I spoke at a conference last week called MarTech, which focuses on the intersection of marketing and technology. One of their founding insights is that technology changes exponentially, but organizations change logarithmically.
One of the other speakers talked about the rise of chatbots, and how they will fundamentally change marketing. The speaker shared that 80% of brands expect to be using chatbots by 2020. And yet 70% of current chatbot interactions fail, meaning that AI couldn’t understand what people were saying and humans had to step in.
Chatbots are another example of how we’re living in the awkward adolescence of marketing and technology. The technology shows staggering, glittering potential, and yet implementing the technology can be a bumpy road.
Last year, Microsoft most famously experienced this bumpy road when it unveiled a machine-learning chatbot named Tay on Twitter. Tay was designed to learn about the world through its conversations with users. Within 24 hours, pranksters egged on Tay to make racist statements and brag about smoking marijuana in front of the police.
Most branded chatbots haven’t misfired quite like that. But with 70% of current chatbot interactions failing, the most likely fallout will be customer frustration.
“Tolerance for a mediocre bot is much less than for a mediocre app,” said Sam Mandel, CEO of a chatbot service named Poncho.
Juniper Research predicts that chatbots will save the customer service industry $8 billion by 2022, up from $20 million this year, with the biggest impact on healthcare and banking. They expect that the success rate of bot interactions within healthcare will move from 22% today to over 75% by 2022.
There’s a marketing axiom that the shortest distance between a brand and a customer is a conversation. As marketers experiment with chatbots to make those conversations easier, we’ll need to make sure those conversations are the ones to be having.
Here’s a related cartoon I drew a few years ago on the adolescent stage of technology and marketing.