We don’t cover search engines other than Google too frequently on this blog, but an exciting new update has worked its way into the lineup: Bing has launched bots for local businesses. Bots have become more common and widely talked about in recent years, especially in terms of how they can be used for search.
It’s a simpler alternative to building an app and bots can also significantly enhance user experience. Bots are often used to meet users where they are already spending time, like Facebook messenger, shopping on a website, or in a game. They’re utility based but also provide a more personalized experience that helps users more directly connect with brands. They’ve been tested for a variety of uses across many different platforms, and now Bing is jumping on board as well. Microsoft has reportedly started to integrate the use of bots into search results with the intent of making the search experience more interactive for users.
Fondly known as BizBots, Bing markets their bots as digital assistants to be used for the online needs of businesses to benefit their users. The bot features include:
- Automatically answering repeated questions from customers and becoming smarter and more sophisticated over time.
- Working 24/7 on Bing, Skype with capacity to be embedded on websites.
- Helping customers make faster decisions to drive business via reservations or ordering (for restaurants).
As an added perk, implementing a BizBot is totally cost, contract, and cancellation fee free. For right now, the bots are only supported for restaurant use.
Why This Is Helpful
Perhaps the best part about Bing’s BizBots is that it doesn’t require anything too demanding or high-tech from business owners. Bing walks you through a novice-friendly set up for the bots and from there, all business owners have to do is answer some commonly asked, structured questions and accept the bot terms of agreement. After the bot is set up, local businesses (again, just restaurants, for now) will show a chat feature in search results:
This feature has potential to drive significant foot traffic to local businesses and drastically improve the way users search for businesses near them. Since we know that purchase intent is high when users search for local businesses, having a bot that can quickly answer questions pertinent to that process benefits both people searching and local businesses.
Developments like the BizBot have the power to impact dollars and cents in the most significant way possible for local businesses, and if you consider your own personal experiences as a user, this makes sense. For example, if you look up a local restaurant’s hours, but want to know if they’ll apply on a holiday. Or if you want to visit a popular ice cream shop, but aren’t sure if they accepts cards. Users can ask the bots these questions and get the answers they need quickly, before being deterred from the business by a lack of information.
Whether or not search bots will be adopted by other search engines remains to be seen, but what’s clear is that Bing’s testing of BizBots could potentially be a game-changer for how local businesses optimize.