Chatbots in e-commerce: revolution of the little digital helpers

Chatbots in e-commerce: revolution of the little digital helpers
Published on: Aug 10, 2018
Updated: Aug 18, 2022

Chatbots in e-commerce - one of the hottest trends in the field of artificial intelligence! They are already being used in many areas of e-commerce. As mobile commerce becomes steadily more popular, chatbots will also be increasingly in demand in the future. Online stores mainly use them to communicate with their customers. A chatbot is thus intended to act as an advisor. These little helpers are already in use in the fashion industry in particular.

Although chatbots have yet to revolutionize e-commerce, the future looks very promising. A study by the digital association Bitkom showed that one in four German citizens would already use chatbots.

Chatbots in e-commerce - the little digital helpers

A chatbot represents a text-based dialog system. It is often simply referred to as a chatbot. Its purpose is to communicate with customers and serve as a contact person for them. The chatbot's knowledge is stored in a database, which it can access again and again and answer customer queries with its pre-stored knowledge.

But that's not all: the chatbot is also supposed to expand its knowledge independently and thus function as a form of artificial intelligence. Chatbots serve as an interface between the end user and their providers. Currently, they are popular for weather forecasts or news overviews.

There are two types of chatbots:

  1. Rule-based chatbots - They can answer questions for which certain rules have been defined beforehand. The rules can be formulated in a simple as well as complex way. However, rule-based chatbots are becoming less and less common due to the increase in artificial intelligence.
  2. Chatbots with artificial intelligence - They are programmed to understand human language as well as messages. They understand their opposite even if the sentences are worded differently or contain spelling errors. For this reason, they are also more often used in practice.
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[tooltip title="Origin of the Chatbot" color="blue"]In 1966, the German-American programmer Joseph Weizenbaum developed a computer program called Eliza to act as a virtual psychotherapist.[/tooltip]

Facebook is making its Messenger platform available to companies for their customer communications. Through it, they can connect with their customers using chatbots. Through Facebook Messenger, chatbots have become a popular mass communication tool since 2016. There are now over 100,000 different chatbots on Facebook Messenger. Due to the dwindling organic reach of companies in the newsfeed, they are increasingly using the Messenger chatbot to send advertising material and preconstructed newsletters, for example.

In the USA, it has even been possible for some time to place an order by sending a tweet in the form of a pizza emoji and to receive an immediate order confirmation from a chatbot.

Added value of chatbots in e-commerce

Predominantly, chatbots are used for customer service, where they are also enhanced by personalization. Thus, they are intended to increase customer service satisfaction and, of course, reduce resources, in the form of customer service staff, . In addition, they can be used as a personal search function. Thus, the chatbot is simply told that one is looking for a pair of dark blue jeans in a certain size, for example, and immediately receives concrete product suggestions in response. This saves the unnecessary and time-consuming search in the online store. Furthermore, chatbots are available at any time and are always in a good mood. In the long term, of course, they should increase the sales of online retailers. Chatbots make shopping much easier because many order steps can be automated and orders can be placed directly via chatbots.

At Tommy Hilfiger, you can already be advised by a chatbot via Facebook Messenger. The fashion industry is an absolute pioneer in this area.

There's more, though: it's not just the ordering itself that can be done via chatbots. In addition, shipment tracking and shipping communication can also be handled via the little helpers.

Challenges faced by chatbots

So far, chatbots still lack the human aspect or the feeling of a human counterpart. Flexible dialog with a chatbot is not really possible at present. Therefore, the conversation with a chatbot has little in common with the dialog between two humans. The reason for this is that chatbots have not developed that far enough up to this point. They lack the attribute of artificial intelligence. If the chatbot gets stuck or can't answer a question, it usually starts the query all over again. This, of course, makes online shopping no fun and only frustrates customers unnecessarily.

Implementation of the chatbot

There are certain modular systems with the help of which chatbots can be implemented. These systems are mainly suitable for handling simpler tasks. Here, the chatbot is simply fed with the most common questions and answers and continuously improved. There are also some platforms that allow you to develop your own chatbots.

There are a few things to keep in mind when implementing the chatbot:

  1. How can I best use the bot technology in the company and is there even a need for it?
  2. .
  3. Do I have the appropriate team to implement a chatbot? If I want to use my chatbot in Customer Service, then an employee from the department should also be involved in the implementation.
  4. Can the company ensure that the customer always knows whether they are communicating with a chatbot or a real person? The user should not be hoodwinked.
  5. Is the chatbot suitable for its intended use or is direct communication between experts and users necessary there? Face-to-face communication is often more appropriate when dealing with a complex problem or an important customer.
  6. Do I have enough resources to optimize and use the chatbot weeks after implementation? After all, after the implementation is before the implementation.

The future of chatbots in e-commerce

Chatbots in e-commerce are currently not yet exploiting their full potential. However, they show the direction in which the topic of "artificial intelligence" will go in the future. Online shopping is becoming increasingly digital. Whether in customer service or consulting - chatbots can be used in a wide variety of areas. Especially in the area of general customer as well as shipping communication, a lot could develop in the future. Chatbots will predominantly establish themselves in these areas.

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However, the prerequisite for this must be that both online retailers and customers are open to this type of technology. In addition, companies must make their customers aware of the usefulness of the digital assistants - because only then can chatbots in e-commerce develop their optimal benefits.

More on the topic "Artificial intelligence in e-commerce" can be read in our new blog series.

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