- Food Network is expanding the conversational abilities of its Facebook Messenger chatbot by learning from past interactions with viewers, AdExchanger reported. The cooking channel last month added a "Meal Match" feature that presents personalized dinner ideas after users engage the bot in a conversation.
- Liesel Kipp, senior vice president of product and design at Food Network owner Scripps Networks, said the goal for the chatbot, which first launched in November 2016, is to make interactions with users more conversational and less transactional. The bot provides daily food tips and entertaining content beyond simple recipe ideas and now has a "surprise me" button for users looking for inspiration but unsure of where to get started.
- The chatbot's audience grew when Facebook's M virtual assistant began suggesting users add Food Network to conversations about cooking and let users add the channel to conversations themselves.
As Food Network demonstrates, marketers need to continually develop a chatbot's functionality by adding features and learning from past interactions with users to expand its vocabulary and capabilities. Facebook is among the tech companies that are working to improve the sophistication of chatbot conversations and make them more seamless with other features, such as handing off a chat to a live human being when appropriate.
While chatbots have been criticized for clunky interactions, they have recently shown improvement, according to a September study by Dashbot, a bot analytics platform. The company found that two-thirds of chatbots responded appropriately with a greeting, introduction or welcome message, compared with only 60% a year earlier.
Unfortunately, one-third of bots couldn’t handle popular conversation starters like “hi” or “hello.” Those bots responded with unrelated, error or “I don’t know” messages or failed to react at all, Dashbot found. Brand marketers need to test out chatbots to ensure that they can politely handle basic conversations or provide links to additional resources when consumers engage with a bot for customer support.
The updated chatbot is the latest effort in Food Network's push toward integrating emerging technology into the brand's mobile capabilities. In June, it launched a visual skill for Amazon's Echo Show for consumers to search instructive cooking videos and recipes on the visual- and voice-based device while following along hands-free.