#Shoptalk18: How to set up a chatbot

During a panel session on chatbots and the future of messaging at Shoptalk 2018 in Las Vegas this week, three messaging experts – Facebook, eBay and Rakuten Viber – shared their tips on how to create the best conversational commerce experience.

1. Define your business objective, says Facebook

“Do you really like to call your telco provider or bank?” asked Stefanos Loukakos, head of messenger business at Facebook. “The majority of people would prefer a different medium of communication.”

He said described how businesses should look to implement messaging applications, which customers use to chat to family and friends, which creates a better experience than a waiting for a call centre employee to answer the phone.

Some brands and retailers use conversational commerce for customer care, others use it for marketing, but what businesses need to do before building a chatbot is to decide on their business objective.

"You need to narrow the business objective and really focus on driving the flow on that business objective," explained Loukakos. 

At the moment, Loukakos said the best chatbot experiences are a hybrid between AI and humans, “but in the future as AI becomes more popular, we believe it will be a fully automated experience.”

2. Make the interaction feel natural, says Viber

As it is a messenger app with over one billion users in 160 countries, it’s unsurprising that Viber believes messaging will become the dominant model for communication.

But Zephrin Lasker, head of eCommerce at Rakuten Viber, is the first to admit that conversational commerce is not as simple as just creating a chatbot.

“How do you piggyback on the existing behaviours we do every day so we become natural and non-intrusive?”

Viber has capitalised on the trend where shoppers use messaging to share products with their friends and family.

“’Hey check this out’ is an incredibly natural behaviour. Currently shoppers screenshot or send a URL, but neither are particularly satisfying, so we’ve built the ability for a brand to build a complete store.”

When Viber users tap the shopping icon they receive product recommendations and can scroll through different brands – the idea is to chat, share, like and buy.

Lasker said 32% of users have used the application to share a product, while 16% of users have tapped the buy button.

“Our view is that shopping is primarily a visual experience,” he said.

3. Guide shoppers through their search results, says eBay

eBay shoppers have the option to converse with the marketplace using an AI-powered personal shopping assistant, which can understand text, voice or images.

VP of engineering at eBay, Japjit Tulsi, said it is really difficult to train a computer to understand switches in modality, but eBay has managed to create an AI messenger which understands those human changes in conversation.

But eBay has gone even one step further by providing shoppers with guided search results, which helps them manage the magnitude of results from a query.

“Once you send us an image or a voice query, we try and guide you through the result set, based on things that are trending or new items, or products that are of a certain cut, style or colour of the image you took,” said Tulsi.

“We can guide you through a much better set of results.”