With everyone talking about bots, I wanted to help provide deeper context about the future possibilities and how bots will reshape the entire marketing, eCommerce, social media, and services industry. We are entering a stage of conversational apps – a “bot net” that can help you solve daily tasks easier than any app can.
Let’s recap: Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Skype, Kik, Telegram, and LINE have their own chatbot APIs (so you can send/receive messages programmatically). Social bots can now reach 1.5B users, soon to be scaled to 3B users (once WhatsApp launches it). Bots will be the hottest topic of 2016.
Why chat bots?
- Conversations are easier to have – As texting evolved into instant messaging, users have adapted to the use-case – it’s easy to do, and very convenient. People feel there is a new, intimate connection when they write to a brand.
- Websites are clunky – The problem of so many websites out there is that they have different structures, different patterns of communication – a UX designer of a website does not have to necessarily think like the end user, and the user is left with a lot of mental pain. The user Messaging Experience (MX) is a lot more streamlined and universal. You learn to use one, you can use any of them.
- Apps are over – app-fatigue – Also, Apps are bigger to download, clunkier to use – they do take up too much space, they sit on your phone and you hardly use them. Most users use at most 3 – 5 apps on their phone and don’t pay attention to many others. 65% of users did not even download a new app in 2014 / 2015.
- Discoverability – One of the biggest advantages bots offer is their discoverability; especially with a market dominant messaging app. For example, Messenger is dominant in certain markets, which gives companies the ability to market a bot and ease the discovery for users. You scan a code and you are inside the conversation and in the flow. That simple.
What will bots look like & what can you do with them?
They won’t replace customer care – People like interacting with brands in social media, they sometimes need fairly trivial, repeated answers – sometimes, they need exceptional customer care. I am a firm believer that chat bots cannot replace human-managed customer care, but provide a separate, standalone stream of care instead. That makes chat bots a bigger threat to Apps than they are to human-run customer care. You will always need to deal with problematic cases or trouble tickets with human beings, so best practice will be to have the combination of a functional and fast “bot-service” and a seamless transferal to human when/if needed.
They will re-shape our product & services buying experiences – Is it still hard to imagine? Go to any of the big travel booking sites – Orbitz, Skyscanner, Kiwi, etc. – and you will find a completely different user experience even though you are at each of them to essentially look for and order the same exact thing. Travel booking is a time-consuming task, especially when you are booking for someone else or for a group, and you need input from several parties. Group chatting with a bot is the solution here.Check out this theoretical concept of how it could evolve (Facebook would have to launch a few more things for this to become a reality): All you can do is mention three different insurance companies in-line into a chat thread, and you have your own marketplace of offers for travel plans for your holiday next week – easy.
Facebook already announced that over 10,000+ platform developers are building bots, and Telegram is giving away 1 million EUR to the best bots and bot ideas.
Facebook who’s biggest messenger related assets are Messenger and WhatsApp, only launched bots in Messenger 2 months ago – their platform needs the most work out of all the platforms, but with their scale it won’t take them long to catch up with platforms like Telegram and Kik.
It’s only logical that we are now on the brink of a bot revolution, of a bot-based web 3.0. These bots will define virtual assistants, they will define new purchasing experiences, they will define how we consume any service or product. In the next 2 – 5 years, majority of our daily chores will be chat bot-assisted.
How should you do it?
Building a bot – The important thing is, like with making apps on Android and iOS – you have to build chat bots for multiple messaging bot platforms. But then there will be frameworks (like there are many on Android and iOS) where you can make 1 chat bot app and it will work on all messaging platforms.
The most important thing is: Go build one now. Facebook showed at their conference how to build a bot in several minutes – it’s not hard, and there are many companies out there you can find that have chat bot platforms.
Now, It’s time to build your audience!
Learn what works for your company and the behavior of your users in bots.
Measuring bots – I would certainly measure how long conversations in a bot environment last, and how deep each conversation goes into each bot’s features, conversation retention, etc. – these are metrics that are currently unprecedented and will be defined and used over the coming months and years to measure success.
The future of bots?
We are at the very beginning of this revolution, but new bots are being made every day. Check out this Slideshare deck on the future of bots to get a thorough background in where we are today and where we’re going:
To conclude, bots will be amazing because of their ability to learn and iterate constantly, their ability to add machine learning – and before long these seemingly basic chat bots will evolve into advanced, predictive AI.
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