We’ve come a long way in the past few years since chatbots have entered the commercial mainstream. Now that businesses have had some time to experiment, iterate and market their bots to the masses, what is the state of chatbots half-way though the first quarter of 2018? We’re taking stock on key stats, usage and insights gleaned in 2018 to get a better sense of how far chatbots have come—and where they’re going next.

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Chatbots 2018: Baby Boomers Love Bots Too

We often talk about bots as appealing to millennials and Generation Z. You know the drill. Kids these days love chat platforms like Snapchat, Kik and Messenger, choosing those apps over social media sites. But it would be a mistake to leave baby boomers out of the equation. In fact, baby boomers love chatbots: according to the State of Chatbots survey, they’re more likely than millennials to cite the following as potential benefits to using bots:

  • Getting an instant response (61%)
  • Answers to simple questions (64%)
  • Easy communication (52%)

Why does this matter? First, it prompts us to consider a demographic that’s easily forgotten. Second, these insights are perfectly aligned with common use cases for voice-enabled home devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, HomePod and more. Businesses hoping to jump on the voice app bandwagon would do well to appeal to baby boomers, reaching them via home devices when they’ve failed to do so via messaging apps. Right now, teens are using voice search more than adults (55% compared to 41%, respectively), but home smart speakers may change that.

What Users Expect from Bots

There are some surprising insights we can draw from the State of Chatbots survey. When asked what kind of purposes they could see themselves using chatbots for, some of the top responses included:

  • Resolving a complaint or problem (35%)
  • Getting detailed answers or explanations (35%)
  • Finding a human agent (34%)

We expect that first point as chatbots have long been a solution for providing speedy, 24-hour customer service. (In fact, 85% of all customer service interactions are expected to be powered by bots by 2020 according to Gartner). But what is interesting is that users are open to receiving detailed, in-depth answers to questions using a bot. This seems counter to conventional wisdom right now is to provide simple, immediate snippets of information. But as brands begin to absorb chatbots into their content strategies, they might look for ways to boost user engagement by not being afraid to go in-depth.

Botmakers should also consider that just over a third of users are likely to use their bot only as a way to connect with a human. While most consumers are happy to turn to bots for 24-hour service, a significant userbase still prefers talking to a human (56%, according to Business Insider), even in 2018. Botmakers should carefully consider how their bots work in concert with human representatives, then explain that relationship to users. For example, a customer support bot might offer automated solutions to a query, but immediately provide the option to talk to a human once it’s collected all the information it needs about the user’s problem.

Consumers Don’t Like Brand Websites—But Chatbots are Helping

Chatbots were originally envisioned as an added convenience for connecting brands and consumers, but it’s becoming apparent that brands will need to implement chatbots to remain relevant. This is because other online offerings—brand websites, customer support FAQs and more—are consistently failing consumers and turning them away. According to the State of Chatbots survey, the biggest challenges consumers face when engaging with a brand online are that:

  • Websites are difficult to navigate (34%)
  • Users can’t find answers to simple questions (31%)
  • The services aren’t accessible on a mobile device (23%)

The biggest frustration consumers face is the inability to find the information they need. Labyrinthine menus and poorly indexed webpages push consumers away from seeking solutions on brand websites. Obviously, chatbots solve each of these problems by immediately seeking solutions from any device. But that shouldn’t be your sole focus. A chatbot must work with your existing online solutions, not just as an alternative partitioned from the rest of the online experience.

For example, let’s say your brand website isn’t employing search very well. If your webpages are poorly indexed, making search difficult for the user, there’s little chance that a chatbot would have better luck pulling from that same source of data. When generating content for your bot, take the time to optimize web content as well. This allows for a more harmonious experience no matter how the user is trying to connect with you. And of course, a chatbot can point the user to a specific webpage for a solution and vice-versa.

The future for chatbots is looking better than ever. Whether you’re looking to create revolutionary, new experiences or augment existing channels with a bot, the sky is the limit!

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