What is a chatbot and why do I need one?


At their most basic level, chatbots are a combination of a robot and AI. But when we talk about chatbots, we are talking about two different things, conversational chatbots such as Facebook Messenger and voice enabled chatbots, such as Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomePod.

Conversational chatbots can be a powerful tool for customer service. They are a means of creating connections with your customers, at the time that your customers want.  “Conversational Commerce” allows consumers to engage with you across a variety of apps, social media and chat software. And by having conversations with your customers, you can actually learn more about them.


What time of the day do customers email you? Is it always between business hours? (That would be really handy wouldn’t it!) Or are many of your queries after hours? And how many minutes or hours a day do you spend fielding simple customer service queries that could be answered by automation, that is by a chatbot. If you answered “after I leave the office” or “more than we want” but you aren’t using chatbots yet,  then you haven’t joined the revolution!

Interestingly, the Chinese have been successfully integrating social commerce and chatbots for years, using WeChat, QQ and other sites. In fact, chatbots were first created in China, in response to the relentless questioning from buyers to the producers themselves and the need to seek the opinions of other customers on the products.

Australian retailers are only just starting to realise that this is a dynamic sales and marketing tool that they can use to grab market share.

Using chatbots such as Facebook Messenger is probably the biggest disruption to digital marketing since email marketing began; the ability to market instantly to customers is phenomenal. Whilst Facebook Messenger launched in 2011, the opportunity to truly market on the platform began in 2016.  Before Messenger marketing and the use of chatbots, advertising and marketing was a much manual process, as was answering customer service queries.

So let’s look at how a conversation chatbots can help you:

1.     Engage with your customers directly

You should be engaging in the conversation your audience is already having, in the place that they are already having it.

The reach of chatbots such as Facebook Messenger is unparalleled. Internationally, Messenger connects you to 1.3 billion people each month, or 15 million Australians, who are actively using the platform each month. And it’s not just one generation or just one market. The span of consumers using Messenger is incredibly broad. 53% of people who message businesses say they are more likely to do business with a business they can message. So shouldn’t you spend your time and energy were your customers want to be?


Email today is crowded. Look at your own inbox and see how many emails you have sitting there from different businesses, both solicited and unsolicited. Almost every email has an email list and customers have to choose to opt in. With Facebook Messenger, opting in so much simpler, even a call to action button will do the job. Headliner Labs found that people are 3.5 times more likely to open a Facebook Message than a marketing email. If you can get your customers opening your message, you are more likely to get them to interact with you. What is best for the end consumer is also best for you.

2.     Save time and hopefully money

Customers shop online 24/7 and when they ask a question, they expect the answer immediately.
They also ask many of the same questions over and over (and over) again. How much of your day is spent answering if an item is in stock, tracking deliveries, about your opening hours, or your returns policy.  You can build these questions into your system so that the answers are there ready to be answered. And now you can redirect some of your customer service staff to other areas of the business.

Perhaps one of the best features of using chatbots is that they are completely mobile optimised so you don’t need to worry about how it will function and appear on a mobile.

3.     Create happy customers which increased sales

Chatbots offer real-time, one-to-one conversations that engage customers. Relationships with brands are just as important to many consumers as they are to their friends. So instead of redirecting your customers to your website FAQs, you can actually talk to your customers, ask them questions. The best chatbots are responsive  and give customers an interactive experience that’s convenient and familiar.

What this boils down to is, your message doesn’t have to change, but the way you deliver it does. It can’t be long, full of detail. Customers want to be asked questions, they want to interact. It must be conversational with the end user!


Whilst it would be wonderful to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in the most technologically advanced automated bots to answer all of your customer queries and to take care of all customer engagement, that does not need to be the only focus of using chatbots. You can use chatbots to create strategies to facilitate better communication with your customers,  to provide better customer service, to generate leads, to generate customers, and to grow your business.

Although many businesses are using chatbots and trying to make their bots as “human” as possible, interestingly, this does not seem to be what consumers want. According to a study conducted by LivePerson in 2017, businesses should focus on usefulness, rather than personality, if they wish to effectively use chatbots in the future. Globally, nearly 50% of respondents said they preferred a chatbot that solved their issue over a chatbot that had a personality. Of course, in two years chatbots have come a long way and customers are much more used to interacting with chatbots then they were when the study was conducted.

SO, you are ready to get started with your own chatbot, but which one? In just a few short years it’s incredible how many chatbots have been developed. But with anything, some are easy to use and some are only for experienced developers. Liveperson, is widely recommended and was used by Australian Super when they launched their chatbot ‘Ash’ last year. ManyChat and Chatfuel have emerged as two premiere chatbot building tools, which allow anyone to create powerful bots without any programming skills. Whether you are using the Adboy Chat Assistants which was designed by an advertising firm for Facebook Messenger or Oracle Intelligent Bots for much broader use, there is no shortage of providers you can use to create your bot.

Customers should have the choice of using the channel of their choice. Older customers still generally prefer human contact, they tend to be the most resistant to using technology as their primary source of assistance whilst younger consumers who live with their technology, who use their phones 24 hours a day, want the answer immediately.

While chatbots will never replace good old fashioned human customer service (that’s assuming your customer service consultant knows their stuff and is having a good day), efficient and effective use of them can reduce your workload, increase your customer response time, which should mean and increase in your sales.

And once you have your chatbot all set up and your sales have taken off, the next area to get on top of is using virtual assistants, like Kit, the Shopify “virtual employee” who can do your marketing, send out your thank you emails, look after your inventory management and more. The AI revolution is well and truly here.