Today, chatbots are seemingly everywhere. In 2017, we saw a major swing towards conversational interfaces. What was once a place to text your favorite pictures and funny gifs, is now a place to engage with brands by allowing end users to browse merchandise, receive customer service support or purchase products within a familiar, pre-existing tool…namely, messaging applications.
A major shift in how messaging apps are being used is taking place. Roughly 90% of a mobile phone user’s time is spent on email, their preferred social network, and messaging. We humans love to communicate—we are wired for it. That makes it easy for brands to meet consumers where they already are without having to modify their preferred method of interaction…conversations!
Decide to KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly)!
Chatbots are going to be a big reason why single-use apps will become a thing of the past.
The average person downloads zero apps per month and outside of games, spends 80% of their time on apps built by Facebook and Google. They designed and control eight of the 10 most-used apps according to ComScore. As popular as apps have been in the past, they no longer account for the major activity on our phones. What does? Text messaging!
Want to meet a friend for coffee? You definitely aren’t going to download an app that that will arrange a meeting for you, you’ll just message your friend to meet.
And the same will hold true for most services we interact with via apps. Need a ride, just send Uber a message. Need to order flowers, chat with your local florist. Send a simple message to your bank via a chatbot to transfer your money around. Quick and simple.
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
When you go to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, you can have food brought straight to your seat via the Levi’s Stadium food delivery app. This is just one of many stadiums looking into stadium-specific apps. Yet ordering your hotdog and beer is not as easy as you would think. There is serious friction in the form of getting out your phone, searching for the app, creating an account, logging in, adding your credit card, etc. All just to use a service a couple of times a year.
There has to be a better way. What if you could just message your stadium? Nothing to download. Just the ability to use a familiar interface such as Facebook Messenger or SMS.
“Chat apps will come to be thought of as the new browsers; bots will be the new websites. This is the beginning of a new internet.” Ted Livingston, CEO at Kik
The trend towards chatbots replacing apps and websites has already started, and talking to brands via messaging apps such as Messenger, Slack, SMS, or Telegram will be completely normal and soon the preferred method for end users.
Nothing to install, nothing to configure—just flow.
You Look So Familiar
The internet is brimming with user interfaces. Each website we visit, each app that we download requires us to survey the platform to understand how the designer intended us to use the interface. Different types of navigation, different uses of buttons and forms, content placement and layouts, all designed around how the architect wanted us to use it.
On the other hand, chatbots have a very familiar user interface. Users of Messenger are already familiar with how it works, and what its capabilities are. There are no new navigation elements to learn and no need to search the layout for content. We know we can just ask a question, view products in a carousel, or choose one of the multiple-choice answers. For a brand, this means skipping the design process, and immediately focusing on solving user needs quickly and efficiently.
Plus, interactions with a chatbot after the initial conversation are not viewed as negative by users because we have been conditioned to receive notifications through this medium by messaging with our friends. As a result, the chatbot is already trusted and valued.
Benefits for Businesses and Users
But this just isn’t about users being able to have an easier way to interact with brands. This is about brands being able to enhance the user experience and provide value to their clients.
Conversational interfaces built into applications such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Slack, or WeChat have the ability to gather contextual information about their users such as their social data, health data, and location.
Armed with this data, brands can develop personalized and tailored information and deliver specifically targeted products to their end users. Thus, brands have an incentive to increase the interaction with each user. After all, the longer a user engages with the brand, the more information the bot can gather to supply an even greater experience. Chatbots create a mutual benefit for both the brand and the end user.
What’s On The Horizon?
Over the last couple of years, chatbots have been steadily growing in popularity. 2018 will be the year brands start to understand conversation interfaces and the power they have to reduce the friction that end users are having with multiple applications on their home screen that they never use. There are plenty of automated tasks that can be handed off to a chatbot to help the user gather information, create a support ticket, or to purchase what they want. A chatbot can also continue to provide useful information in the form of notifications with a user’s permission.
It is also the year brands will continue to develop relationships with their users in a way that fosters community, trust, and value in new ways. Brands will be given the permission to be a valued friend. Just look at the popularity of SIRI, Alexa, and Google. We are using these “conversational interfaces” to help unify brand and user. Through conversation, brands are becoming more personalized in terms of relationships. A case in point: Consumers say “thank you” to their cylindrical friends.
The conversational interface revolution is just getting started. In the near future, we will be exploring other ways that these interfaces will be able to help brands in verticals such as health care, finance, insurance, and e-commerce. The technology to understand requests from users and the ability to process that information and deliver pertinent information in response is here. The time for brands to engage with users within conversational interfaces is now.