So first of all, what are they? Basically, chatbots are automated computer programs that simulate online conversations with people to answer questions or perform tasks. While chatbots have been around in various rudimentary forms for years — such as Clippy, Microsoft’s paper clip virtual assistant — they have been taking off lately as advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence make them more versatile than ever. If you’ve ever been bored, drunk or both, then you’ve probably used the best known chatbot: Apple’s Siri.

HOW CHATBOTS COULD HELP YOUR BRAND

Most people spend 80% of their mobile time on their top three apps, which means it’s vital for brands to gain access to consumers through those channels. This is why brands have embraced Facebook's recent announcement that it plans to support chatbots on Messenger.

If your brand is looking to reach more potential customers, the introduction of bots could make the Facebook Messenger platform an appealing option. These will take the form of mainly service bots and subscription bots. Service bots allow consumers to transact with businesses, book a flight, order a meal or review a product. Subscription bots are focused on delivering pre-selected categories of content to users.

With more than 900 million monthly active users, Facebook Messenger is one of those top three apps for a lot of people. And because Facebook works across virtually all major mobile operating systems, mobile devices, and computers, brands will be able to easily reach an enormous audience on all sorts of devices without needing to convince them to download an app or visit a website, and without having to hire an army of customer service representatives to engage with them.

In the last few years, many brands have invested heavily in mobile apps but getting consumers to download them can prove an uphill struggle. Combine this with a decline in organic social engagement due to an increasingly noisy social media landscape, and all of a sudden chatbots appear to be cost-effective promotional tools for brands.

Chatbots are also genuinely useful to consumers too. It gives them the choice to opt-in to a relationship with a brand and provides them with an experience that is personal and tailored to their needs. For brands, chatbots could be the future when it comes to building brand equity and loyalty through a friendly, albeit artificial, medium.