Chatbots are taking the world by storm. Over the last year, the media has been full of stories about how chatbots are changing the way eCommerce merchants and other companies interact with customers. It seems as if every major instant chat provider has created a framework for building chatbots. This enthusiasm for chatbots is driven by the ubiquity of instant chat applications and the desire of brands to inject themselves into those conversations. Facebook Messenger, Slack, and Apple’s Messages, see huge user engagement, and brands want to be wherever the users are.
But how do you get people to talk to your chatbots in the first place? The user has to instigate the conversation. Potential users of a conversational interface have to be both aware of the existence of a chatbot and have some understanding of why engaging with it is good for them, and, unlike with a traditional web interaction, Google isn’t much help.
Twitter’s Direct Message Cards are an attempt to address the problem. Available in limited beta to Twitter advertisers, Direct Message Cards are promoted rich tweets into which advertisers can embed a series of canned responses. The tweet itself contains a prompt, and when the user chooses one of the options, it’s passed to the brand’s account, and they can respond with further automated DMs or by looping a human into the conversation.
I can see Direct Message Cards being particularly useful to eCommerce merchants, who can use Twitter’s targeting to prompt engagement with product or promotion specific tweets, and then follow up with targeted conversational responses depending on the option the user chooses.
If Direct Message Cards sound a little like the menu trees of old, you aren’t the first to have made the link. In spite of the hype around chatbots, the state of the art in conversational interfaces isn’t particularly sophisticated. The more ambitious chatbots are, the greater the chance of frustrating users who expect human-like conversations and end up with something closer to a menu tree or an 80s text adventure.
That said, for some eCommerce interactions, Direct Message Cards are likely to prove appealing to retailers, who benefit from the opportunity to open a direct line of contact to interested shoppers and to reach a wider audience through organic sharing.
Although I’ve focused on the way Direct Message Cards can be used with conversational interfaces, in essence they’re just rich media tweets that support multiple calls-to-action and integrate with Twitter’s direct message system. JollyChic is using Direct Message Cards to engage with shoppers and, after a limited interaction in a chat interface, direct them to the appropriate product page on their store or to an app install page.
Although Twitter isn’t at the forefront of social eCommerce, over the last couple of years they’ve rolled out several eCommerce-friendly features in a bid to attract retail adversing dollars. Direct Message Cards are an excellent addition that has the potential to help eCommerce merchants engage with customers along a more meaningful and personal dimension than simple promoted tweets.