Unlocking the Chatbot Inside Your CMS

By Cruce Saunders in Development
·6 min read

No more content silos! Delivering content for new interactive channels starts with the CMS we already maintain.

Without realizing it, content marketers have been progressively working to make our content behave more like a chatbot for years. Think about it. Every personalization, automation, customization, and segmentation innovation has been enacted to deliver engaging, personally-tailored content directly to the user. Our strategies, our tools, our platforms, our architectures have been moving more and more towards real-time content suited to exactly what our customer needs to experience right now.

Recently, the maturity of chatbot applications and machine learning has given us an entirely new angle to approach real-time, personalized customer experiences. Chatbots are the ultimate culmination of universal content accessibility and the personalization effort.

But, for most, bot development resides outside the bounds of the traditional CMS or CEM platform. Instead of being a publishing channel for a new interactive model of content, right now, chatbots are silos. And anyone of us working towards a “Create Once, Publish Everywhere” approach to our content distribution will immediately recognize the problem. We do not need more content ‘cut and paste’. Our authors do not need more platforms to write into. And yet, chatbots need content.

At [A], we see this as an engineering challenge.

Say Hello to Your New Content (It Says Back)

Let’s look at chatbots as another channel. By mapping and integrating our external chatbot platforms to our CMS, our content continues to flow from subject-matter source to customer— wherever the customer is now and however they want to interact with the subject matter. When we single-source, our content remains ready for future conversational interactions in other future forms like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Our content becomes even more externally and internally discoverable in question and answer form. And, it’s more easily reused and updated across all channels.

Most importantly, our content remains ours—dynamic and under single-source control, rather than abandoned to another content store subject to quality, update, redundancy, and management issues.

The Bots Are Here to Stay. Let’s Feed them Content.

Those looking ahead for signs of the chatbot revolution are missing what’s right in front of them.

Within the last year alone, Adidas’s chatbot achieved a retention rate of 60%—far eclipsing the retention rate of their app; Just Eat’s chatbot saw a conversion rate 266% higher than that of their average social ad; and CONVRG’s chatbot received a response rate three times that of their email survey.

As technology evolves and the content landscape becomes more crowded, users are gravitating toward interactive channels. And why not? Would not all of us want precise information across any device on demand? Chatbots provide a versatility paramount to all of us as content producers and consumers. And question and answer voice interfaces improve accessibility to our content for all kinds of consumers. Chatbots are quickly proving themselves as primary facilitators of the seismic shifts apparent on the content landscape.

Businesses that fail to recognize the transformative value of bots may find themselves scrambling to reach and retain customers, much the way those late to adopt an omnichannel strategy struggled to keep up with digital evolution.

Industry analysts predict that within the next ten years, chatbots and digital assistants like Siri and Alexa will overtake the webpage as a primary consumer touchpoint; largely replace mobile apps; and completely transform the customer service sector.

“Similar to the mobile revolution, voice-based interaction with digital assistants is ushering in an entirely new set of consumer behavior. By 2020, Gartner predicts 30% of web browsing will be screenless.” (iProspect)

To realize the impressive cost savings and customer service benefits of chatbots, forward-thinking marketers rightly look to leverage dedicated chatbot frameworks to save time and money in development.  And that’s great.  Who would want to write their own CMS nowadays?  The same will be true for chatbot platforms: there are already dozens and dozens of excellent options.

API.AI best fits our needs at [A], but there are many other chatbot frameworks worth exploring.

These platforms employ intuitive interfaces that require little to no knowledge of coding, easy platform integration capabilities, machine learning technology, and speech recognition technology already built into their service package.

Chatbot development with these tools is so easy, in fact, that many brands are forgetting one critical component in the hurry to market—intelligent content best practices.

Back to the Future

The number of devices for which we must optimize content delivery grows by the day. Many marketers still remember the headache caused by the rise of mobile devices—heck, many are still trying to wrangle content into a form that is optimized and easily deliverable across all channels.

During the era of change before responsive templates and adaptive content, publishers often found themselves maintaining 5+ templates for a single content rendering, wasting valuable developer and admin time with every minor change.

As many well know, this quickly became unmanageable (not to mention expensive). Content strategists knew there had to be a way to scale. We knew there had to be a better way.

We found our answer in structured, intelligent content.


-Video of Karen McGrane’s (@karenmcgrane) talk Adapting Ourselves to Adaptive Content, Breaking Development Conference, April 2012

By breaking content into smaller, modular chunks within our CMS, content producers can COPE—create once and publish everywhere.

Not only does housing flexible content in one place allow for easy, scalable delivery, it also makes content:

  • structured and consistent
  • internally and externally discoverable
  • customizable and personalizable
  • reusable and automated

But with chatbots, what we’re seeing is brands doing what they did at the outset of the mobile boom by creating an entirely new entity, re-creating content, duplicating content, and separating it from their existing content system.

Chatbots are still in their infancy. But by all accounts, they’re here to stay and are the vanguard of a new interactive mode of content.

“We’ve been saying for a while now that chat is the new browser and bots are the new websites.”—Ted Livingston, Founder and CEO of KIK, Medium

Text, voice chatbots, and interactive dimensional avatars have all played a role in redefining customer experiences, and it all began with the humble, scripted text-based chatbot. Though we may not be able to predict how chatbots and digital assistants will evolve, we can guarantee that they will evolve. In the next decade, we will see more intelligent chatbot integration platforms and more functionalities, likely all tied together by a standardized bot markup. Those of us that create bots separately from our existing content ecosystems will find ourselves creating entirely new versions of content. Again. And again.

Enterprise leadership needs a chatbot strategy that connects with existing content assets.

In a worst-case scenario, and it is already happening, multiple bots will be built to optimize for certain platforms; creating the same optimization and scaling issues encountered more than a decade ago at the dawn of the handheld era. Let us not make the same mistakes again. Single-sourcing chatbot content is possible with a little thought and ingenuity. In fact, the process of integrating chatbots with a CMS will be very natural to those of us familiar with structured content, and even more valuable to those that aren’t.

In Part II of this chatbot series, we’ll walk you through how we built [A]’s chatbot using custom content elements to leverage our existing content ecosystem.

Do you believe chatbots are destined to overtake search? Could they replace the traditional call center or FAQ section? How will consumers expect to interact with our content in the next decade? What challenges do you foresee? Let us know in the comments below!

Cruce will be appearing at Kentico Roadshow in Boston and Chicago where he will be giving a presentation called "Evolving the New Content Order" looking at the rapidly changing multichannel, multimodal content landscape. You can learn more about multichannel marketing, content engineering, personalization, chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI), and digital maturity at simplea.com or on Twitter by following @mrcruce and @simpleateam.

By Cruce Saunders in Development
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