Are Chatbots the Future of Mobile Messaging?
On April 12th, 2016, Facebook made the announcement that they plan to allow businesses to create chatbots for their Facebook Messenger platform. This highly anticipated launch has drawn new attention to the potential for mobile messaging chatbots that can provide live support, shopping assistance for ecommerce, and other interactive experiences for consumers.
These “chatbots” are computer programs, often equipped with some degree of machine learning capability, that use a text interface to interact dynamically with users. Although chatbots began as an interesting novelty, the newer generation of bots are designed to have useful functions. Chatbots can deliver weather reports and sports scores, help shoppers find the right products, or even assist with putting in a takeout order.
The next big step will involve direct, complex conversations between users and bots. Many people even believe that this is going to be the “next big thing” in user interfaces, potentially revolutionizing the way we interact with our mobile devices and their apps.
But are chatbots really poised to revolutionize the way brands interact with consumers? This may be the case, but in the short term, there are a few potential challenges that chatbot technology may need to surmount if they are to come to full fruition. If these challenges can be overcome, however, the rise of chatbots could become more revolutionary than any of us predicted.
Chatbots as the “Next Big Thing”: Benefits & Challenges
There are a few current trends that could help usher in sophisticated chatbots as the next big development in how users interact with mobile apps:
● The burden of the app ecosystem. When it comes to getting the content you need, apps can be a hassle. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may need to use a single app, or you may need several. You may need to download a brand new app for one specific purpose, even though you may not really need it again anytime soon. And that’s to say nothing of the lack of controls on general app quality. For every great app out there on the Apple Store and Google Play, there are dozens of apps that are downright awful.
● Bots allow for natural communication. One of the key advantages of chatbots is that by simulating a conversation partner, they allow users to communicate naturally. Chatbots can be spoken to naturally, especially bots equipped with machine learning capabilities. For the user, natural conversation is simple and intuitive.
● The average consumer uses just a handful of apps. Consumers spend about 80% of their time each month on about five apps. In most cases, at least one or two of these are widely used messaging or social media platforms, like Twitter or Facebook Messenger.
People are always looking for a simpler, superior user experience from massive companies like Facebook and Google that own such a large amount of their mobile screentime.
While these factors bode well for chatbots, there are also a few significant obstacles that could hinder their potential popularity:
● For bot services, convenience is key. The value of a chatbot lies largely in its convenience for the user. Consumers want a faster, smoother, more intuitive and contextual experience. Well-designed apps like Uber or Amazon make it simple for people to find exactly what they’re looking for, in context, without any hassle or frustration.
● Bot technology is in its infancy. While chatbots have been enriched by recent developments in machine learning, they still have a way to go before they’ve really been perfected. People don’t want to interact with bots that can’t understand what they’re trying to ask for, or that keep giving them the wrong results. Mobile data can provide a truly immense amount of useful context for user interactions, but many companies have barely begun to tap into that potential.
● Developer tools for bots aren’t widely available yet. This is slowly beginning to change. Just recently, Microsoft announced a new bot framework at Build 16. As other companies follow suit, developers will have more options for creating functional, customized bots.
Despite the challenges that still lie ahead, it looks like chatbots may quickly become a very useful tool to help consumers get things done faster and more effectively on their mobile devices. Just as apps have begun overtaking traditional browser-based internet usage, mobile experiences will continue to change and evolve in the future. Mobile appears to be moving away from a focus on collections of various apps, and toward a new focus on platform experiences. This is already beginning with Cortana, Siri, and Google Now, and chatbots are well positioned to continue this interactive trend. Despite the fact that the majority of mobile experiences are “owned” by giants like Google and Facebook, brands of all types may very well begin embracing chatbots as a valuable opportunity to provide custom, contextualized experiences for their users. At the end of the day, chatbots have the ability to make things easier for consumers. With that ability comes a great deal of potential.
A customized chatbot for Facebook Messenger can make your customers’ mobile experience more rewarding than ever. To find out more about what chatbots can do for your brand, you can get in touch with me at email@example.com.”