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Facebook chatbots 'humanise' brands

News, 20 July 2016

NEW YORK: Chatbots – automated digital tools which can replicate real-life conversational patterns – promise to make the way consumers interact with brands more "human", a leading executive from Facebook has argued.

Stan Chudnovsky, Facebook Messenger's Head of Product, discussed the evolution of these tools at TechCrunch's Disrupt NY 2016 conference.

As chatbots understand and respond to natural language, he asserted, users can express themselves as they would to another person – which is preferable to navigating numerical menus and getting stuck on hold when phoning a business.

"That is very dehumanising," said Chudnovsky. "And we are actually trying to make it more human, because eventually … it's easier to actually chat and text." (For more, including further tips for marketers, download Warc's complimentary report: What Facebook's chatbots mean for brands.)

Facebook Messenger – a messaging app for mobile and desktop – currently boasts over 900m users, meaning branded chatbots can potentially reach a significant audience on a digital platform that consumers trust.

And enabling these users to seamlessly interact with businesses through their smartphone, and on a platform they use everyday, also reflects the wants of many shoppers, especially millennials.

"More things are broken than are not on mobile when it comes to commerce [and] when it comes to communications with businesses," said Chudnovsky.

"All you can do is call. And people don't want to call – especially young people want to call less and less."

The launch partners for Facebook's chatbots in April 2016 included the florist and gifting group 1-800-Flowers, ride-sharing app Uber and news network CNN.

Whether these businesses are attempting to sell goods and services or provide content, Chudnovsky suggested, chatbots represent a streamlined way of achieving their goals.

"If we can make it easier for people to actually communicate with businesses, that seems like a massive opportunity," he said.

Data sourced from Warc