2018 is the year chatbots will come good according to many tech pundits, as they move from test and experiment to the front of many business websites, embedded in most social media platforms and apps.

Chatbot adoption continues to grow across many verticals and lines of business with Netatmo, the smart home company recently launching a Facebook Messenger bot. It allows users to chat and instruct their smart home appliances, heaters, lighting and so on,  through text commands, rather than navigating various apps and options.

Schroders, Japanese forex business Monex and Jordan Ahli Bank are among the latest financial institutions to roll out chatbots offering advice or information to their various customers. Currently in beta, SchrodersGO offers asset management advice for clients, demonstrating advanced features like fund report cards and market links. Check out the video for some interesting details.

The other leading adopter of chatbots remains the travel industry with Singapore Airlines the latest major carrier to jump on the chatbot bandwagon. Their bot called ‘Kris,’ lives on the airline’s Facebook page, the English-language bot can help with baggage, check-in and online booking queries. A live beta, “Kris will be under constant development as we further develop its knowledge library based on what our customers are most frequently asking for,” said the airline.

Looking at the wider travel market, an Apex Insight piece highlights how AI is rapidly changing the passenger experience but needs to evolve further, for example using image recognition… “In the next 3 to 4 years, we’ll see chatbots get much smarter as they start to bring in other forms of AI to help sell products or meet customer service needs. For example, if a traveller gives the chatbot a picture of a beach, the AI can look at all the features of the image and see what travel destinations closely match the content, and then display those options.”

What is strange is that while some brands are promoting their bots with smart logos, like Ahli Bot, providing informative videos and other efforts, as highlighted in this piece. Others, like Singapore, are doing a least-effort option with just a press release to soft launch their bots. Singapore carries over 1.5 million passengers a month, but I bet only a few check the company’s press site, and there isn’t even a mention of it on the Facebook page. How will customers find out about bots if there is no marketing, and how to company’s expect to get feedback data and for their AI bots to learn if no one is visiting them? This is an aspect of company-thinking that needs to change in 2018.

The Stats Are In

Others are talking about their bots, and the results they produce. Even for a low-key use, chatbots are proving their worth around the globe. Take English Premier League side AFC Bournemouth’s first foray into the world of chatbots with #Cherrybot. The results seem impressive. Encouraging a range of interactions, it resulted in over 400 selfies uploaded, 1,150 unique Facebook interactions for over 19,200 messages sent through the chatbot. News and updates about it generated 3.2 million impressions, not bad for the smallest team in the league by far.

Meanwhile, statistics from SnatchBot, one of the best chatbot platforms, and free to use, shows that of 30 million chats using its platform, 14% of conversations result in human-based chat. About 12% of conversations are abandoned, while 80% ended in a “thank you” suggesting some satisfaction. Leading users of chatbots are education (16%), IT (13%), e-commerce (13%), financial and legal (11%) and customer service (10%). See more details here.

Over in research-land, ReseachandMarkets.com reckon that Chatbots are heading beyond CRM in leading industry verticals. They expect that standalone Chatbots will contribute 40% of the market by 2022, generating some $744 million in revenue, although chatbots and AIs will lead to lost wages of $262.7B by 2021 with many jobs replaced by software.

Looking Ahead

With so much focus on chatbots in 2018, brands need to deliver the right bot first time, and ensure they market it as much as they would a new app or service. This on-the-quiet launching was acceptable in the first few years of the chatbot market, but now? All brands need to move chatbots to the forefront of their efforts and pay close attention to marketing efforts to ensure awareness is high, and that the bots are rapidly updated, either through AI or script editing to keep those users happy.