CHICAGO: Chatbots could be an underutilised brand tool to engage with consumers on mobile, a new survey suggests, with most people happy to talk to one but few having done so.

The 2017 US Mobile Consumer Report, from mobile engagement specialist Vibes, surveyed more than 2,000 consumers across the US and found that more than 60% would feel comfortable talking with a chatbot.

Only 22% reported having taken part in such a conversation, however, and the report observed that marketers should accelerate their efforts to deliver mobile engagement experiences via this emerging channel.

"Consumers are open to engaging with brands on mobile in a way that is unlike any other channel," said Jack Philbin, co-founder and CEO of Vibes.

"While consumers carefully control how brands can engage with them on these personal devices, they are highly receptive to new and emerging mobile experiences that add convenience and value."

The survey noted that, on average, smartphone users feel comfortable subscribing to just four mobile alerts – highlighting the limited inventory available to brands seeking to connect with consumers.

These users were most likely to sign up for mobile alerts from retailers, restaurants and brands (50%), followed by weather and radio stations (37%) and financial institutions (34%).

Another route to engagement is via mobile loyalty. Seventy percent of respondents indicated they would have a more positive opinion of a brand that allowed them to save a loyalty card in their smartphone.

Over one-third already store information from brands in mobile wallets such as Apple Wallet and Android Pay, which can also be used to store and manage loyalty programs.

Investment in apps, however, is unlikely to produce an effective return: after opening an app for information while shopping, only 19% of smartphone users reported making an in-store purchase on that same trip.

Data sourced from Vibes; additional content by WARC staff