Chatbots are growing in popularity among businesses. Source: Shutterstock

Singaporeans are loving chatbots more this Christmas

SINGAPOREANS appear to have developed a greater appetite for the use of chatbots in the e-commerce sphere this year, according to a recent study.

The 2017 SAP Hybris Singapore Christmas Shopper Survey said more than half of those surveyed (53 percent) in the Asian city-state admitted to enlisting the aid of bots when shopping for gifts online for the holidays. A significant 74 percent of those who used chatbots said they even bought items the smart assistants suggested.

However, while the use of these intelligent assistants is proving to be successful, the study also concluded that enterprises must never neglect the human touch in their online presence.

Some 58 percent of respondents admitted that they viewed chatbots as an effective assistant but only for the most rudimentary of tasks, such as searching for items and checking for prices, as noted in a Singapore Business Review report.

Thus, at their present state at least, chatbots still have a long way to go, according to SAP Hybris Global Vice-President of Fast Growth Markets Nicholas Kontopoulos.

He said the human touch is still necessary for businesses to thrive in the e-commerce landscape. Kontopoulos took particular notice of consumer complaints, and how similar vital operations must still be handled by a human services officer.

“The customer experience can make or break a brand. In view of this, businesses need to stay attuned to these concerns and optimize the use of chatbots as one component in a wider omnichannel strategy.

“While chatbots can proactively offer answers for initial queries on pricing, product features, or book and make reservations, they cannot fully replace the value of human interaction when it comes to building customer relationships. Any hint of customer dissatisfaction needs to be solved immediately, by a human services officer,” Kontopoulos said in a press release.

Overall, chatbots are still pretty much a work in progress.

As could be seen in the results of the study, 61 percent of shoppers said chatbots do not understand what they are trying to say, according to a South China Morning Post report. Despite some reservations in the use of chatbots, however, Kontopoulos still believes that the smart systems would eventually grow into a formidable force in the e-commerce sphere in Singapore.

“Singaporean shoppers have an appetite for deeper engagement with chatbots, but what the results really tell us is that they want a more personalized e-commerce experience.

“Today’s consumer has higher expectations and businesses need to keep a close pulse on the ever-evolving customer journey in order to react to not just changing consumer preferences but context at the point of purchase or even consideration.

“To this end, businesses should view chatbots as more than just an answering machine – they are also a valuable mine of data that offer fresh perspectives into the underlying reasons for sales trends and help brands better understand what their customers are looking for. Armed with these insights, they can then take action to cultivate sales and entrench customer loyalty,” Kontopoulos said.