Using natural language processing, artificial and sometimes even emotional intelligence, chatbots offer a great way to market a product to the consumer by increasing service, including individual advice and 24/7 availability.

Moderator Christian Strobl spoke to Microsoft’s René Brandel, Facebook’s Kemal el Moujahid, Philips Lighting’s Clive Roach and Hilmar Scheel from Valora about why bots should be part of everyone’s digital strategy.

“Messenger is eating the world,” opened el Moujahid, talking about how the current 1.2 billion messenger users would grow to 2 billion across all apps globally by 2018. “If you want to acquirer customers on mobile, you have to consider messaging.”  He continued to discuss how, with 100 thousand active bots and two billion messages per month exchanged between people and businesses, messaging is an enjoyable experience for users, allowing personalisation at scale.

Of his umbrella brand, Scheel said that a survey had revealed that the average consumer spends about three seconds in store before leaving and many don’t actually know where they are buying from.

Microsoft’s Skype is now better for having chatbots, according to Brandel, serving information users actually care about in the same feed as messages from friends. Roach then talked about how chatbots have many uses in the B2B as well as B2C environments, and need to be built into digital strategies and integrated into the back end to marry data.

El Moujahid discussed how an open question to start followed by an automated questionnaire can be used to retarget users based on their interests at the correct time, which has seen up to 14% sales increase.  “People don’t care about chatbots, they care about benefits,” added Scheel, while Roach discussed how, having witnessed the internet’s arrival, the same pattern was now happening, just at a greater speed requiring faster integration.  “People have fun talking to bots, sometimes they want to test the bot so you have to really plan as all kinds of questions will be asked!”

The panel discussed how chatbots need a redefinition as, while current bots are helpers, they will dominate in the future. Roach added that Philips is integrating bots on a hybrid model, starting small and basic but integrating using social media management and expanding based on lessons learned.

“There is lots of homework to be done if we want to provide a personalised experience,” said Scheel.  A problem raised is that, if a bot is too efficient and replies too quickly to a question, the human discredits the bot’s answer. So how can personalisation move forward? With any new tech there’ll be stages and right now businesses are learning about having an open connection with customers whilst using AI to answer frequently asked questions.

“You don’t need crazy AI to do that, you can do it today,” concluded Scheel. “I can ask users what they like, what products they’re interested in and it’s not noise for them, it’s signal – going forth, there are a lot of interesting things AI will do.”