Chatbots are on the rise, and people use them with increasing frequency for banking transactions, customer service inquiries, appointment scheduling and more. It leads many to wonder what’s in store for the technology and how dominant it’ll become in the societal landscape.
Many decades ago, people had no concept of websites because they didn’t exist yet. Instead of going online, individuals met with service providers in person, went to libraries to research things and shopped solely in physical stores.
Although those kinds of interactions still happen, the internet has a stronghold on the way people conduct their lives. Despite their proliferation, websites fall short of the promises many people expected them to fill.
Is it possible chatbots could become even more all-encompassing so that they completely replace websites one day? Rob LoCascio is the founder and CEO of LivePerson, the company responsible for the chat window technology used by more than 18,000 companies to connect with their customers.
LoCascio predicts that in 2018, the first major brand will shut down its website, and after that, others will fall like dominoes.
Websites Often Cause Confusion That Chatbots Could Prevent
Many issues cause people to leave websites including too many ads to prohibitive registration requirements. LoCascio also asserts how Google’s rules have brought uniformity to websites and made them too confusing. He mentions up to 90 percent of calls taken by telephone-based agents originate from companies’ sites.
People often make those calls because they can’t find what they need on websites and have to take another approach to getting the information. But how many customers are companies missing because those individuals are already too frustrated by the websites to initiate the necessary interactions on the phone?
One of the positive factors about chatbots is that they let people ask for things in natural language. That approach may give them better results than typing a query into a search box or blindly looking around on a website.
People Can Already Order Food Directly Through Chatbots
It still makes mistakes when interpreting orders and likely will lack accuracy for a while yet, but the technology exists that allows people to order food with a chatbot and bypass a delivery website.
Furthermore, brands including Pizza Hut and Starbucks let people place orders by talking to their Alexa-enabled Amazon smart speakers.
LoCascio says less than 15 percent of today’s e-commerce transactions happen through a website or app. He believes that’s largely because websites aren’t user-friendly enough.
The food-ordering chatbots benefit when people repeatedly place orders for their favorite cuisines.
If individuals are familiar with what a restaurant offers on its menu — or can find out with the help of a chatbot — why would people still need to go to a food brand’s website or use a delivery app before placing an order? Chatbots are apps too, but they could soon drastically disrupt e-commerce more than ever.
Chatbots Create Well-Informed Consumers
In his argument, LoCascio discusses how the ability to ask questions and get answers from a chatbot is a dynamic solution that’s necessary to build customer trust that goes along with buying more.
Without chatbots, people have to search for and read the information themselves, and some may not feel up to doing that, especially if they’re working with small-screen devices.
Researchers hope to make upcoming chatbots able to build conversational rapport and be substantially more persuasive than some bots on the market now. If that happens, chatbots could simultaneously inform users and boost their buying confidence.
What Are the Downsides?
Besides evaluating why LoCascio’s stance holds weight, it’s crucial to take a balanced approach and explore why chatbots might not be ideal.
People bring up the current lack of chatbot accessibility for sight-impaired people who use assistive technologies to view websites. For example, an experiment with Apple’s VoiceOver feature showed it did not recognize many elements in a chatbot window, including clickable buttons and images.
Moreover, compared to human customer service agents, chatbots have some limitations that mostly relate to programming.
Chatbots can only answer the questions if programmers equip them with the answers. If a person has a very specific question or needs an answer based on experiences over time — such as “How many of your customers return this phone because it has battery-life issues?” — the chatbot will probably draw a blank.
Some innovative developers are compensating for this known issue. They’re aiming to make chatbots that get smarter over time without consistent input from programmers.
LoCascio concludes that the replacement of websites with what he calls “conversational commerce” will be devastating for Google but have an overall positive effect on how e-commerce companies conduct business and interact with customers.
Due to the relatively soon nature of his prediction about the first major brand’s website ceasing to exist this year, people don’t have long to wait to see if his beliefs come to pass.
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