What is ‘Conversational Interface’? Where does it fit in a chatbot and what benefits does it yield? These are some of the questions we’ll be addressing in this blog.

Before that, we’ll get started with a clarity on ‘Conversational Commerce’ and how it is bringing traditional buying experience into eCommerce.

What is Conversational Commerce?

Definition – Conversational commerce is an automated technology, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, to enable online shoppers and brands interact with one another via chat and voice interfaces. (Source www.Chatbotsmagazine.com )

Bringing in the traditional buying experience into eCommerce space

What do retail store executives do when you enter a store? They come and ask for your need and find how they can assist in finding or letting you know what you want. Mainly, they don’t try to sell!

This is what a Chatbot does. Chatbots are not programmed for sales pitches. Instead, they are prepared to assist shoppers no matter what a customer’s query is. Here is where Chatbots truly drive in the traditional commerce approach to eCommerce shopping.

However, there seem to be inevitable hiccups in the user experience while getting things done by interacting with Chatbots. Though it seems easy and exciting to interact, current Chatbots seem to add more steps than conventional UI in getting things done. It is the need to overcome this fiction that has given rise to three major chatbot trends – (i) NLU (Natural Language Understanding), (ii) Voice Interface, and (iii) Conversational Commerce.

From NLP to NLU

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is still far from what it was expected to deliver in terms of understanding user requests. This is evident from the early results obtained using messenger bots that operate based on NLP like Facebook Messenger bots.

So, there is a new trend on the rise, which is Natural Language Understanding (NLU). AI technology companies are investing in NLU to help bots process user inputs better. This could improve machine capabilities like understanding, negotiation, and information-rendering.

Voice Interface

Voice interface is more like a human conversation. Clicks or keying in requests is no match for interaction over voice. With AI-powered assistants from brands like Amazon (Alexa), Google (Google Assistant), and Apple (Siri) enjoying prominence in their respective smart devices like Echo, Google Home, and Homepod, voice-based interactions are helping people perform a wide range of routine as well as specific tasks.

Now, let’s get into ‘Conversational Interface’.

What is a ‘Conversational Interface’?

A conversational interface is a UI that combines text and voice-based inputs along with graphical elements like images, menus, videos, and buttons to interact with customers.

It is a mix of multiple natural language processing interfaces (voice, text, etc.) and web UI elements used to reduce the number of interactions involved in buying or performing a task. Conversational interfaces can fit well in smartphones, smartwatches, and other wearables gears that support both voice-based and touch-based user inputs.

Benefits of Conversational Interfaces

1. Engage users (only) on-demand:

Conversational Interfaces can increase user attention as they provide information only based on the commands provided by users.

Gaining the attention of users in an era where it is at the bare minimum is a challenge that every brand has to overcome. In traditional GUI, users will be bombarded with notifications without any request or command made by them.

In the case of Conversational Interface, it is completely the other way round. However, this case has a special challenge of providing information relevant to the user’s command. But that’s a part that the AI algorithm and Machine Learning has to play.

2. Be accurate in ‘less’ than being disorderly in ‘lot’:

Chatbots cannot afford to be wrong as users believe it to be an intelligent interactive space where they get only accurate and most relevant information. So, the error rate of a chatbot should be almost nil.

To overcome this challenge, Chatbots can be vested with provisions that limit user inputs. Users can be provided with some choices to quickly get what they need instead of asking an open question.

In the second case discussed above, the chatbot has to be prepared to respond to any user request, which is quite unlikely right now as the NLP (Natural Language Processing) capabilities of chatbots are still in the nascent stages.

However, this idea could also spark a discussion on limiting the capabilities of chatbots, but for a start, it is better to have a chatbot that’s smart enough in fewer areas than being not accurate in understanding user inputs in a wide range of topics.

3. Save on your investment capital:

Capital Investment saves on the investment cost for making your chatbot up and running. For NLP-based chatbots, the cost for using the NLP technology is on the higher side. Moreover, the training period to help the chatbot evolve and human support add to the cost.

In the case of conversational interfaces, the cost comes down as it is based on web technologies. CI-based bots can start performing quickly. These bots also need to be improved for better user interaction but comparatively at a lower cost of getting an NLP AI-trained.

Final words

It’s quite early to comment on how the Conversational Interface course would be in the near future. For sure, it has already got to a good start, but the right proportion for mixing ‘voice/text interface’ with ‘graphical UI’ to build a successful conversational UI is still in process. However, for businesses trying to improve their customer experience through AI-driven technologies, now is the time to venture into experimenting with CI in their chatbots.