More than 25% of 500 U.S. households surveyed by mobile marketing services company 3C Interactive claim to use chatbots on a daily basis, a figure that rises to 40% among millennials, according to the company’s new Chatbot Consumer Report.
Only 5% of those surveyed said they didn’t find their chatbot experience valuable, but when those consumers were asked why, 71% said the chatbot could not answer their question or help them. 3C observed that as the technology advances, businesses will need to expand the capabilities of their chatbots to keep up with growing consumer expectation.
The survey results also suggested consumers have used chatbots most often to fulfill needs such as asking customer service questions (51%), checking order status (46%) and researching products (42%).
The survey results paint a different picture of the chatbot trend than the one we got almost four months ago from Vibes' chatbot survey that suggested only 22% of shoppers have used a chatbot at all, let alone on a daily basis. That study surveyed 2,000 consumers nationwide, as opposed to this much smaller sample size of 500. Surveys involve different respondents and somewhat different methodologies, so the difference doesn’t necessarily mean chatbot usage is suddenly booming.
However, it’s pretty clear that businesses, including retailers, believe chatbots to have great viability. 3C quoted a Business Insider report stating 80% of businesses plan to have chatbots by 2020. Retailers deploying chatbots for customer interactions online likely see value for their operations in terms of customer service efficiency, employee time management, automation of some aspects of marketing and the ability to provide customers with self-service options if that’s what they want.
Yet, as we have noted before, and as this survey reinforces, retailers need to help customers see the value of chatbots, too. That could mean deploying chatbots backed up by AI and machine learning that continue to improve with each interaction. It could also mean integrating chatbot programs with human assistance and back-up where necessary, and showing customers in a clear way how they can shift from a chatbot to a human helper if needed.
It’s likely even customers who frequently use chatbots and are comfortable using them still want to occasionally talk to humans for certain needs. Even though 51% of those surveyed said they used chatbots for customer survey questions, about 50% said they actually preferred human assistants to handle those questions. Also, 44% said they would rather connect with a human to make a reservation or an appointment.
Finally, Facebook’s early support of chatbots through Messenger continues to resonate with chatbot users: 57% of respondents said Facebook was the most popular platform for chatbots. However, 55% said they found out about some chatbots through family and friends, while 52% admitted to finding them through Twitter. 3C said that suggests as the chatbot era takes off, retailers need to support them with multi-channel marketing efforts.