In the past few years, we’ve seen industries become upended and disrupted by the “sharing economy.” This new landscape is built on personal connection, identity, a focus on tangible experiences, and personalized services available at the tap of a button.
You’ve definitely heard about the sharing economy giants, and have likely used some of them already. Whether you ordered a custom-made gift on Etsy, stayed at an Airbnb on short notice, completed a chore with TaskRabbit, or hailed a car to your home in a few minutes with Uber, sharing economy platforms have become ubiquitous.
What sets such services apart is that these businesses-as-platforms allow contractors to provide hyper-niche and bespoke services to customers. In the old economy, businesses would try to pigeonhole their customers into broad demographics and funnel them through the same customer experience. That system isn’t working anymore; what do you do now?
Here’s a tip: Businesses adapt to this new economy simply by getting a chatbot. Why? Because chatbots are perfectly positioned to provide personalized, niche experiences tailored to customers’ tastes. Just like with Uber, TaskRabbit, and other services, a user can contact a bot to meet their needs at all hours of the day — and comfortably, from their mobile phone.
Make a personal connection
By using chatbots in the sharing economy, you make your business available to customers. Once contacted by a customer, the chatbot can answer their questions in your brand’s voice. We’re not talking about basic customer service, though: The bot can provide a one-to-one service, as if the user were talking to a human..
Let’s say you request an Uber on Messenger. While you’re waiting for the driver, a bot can help you with your ride. Since the driver is on the road, he can’t text — but a bot can! The Uber bot becomes a virtual ride assistant, not just a tool for ordering and completing a ride. The bot can answer questions about the Uber service. Every driver benefits. In sharing economy businesses, every bot can take a human’s place and talk to the customers.
Invest in niche communities
Another way that chatbots in the sharing economy can adapt your business to current demands is by targeting niche communities and needs. On the internet, communities thrive on niche interests and preferences, which can be ignored by businesses that don’t know how to scale or capitalize on those interests. Where businesses have failed to grab consumer interest, third-party and independent content creators have swooped in. This includes vloggers who sell their own outfits on the platforms. Users find these content creators to answer a specific need — but they stick with them because the social platforms they use help the vloggers strike a personal connection with viewers.
With an AI-based bot, you can deliver the same content to adapt to how customers use your product or service. Using the example above, a person who sells outfits on Etsy might offer a fashion assistant who can provide tips and how-tos for pulling off a certain look.
Again, these examples show how chatbots can transform a pre-sharing economy business into one that provides specialized, peer-to-peer services to customers’ tastes. Such an ability is essential in the sharing economy.
The sharing economy thrives on conversation
Because the sharing economy connects customers with independent individuals — freelancers, everyday people looking to sell excess items, rideshare drivers, etc. — its platforms thrive on conversation. For example, consider Airbnb. To book a place to stay, you begin a conversation with the owner of the space. By chatting with the host, users can get their questions asked about amenities, check-in/check-out times, nearby transportation, and more.
One can imagine how a chatbot feature could answer these questions from users to free up the host’s time. Similar services might alternatively use bots for matchmaking: Let the bot know what you need for your trip and it could match you with the host best suited to oblige. This isn’t offered by Airbnb now, but we can imagine the benefits and utility for sharing economy platforms.
Whole new services can use conversation to make buying and selling better on sharing economy platforms, too. When it comes to chatbots in the sharing economy, few are more popular than Kevinsured, a rating bot and line of protection for buyers and sellers on platforms like Craigslist and Gumtree. These platforms require trust between buyer and seller, and Kevinsured provides it: After a purchase is made, both can rate the other on the transaction through a simple, conversational interface. Kevinsured is a great example of how companies can use chatbots to solve new, unique problems of the sharing economy.
Ilker Koksal is CEO and cofounder of Botanalytics, a conversational analytics and engagement tool company.