with the help of the Facebook Messenger chat bot. According to 1-800-Flowers, chat bots brought new young and customers to the company. Over 70% of Facebook Messenger chat bot orders come from new customers, who tend to be younger than existing customers, while the order volume from Facebook Messenger chat bot has grown (Caffyn, 2016).

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