Every day, new strategies are being developed to increase social media’s role in helping business performance levels. Whether social media is utilized to better employee engagement within a company, or as a tool to market products to consumers, its facets are continually updated to provide seamless integration in business structure to improve its functioning. However, if we look ahead to the future of social media and business performance, it appears that it may not be people at all who monitor and produce the different levels of communication across various social media platforms. Who would be responsible for these specific roles then? The answer lies in one simple acronym: AI. If you don’t already know, AI stands for artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence may be defined as a type of computer or machine that possesses the capability of mimicking intelligent human behaviour (hence the word artificial). In fact, we have already had such a glimpse into the future from various businesses who have already started to implement AI across their social media channels to better their own customer engagement/service practices. One such company includes ecommerce super giant eBay, who has developed their own “ShopBot,” which uses AI technology in combination with the Facebook messenger app to assist customers in finding the items they are searching for within their price range.
How does ShopBot work?
As mentioned above, ShopBot works specifically through the Facebook messenger app. Therefore, in order for customers to engage with ShopBot they must first make sure they have the app downloaded and then they may use the search tool to find ShopBot. Once ShopBot has been located, users must submit some specific information to the chatbot (i.e. what product they are looking to buy on eBay, along with their price range). In turn, ShopBot may ask some additional questions such as sizing info if it’s a clothing item, or colour preference if applicable. The technical aspects that make conversations possible between ShopBot and eBay customers deal with the chatbot’s utilization of “deep learning algorithms paired with natural language understanding (NLU) and computer vision to help users express their shopping needs naturally” (Arthur 2017). Put a simpler way, the AI powered chat bot relies heavily on information that is garnered from user behaviour. Therefore, the more ShopBot can learn from user behaviour, the quicker it can mould itself to mimick a smooth and natural consumer experience.
eBay provides a good illustration of how the combination of AI technology and social media messaging applications can benefit business performance levels. For example, after the implementation of eBay’s ShopBot, the ecommerce company calculated that consumers who engage with the chatbot are almost three times more likley to enquire about certain products, than are those just simply looking through eBay’s online inventory. In other words, levels of customer engagement and retention have proven high when it comes to interaction with the ShopBot. Another major benefit that emerged from combining AI technology with a social media platform like Facebook is that it allowed eBay to reach a new and much larger demographic of consumers, due to the sheer amount of active users Facebook maintains. Last but not least, ShopBot decreases the amount of time and money consumers spend looking online for the best deals, which in turn creates a higher customer satisfaction rating.
Although there are significant and impressive benefits when it comes to using AI powered technology for eBay’s ShopBot, there are also some serious pitfalls when it comes to considering what the future will look like when social media and AI technology is fused and how this will affect the social media for business performance field. For example, one aspect to consider is that most chatbots today merely relay certain keywords that customers send them and then transfer this information into a type of search engine which provides the customer with information on the product. The problem with this strategy, as eBay chief product manager – RJ Pittman explains is that it “does not build trust or confidence between a bot and user.” In other words, the method explained above renders the bot’s capability of having an authentic or personal relationship with the consumer essentially impossible. In turn, this has unfortunately lead to criticism and complaints that chat bots, (like eBay’s) do not foster good consumer experiences.
A Double-edged Sword?
However, keeping all the information discussed above in mind, the chief still asserts that the sky is the limit when it comes to AI technology and that the company is merely scratching the surface when it comes to customer engagement via chatbots. Furthermore, once the aspects of deep learning and natural language learning is further developed, in relation to AI technology, bots will be much more capable of creating personalized relationships with customers. Another area that will greatly increase the possibilities for AI powered social media chatbots includes the popular expectation that they will be capable of displaying another form of intelligence: emotional intelligence (otherwise known as empathy) in the future. Therefore, with the addition of empathy to a chatbot’s makeup, not only would the bot be able to deliver information faster than any average human being, but also convey such data back to the customer with compassion and understanding (think delayed delivery, or poor product satisfaction). Yes, most social media managers are also compassionate towards customers! However, anyone who has worked directly in customer service knows that dealing with an unhappy customer can sometimes be a nightmare and emotions can run wild in any given person. Yet, the chatbot is not human, so there could be no risk of a bad customer vs employee experience, if the bot was programmed correctly (think of Asimov’s Laws). In fact, future adaptations to social media chat bots could provide customers with possibly the best experience possible! But… if this were to become true, many people who originally worked in these social media sectors (not to mention the other various jobs related to communications and human resources which deal with social media) would no longer be needed. This is because chatbots would also be able to engage customers over social media and come up with new meaningful strategies as well, minus the paycheque. All in all, the future of AI technology seems to prove beneficial to CEOs or business owners who may reduce employee costs, but not beneficial for those wishing to work in the social media for business performance sector.
Lessons for Others
eBay’s ShopBot provides us with a glimpse into the future concerning the role of artificial intelligence in social media for business performance. Through utilizing eBay’s ShopBot as a case study it appears that chat bots may have a very prominent role on social networks, specifically in the sectors of messaging platforms where artificial intelligence will be able to increase levels of customer engagement with companies and secure brand loyalty. Yet, there is still dissatisfaction in the current social media chat bot climate, which will require further intense collaboration among social media strategists, marketers, and AI technologists. However, this time is not too far off in the future and projects are already in the works to create a chat bot that will far exceed any consumer’s expectations.
Name of Organization Contact: Devin Wenig
Authored by: Danielle Brubaker
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
Arthur, Rachel. (2017). The Permanent Future of Conversational Commerce: eBay’s RJ Pittman on AI and Chatbots. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelarthur/2017/07/19/conversational-commerce-ebay-ai-chatbot/#29e846471efb
Marr, Bernard. (2018). The Key Definitions of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that Explains its Importance. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2018/02/14/the-key-definitions-of-artificial-intelligence-ai-that-explain-its-importance/#1bfc3de74f5d.
Quoc, Michael. (2017). 10 Ecommerce Brands Succeeding with Chatbots. A Better Lemonade Stand. https://www.abetterlemonadestand.com/ecommerce-chatbots/