How 5 Innovative Businesses Are Using Chatbots

text conversation with a chatbot
Chatbots, software programs that mimic human conversation, are one of the hottest trends in artificial intelligence and marketing right now. 1.4 billion people a year are now interacting with chatbots. And in a recent study by Oracle, 80 percent of businesses reported that they already use or plan to use chatbots by 2020.

Chatbots live inside apps (like Facebook Messenger), website modules, SMS, and email. In a very conversational way, they message back and forth with customers to carry out any number of tasks, from ordering items to suggesting and finding products. Or they can just chat it up.

Here are a few examples of how innovative companies are using chatbots to help improve operations, connect with customers, and increase sales.

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1-800-Flowers

The flower delivery juggernaut was one of Facebook Messenger’s first bots. Quite simply, the bot helps users send flowers and gifts directly from the messaging app, instead of through the company’s online store. The bot even makes gift suggestions (if you’d like to send bright “Get Well” flowers to a certain hospital, for example), processes orders, and sends shipping updates.

1-800-Flowers lends itself particularly well to this kind of chatbot — people buying flowers are typically looking to find the appropriate selection quickly, and get live updates about delivery timing.

Sephora

Ever wanted to replicate a celebrity’s lipstick color? Sephora’s chatbot can help. The company’s Color Match bot for Messenger helps customers find a Sephora lipstick that matches the shade in a photo they’ve uploaded.

You can use the Sephora Virtual Artist app to upload a selfie and “try it on.” Customers are flocking to these features: four million people have used the chatbot and Virtual Artist app to date.

H&M

H&M’s bot quizzes customers about their style preferences. Then it makes clothing recommendations tailored toward each customer’s taste. Users can also share a piece of clothing they like and the bot will pull from H&M’s catalog to complete a whole outfit. Bots like this are effective ways to upsell customers.

Disney

Bots don’t have to be limited to just customer service and sales. They can also be leveraged for strategic marketing initiatives. To drum up excitement for the release of Zootopia, Disney created an Officer Judy Hopps bot on Facebook Messenger.

The bot was more of a game — fans used Judy Hopps to help them solve crimes. On average, users spent more than 10 minutes chatting with the character. It was a fun experience that engaged people with the movie before it hit theaters.

Casper

Instead of counting sheep, talk to Casper’s Insomnobot-3000. The mattress company’s chatbot (which is only available between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.) keeps insomniacs company by hamming it up around anything from Stranger Things to pizza to Seinfeld.

“Some nights, it’s just impossible to fall asleep, so I think Casper wanted to create something that’s a friend that keeps you up at night,” company VP Lindsay Kaplan told Venture Beat. Although the bot does cheekily infuse product plugs, its goal is to help bring customers closer to the brand.

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