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Author: Rama Shenoy |02/09/18

Is Virtual Assistant Chatbot Human’s New Best Friend?

Some of the fondest memories from my teenage days are shopping with my friends, trying on different clothes, shoes and all the trinkets that we could lay our hands on! The best part of the shopping was the bonding, the endless chatter and meaningless conversations!

We then moved on to the virtual world – the world of online shopping. Click, select, pay, done – and delivered. Fast, efficient, maybe fun, but it is just not the same! The virtual world is, of course, evolving. Now I can shop with my friends virtually, try on stuff virtually – all from the comfort of my home.

Fast forward to today and now we have a virtual assistant chatbot!

Who or what is a chatbot? In simple terms, a chatbot is a well-trained store associate that can enhance your shopping experience. Well, a small difference is that a chatbot is a robot enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and programmed to simulate human conversations.

The first question that comes to my mind is: Why a chatbot when you can just download an app and just get it done? But then another app on my phone – no way! I have enough clutter as it is! That way, I’d need an app for groceries, one for my favorite brands, one for shoes, and so on. Phew! Making the list itself is tiring!

Recent studies have shown that native apps are no longer as popular as they used to be. Consumers are moving toward reducing clutter on their devices and looking at using Facebook and messaging apps like WhatsApp to interact. Given this, retailers now need to find easier mechanisms to reach their target audience and that is where chatbots can play a significant role.

So, as a consumer, when would I like to see an artificial intelligence chatbot in retail?

In the store when I am looking for additional information on a product - This is helpful when I go to buy appliances and I want additional information, or I want to compare products before a purchase – and the shopping assistants are always busy attending to someone else!

As an in-store locator in a large retail store that is spread across floors - It will be helpful if I can easily find the section I need. Getting a few recommendations would also make the shopping experience better.

For product recommendations - This could range from the dress I want to buy to the right wine for the fish I am planning to grill over the weekend.

When I’m choosing a gift - For me, this is the most cumbersome task. How do I find creative gifts for a colleague or an acquaintance? It would be brilliant to have someone do the creative thinking for me! Ask me questions and give me gift options to choose from – and then gift wrap it. Job done!

And with the list that seems to be just getting started, am I already accepting the fact that the chatbot is becoming my best friend to shop with? Maybe!

So, is it easy to implement a chatbot? I will cover that in the next part of this series on chatbots.

Till then, I would love to hear about your views on artificial intelligence chatbots. Comment below or please send a mail at info@mindtree.com.

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