Chatbots and virtual assistants are the smartest customer service agents in eCommerce. But, do you always wonder what the difference is between a chatbot and a virtual assistant? Chatbot vs virtual assistant is not a complex topic and there are only a few differences between the two softwares.

These two softwares have many functionalities in common and yet are not the same! This blog focuses on intelligent virtual assistants and chatbots and their differences.

What is a Chatbot?

what is a chatbot

A chatbot is computer software that provides automated support in the online store. Chatbots come in two types, rule-based and AI-powered chatbots. In the rule-based chatbots, you can write a predefined response to automate commonly asked customers’ questions.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

virtual assistant

A virtual agent is a human behind the software that solves customers’ problems. Live chat agents are also human agents.

On the other hand, a virtual assistant is not a human agent behind, but an advanced chatbot that will handle multiple questions of different customers.

Chatbots and Functionalities

Types of Chatbots

As aforementioned, chatbots are generally divided into types.

  • Rule-based chatbots
  • Artificial Intelligence-powered chatbots

Rule-Based Chatbots

Rule-based chatbots, or flow bots, will provide a series of options based on a decision-tree matrix. Customers can choose topics from the list of options and the bot will reply but only within the confines of its matrix. Rule-based bots are typically limited in what tasks they can perform.

Artificial Intelligence Powered Chatbots

AI-powered chatbots with natural language processing and machine learning technologies are not limited by a decision-tree matrix and can easily switch from topic to topic – just like a real-life human conversation. AI chatbots augment business productivity by handling multiple customers and questions 24/7.

How Chatbots Provide Customer Assistance – 5 Key Benefits


Chatbots are available on your website 24/7. You can have customers from different time zones browsing your site receiving assistance from your chatbot. 24/7 availability is one of the reasons why many online business owners prefer chatbots. Bounce rates and website abandonment will reduce when you implement a bot on your website that effectively engages visitors.

Answers Monotonous Questions

Human agents can answer customer questions but experience frustration when they must answer repetitive questions all day long. In many online businesses, it is best to automate repetitive tasks and automate conversations which will help reduce workload on human agents.

Increase in ROI

Chatbots are cost-efficient. You need not employ multiple customer service agents to handle high volume, less complex customer inqueries. By implementing a chatbot on your website, you can have it automate multiple tasks for both the sales and customer support teams thus increasing the return on investment.

Improve Lead Generation

Chatbots are not exclusive to eCommerce websites. You can use chatbots in multiple fields and industries. On a lead generation website, you can collect leads effortlessly with lead-generating chatbots.

Lead-generating chatbots will help you qualify prospective clients with automated lead qualifying questions, schedule more appointments, and provide relevant answers to leads towards the top of your funnel.

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Enhanced Customer Engagement

Website visitors today increasingly expect more of an experience when browsing. Having engaging website content is key but having an AI chatbot that they can converse with transforms the experience and keeps them browsing on your site – and not a competitor’s site.

Online shoppers can receive personalized product recommendations, get their questions answered immediately, and even obtain support post-purchase. This enhanced experience and engagement will keep them coming back as repeat customers.

Virtual Assistants and Functionalities

If you feel confused between human agents assisting virtually and a bot providing assistance when we talk about virtual assistants, it is best to know the difference. Virtual agents are human agents who provide customer support online while virtual assistants are some type of software. Virtual agents are also known as live chat agents and have differences from chatbots. 

Virtual Agents

Virtual agents are human agents who provide customer support on an eCommerce website. There is no technology behind virtual agents. If you are familiar with live chat agents, virtual agents are essentially the same.

Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants can mean both advanced chatbots and human agents. Generally, advanced chatbots with AI, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP), Natural Language Understanding (NLU), and Sentiment Analysis are virtual assistants.

How Virtual Assistants Provide Customer Support – 5 Key Benefits

Virtual assistants do everything that rule-based bots can and more. Virtual assistants are more advanced and can answer multiple questions from the same customer about many different topics or subjects without having to go back to the beginning of the bot script or flow. Intelligent virtual assistants have advanced conversational interfaces to communicate with customers.

Voice Search

Voice search is one of the advanced features of chatbots. A customer can find answers in an online store by just using their voice.

Many virtual assistants, such as Alexa by Amazon, also have a voice search feature. This advanced feature will streamline customer conversation and help them search for products without any difficulty.

Finding Conversation Pattern

Virtual assistants can find the pattern in the customer conversation. With machine learning technology behind these advanced chatbots, they can analyze conversation patterns. If a potential customer is having a conversation and makes a purchase, then virtual assistants will understand the pattern.

Advanced Natural Language Understanding

When your customers are conversing with a virtual assistant and they don’t receive a proper answer they will view that as a negative experience and are likely to leave for a competitor’s site.

Advanced Natural Language Understanding prevents your virtual assistants from providing unrelatable and irrelevant answers for your customers. Your customers can also have a casual or fun conversation with the virtual assistants which can help ease the frustration of any issue on both sides.

Artificial Emotional Intelligence & Sentiment Analysis

Artificial Emotional Intelligence and sentiment analysis are the two technologies that help chatbots empathize with your customers.

When Microsoft introduced its chatbot, Tay, there was a huge commotion, as the chatbot said rude responses and gave racist comments.

Sentiment analysis and emotional intelligence in virtual assistants will make your chatbot more empathetic. You need not worry about rude and blunt responses when you have these technologies behind your advanced chatbot.

Personalized Conversations

An advanced chatbot will provide personalized responses to your customers. Personalized service will always captivate your customers and generate repeat customers.

Advanced chatbots understand your target audience and help you tailor your conversations that align with their preferences. Customers will get an immediate response in textual or auditory means in the virtual assistants.

Final Verdict – AI Chatbot is the Best For Business

Advanced AI chatbots are the virtual assistants that are best for the e-commerce business. AI virtual assistants will help online business owners communicate with customers like real-life sales representatives.

The difference between chatbots and advanced AI chatbots (virtual assistants) is the humanized persona and personalized service. AI-powered chatbots will do multiple tasks and understand natural language commands.

If you want to accelerate the purchase process of your online store, you should implement the best AI chatbot which is affordable and increase customer satisfaction. You need not worry about different strategies to increase customer experience, as AI chatbots are one of the best solutions.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are Siri and Alexa chatbots or virtual assistants?

Siri and Alexa are advanced chatbots with AI technology that perform specific tasks accurately and replicate human beings in conversation. Technically, we cannot determine Siri and Alexa as chatbots, instead, they are advanced chatbots with AI technology i.e. virtual assistants.

2. Is Google Assistant a Chatbot?

Google Assistant is a virtual assistant like Alexa and Siri.

3. What are the best chatbots for e-commerce?

  • Ochatbot
  • Mobilemonkey
  • Tidio
  • Bostify
  • Drift


Greg Ahern
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