Chatbots – Now and Next: In Conversation with Murray Newlands

As part of our newly launched research, Tech Trends Set To Transform The Insight Industry, we spoke to the founders of leading tech startups to hear more about the key developments reshaping our world.

One of these was Murray Newlands, the CEO and Co-Founder of ChattyPeople, a firm which specialises in building chatbots for Facebook and Slack. We caught up with Murray to hear why chatbots are such a key trend to watch and what brands should be doing to harness this opportunity.

Q: Thanks for joining us today Murray. There been a lot of excitement about chatbots in the industry press so we’d like to start by asking you how developed this trend really is?

A: In the UK, chatbots are still at a very early stage – there are very few businesses that have created good chatbots and the most successful of these are just for simple Q&A. In China, it’s a different story – their chatbots are much more advanced than they are here. But over the next 12 months, this will start to change – we’ll begin to see more and better use cases for chatbots. I believe that in every type of industry, businesses will emerge which find a way to use chatbots to benefit consumers.

Q: Why are chatbots such an important trend to watch?

A: Well the first reason is that consumers are interested in engaging with chatbots and are increasingly beginning to do so. The second is that Facebook is pushing chatbots in a fairly consistent way. Why? Well in China, consumers spend their money through WeChat – their equivalent of Messenger – so you can see the appeal! As Facebook starts to encourage businesses to build their chatbots through their platform, it’s likely that that your consumers are going to be buying products and services through Facebook Messenger.

Q: Are there any organisations that you think are leading really the way with chatbots that we should look to for inspiration?

A: The fact that you can buy a phone from Verizon through a bot is pretty amazing! Pizza Hut and Domino’s are also great examples because they allow you to actually buy food through their chatbot. Another impressive example comes from Ikea. They have a nifty little chatbot which helps customers build furniture – it reduces returns, gives customers what they want and provides real value.

Q: What advice would you give to businesses thinking about whether to build their own chatbot?

A: I’d say if you’re the kind of company that is good at taking advantage of these kind of things, there is a huge opportunity for you to get started with chatbots. Think about the revolution that happened when websites came about. Some of the businesses that were early adopters had some had spectacular success because they got in early. Why not take the same approach with chatbots?

If you’re a laggard company and things move slowly for you, setting up a chatbot for simple customer Q&A might only take a few hours and the cost commitment can be very low. I’d argue it’s worth placing at least something in the marketplace in case you completely miss the bandwagon.

Q: How can companies create a chatbot that’s engaging and differentiated from the competition?

A: My first tip would be think about how you can create a fun brand experience. If you want some inspiration, take a look at Catbot, a virtual cat that you feed via chatbot. It meows at you and people find it fun and engaging. Another great example comes from a brewery that has set up a drinking game chatbot. It doesn’t directly sell the product but it’s a great way of providing additional value through the chatbot.

My second tip would be to use emoticons within your chatbots as this can dramatically increase engagement. Finally, make sure your customer knows they’re interacting with a bot – not a human! That’s really crucial.

Q: Are there any other big developments in the chatbot world that business should watch out for?

A: Voice! Voice chatbots are starting to get much better and I can see them taking off for a lot of tasks. This is something businesses should look at. Of course, this will depend on the use case. There are some scenarios where you’ll need to have a visual interface but there are others – for example, when you’re driving – where a voice bot is much better suited. Of course, this throws up a whole host of questions. What is your brand voice? Does your company have an accent? Is your chatbot male or female? Does it use slang? Does it have a sense of humour? How you do branding with voice is a really interesting area that many brands will now have to consider!

Want to know more about chatbots? Download our latest report: Tech Trends Set To Transform The Insight Industry.


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