A few years ago, chatting with a chatbot was a comedic experience. Now, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a chatbot driven by AI and a human.
The way e-commerce delivers customer service is changing. Driven by rapid digital transformation, which is being called the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, e-commerce is on the cusp of automating online customer service. The introduction of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and recognition to chatbots has spawned a new generation of AI chatbots that understand semantics, complex queries and answer them with human vigour. Deployed without label, they can pass as human.
You might have spoken with one yourself. Last year, Apple unveiled Business Chat for iMessage, a way for businesses to communicate with customers directly within Messages. Then there’s Messenger Bots, which is Facebook’s version.
Put your phone down, and you’ll find a chatbot in the Amazon Echo (Alexa) and in Google Home (Google Assistant). And let’s not forget about Siri.
For e-commerce and online business, AI chatbots have numerous benefits.
The most obvious benefit is improved customer service, and improved customer service availability. AI chatbots don’t sleep, nor do they bring human error into the conversation. If the key to a successful online business today is helping and delivering important information in real-time, AI chatbots certainly deliver.
And let’s not forget about customer engagement. The majority of e-commerce websites today are remarkably old fashioned. Research shows that consumers engage with brands more when they spark a conversation or deliver information proactively. Static content, the average product page – it isn’t good enough anymore. Chatbots can step in, typically when a user is scrolling for information, and ask the question: would you like me to explain how this product works? I tell you, you’re pretty likely to say yes.
The cost of AI chatbots
OK – so AI chatbots are the next big thing in direct customer service. Consumers are demanding information to be delivered in real-time, which AI chatbots can low-interest better than a web page. The benefits are obvious. So, what’s the cost?
GoHire spent roughly $41,000 (£32,000) developing GOBe, a job search Facebook Messenger chatbot. A much more complex chatbot, developed as a custom build by Argentica-based elMejorTrato, cost roughly $340,000 (£265,000). So, the prices for a custom AI chatbot range from £30,000 to £300,000.
For an off-the-shelf AI chatbot, the costs are lower. Chatbot builders allow you to make your own chatbot using existing code and an existing AI. A good chatbot for a small e-commerce store will typically cost £10,000. However, if you want a top-of-the-line chatbot with advanced Natural Language Processing and recognition, you’re looking at five times that as a base price. So yeah, the technology isn’t small change.
For start-ups and scale-ups, financing a chatbot makes sense. If you have a healthy e-commerce business, investing in a chatbot will pay for itself over time. The efficiency improvements alone are remarkable. The retail finance market is highly competitive right now, with low interest rates and secured and unsecured funding available from Nationwide Corporate Finance.