Everything you need to know about Chatbots

August 26, 2016

We may have heard of a new app in town but today, we’ll think twice about downloading it into our phones. Concerns with storage space and pains with the onboarding process often stop us from trying out a new app. It might be a great app, but we’ll never know. Chatbots are changing the game by introducing services via conversational interfaces, i.e. messaging apps that already exist in our phones. Run by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, these chatbots can be designed to replace some of your apps - and maybe even do it better by simplifying the interaction and shortening the process. Here's a quick introduction to the rise of Chatbots.

The rise of Chatbots


The immense potential of chatbots has attracted a great deal of attention in the tech world. Big players like Microsoft, Facebook and Google have been investing heavily on the software and on artificial intelligence that runs these bots. Some startups are even attempting to build innovative services that mimic Iron Man’s personal assistant Jarvis and a companion like Samantha in the movie Her. While those that rely heavily on artificial intelligence may take some time to roll out, you’ll still be able to find fully functioning chatbots on popular messaging apps like Messenger, Slack and Telegram today. Businesses are fast to launch bots to support their customer service experience, and others have followed suit by making their in-app services available on messaging platforms. Chatbots are growing so quickly that they have been hailed as the next big thing, the UI of the future.

Tackling App Fatigue


In recent years, the app market has been witnessing a slowdown. ComScore reported that most U.S. smartphone users download zero apps in a typical month. In addition, people do not use most of the apps that they do download - 80% of their time is spent on using only three apps. It is increasingly difficult to get smartphone users to download and use a new app, possibly because many have passed the exploration stage of searching for apps to meet their needs. Apps that perform only a specific task would find it even more challenging to gain traction.
The only type of app that continues to reign today are messaging apps. They continue to serve the fundamental need of why phones were invented in the first place, enhancing it by offering free calls, pretty stickers and funny gifs. Today, over 2.5 billion people have a messaging app installed in their smartphones.

One of the biggest draws of employing chatbots hence lies in the ability to capitalise on the popularity of messaging platforms as access points to reach a larger user group. No longer will there be a need to download a native app to access every single service. Users will just have to search for the respective chatbot on their messaging apps to engage a service. Employing chatbots also allows users to skip the process of having to familiarise with the design and interactions of a new app. With these barriers to adoption taken down, opt-in rates may increase exponentially.

Chatbot Potential


Chatbots expedite the completion of complex tasks.

We often find ourselves scrambling between multiple apps and tabs for certain tasks like booking a trip and scheduling a meeting. Tasks that involve comparison between pieces of information and decision-making are often tedious and time-consuming. That’s where chatbots can be deployed to improve efficiency. Take Operator for example - the chatbot serves as a shopping concierge that pulls data from various sources to bring you products that you have requested for. It definitely speeds up the search process for shoppers who have something specific in mind.


Chatbots simplify interactions

Chatbots can also make use of the conversational interface to simplify an interaction that can be pretty complicated if done on an app. Because the conversational interface of a messaging app presents only so few affordances (usually just a text input space and a ‘Send’ button), interacting with the chatbot is much more intuitive and straightforward. Let’s take an expense-tracking experience as an example. Tracking your spendings using a wallet app can be quite intimidating at the start. There are categories to build, budgets to set, spendings to key in and reviews to view. It can be confusing because there are so many menus and buttons to click on. If a chatbot takes over the job, typing ‘Just spent $20 at a supermarket’ replaces the need to click on multiple buttons to enter and categorise an expense. The bot will complete those actions for you.

Conclusion


All in all, chatbots present great opportunity to increase reach through messaging apps, and well-designed bots have the potential to improve the user experience of various services. A general review of chatbots currently available in the market suggests that bots need not be revolutionary in terms of the service they offer. Something simple, effective, coupled with a hint of personality may be sufficient to attract early adopters. From what we've seen so far, the best chatbots are those that are highly focused on fulfilling a specific utility, but of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg. With new chatbots being added everyday, we're truly excited to see developers pushing chatbots to the limit.

Author’s Note:

At 2359 Media, we are super excited about the potential of chatbots. We've been working on some chatbot concepts and it’s been a challenging but exciting process, with many new insights gained along the way. Be sure to stay in touch for more chatbot updates and insights!