Imagine buying a new pair of shoes without visiting the store, or even browsing the online store. Just a few minutes of helpful conversation and boom – purchase made!

Web engineers are revolutionizing the way customers engage with brands by creating digital experiences that mirror in-person conversations and situations using chatbots. A chatbot is a computer program that communicates with users, simulating natural one-on-one human conversation.

Chatbots are already serving a wide range of purposes, such as:

  • Providing weather reports
  • Help to pick out and order groceries
  • Provide breaking news
  • Schedule meetings or book reservations

Chatbots can even provide comfort and friendship – or help anchor a newscast!

The Globe and Mail has been experimenting with chatbots for a while now. In December, they unveiled GlobeElf, an advent calendar bot designed to share advice for tackling the busy holiday season.

Experts predict that personal messaging is the next online frontier. Shannon Busta explains that The Globe has been experimenting with chatbots to help the organization learn the best ways to interact with users in this space.


TWG and 88 Creative launched TIFFBOT during the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016, helping users find the perfect film.

“The problem with most things these days is curation,” says Rob Kenedi of TWG. “There’s so much content coming at you, and you have to decide what you want to do. It gets overwhelming and TIFF for me has always been like this. I want somebody who has bothered to go through all the work to tell me what I should go see.”

Both of these chatbots were built into Facebook Messenger so users wouldn’t need to download a third-party app for access.

So why would a brand consider creating a chatbot?

A better investment than apps

An app can cost a company anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 and the development process can take 12-20 weeks to complete. With periodic updates required to keep up with mobile operating system changes, this can be a costly endeavor for companies large and small.

Apps must also get approval from companies like Apple and Google before they can be added to their app stores, and must be made compatible for both Apple and android operating systems. Chatbots almost always live within messaging apps that already exist, so you avoid these hefty development costs.  With apps, you rely on customer downloads, and with 85% of customers using the same three to five apps per day, will your app compete with heavy-hitters like Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, YouTube and Snapchat?  Well-established apps like Facebook Messenger, Kik and Whatsapp are proactively helping organizations use their interface to build and promote chatbots.

But what’s the pay off?  Chatbots typically receive more user engagement and have higher message open rates than apps. This is key, especially when one in four users abandon an app after one use.

Your audience is already on messaging apps

More than 60 percent of mobile users in Canada are active on messaging apps today, which is where chatbots primarily exist. eMarketer predicts that by 2019, more than 20 million Canadians will be using them. Not a crowd you want to miss out on!

Around-the-clock customer service

It’s not always feasible for companies to live chat with customers 24/7. With around-the-clock availability, chatbots can handle a steady stream of customer questions, leaving service agents free to handle more complicated issues.

Use your data and analysis

Most companies collect a large amount of data from their customers on a regular basis. Sometimes it can be hard to keep up and key insights can get missed in the process. A chatbot can scan data in a matter of seconds, providing insights that can be used internally to guide research, development and competitive analysis.

About Melissa Meyer

Melissa Meyer is Cision’s Manager of Community and oversees Cision’s online customer community, Cision City. She has over 5 years’ experience in PR, writing, community and social media management. You can find her chatting about all thing PR, pop culture and basketball @_MelissaMeyer

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