Why bots are the future of commerce and communication
I recently went to Stockholm for a family trip and had a very specific use case for the "bot commerce" announcement that facebook just did on F8.
I was looking for a book called "The Nordic Bakery Cookbook". See, the Nordic Bakery is a shop in London that does these amazing cinnamon buns and the book actually shows you how you can reverse engineer them. I thought it would be a great gift for my girlfriend, who loves baking.
Now, I have no idea where I could find that book in Stockholm, so I googled "stockholm book stores" and found about 3 places.
Some of them had websites, some of them didn't and most of them didn't have a clear way to contact them using email (but rather phone). While the Swedes talk amazing English and are always friendly, I wanted something more asynchronous and since I didn't have a SIM card in Stockholm, an email or message of any kind would be way better than trying to call them via a shaky Skype line.
To my surprise, all of them had active facebook pages. Normally when I check for activity on social accounts of businesses I look at their last tweet or post and check the engagement. Now however, something way more interesting caught my eye, that was always there but I rarely needed it:
"Typically replies within a few hours - Message now"
I instantly jumped into facebook messenger and wrote the same message to a couple of book stores (basically asking: "do you have this book in stock, if not how can I order it?"). That little message before initiating contact told me that the page is active and people are replying to messages. I didn't have to call via an expensive phone line or look for an email somewhere hidden on the contact page (or worse: a contact form!).
I'd have immediately ordered the book via message if possible. However, some of them told me it would take up to 7 days (longer than my trip) and some of them told me I should call/contact the book store directly (exactly what I was trying to avoid).
I can see a very clear business use case here for A LOT of businesses that otherwise couldn't catch questions from their customers like that.
Btw. I had a very similar experience while trying to contact Lycamobile Sweden for a free SIM and ask them about the arrival/sending time. I got an answer within 45 minutes.
And herein lies the future of commerce, because 99% of these conversations can be automated and you can not only increase sales, but also your customer support team with bots like these. Now they are still very personal and 1:1, and that's perfectly fine. But my request for the bookstore could have been automated very easily and I would have been a very happy customer like that.
I definitely believe in the future with bots and I'm building one right now. Interestingly, now I'm also thinking about launching it on facebook as well...