Chat Bots & Apps — Instant Utility Driven Approach

Oye! Let me help… No me…I will help
Messages, messages everywhere, but not always of use to me

There are billions of messages that move around all the time between people sharing everything from sarcasm to selfies. They give us the human connect & sometimes valuable information. But can they give more value?

I had earlier written on how messaging is set to transform our active & passive experiences, where I expressed on how utility based passive experiences like browsing clothes can lead to active experiences like discussing about them.

In this note I intend to express more on what passive experiences could be like & focus on a special kind.

Instant Utility

There are moments when we need information for a short duration & that’s it. Value for which is only for that moment. For example you are at an airport & want to know where the gate is located for your flight. You need that information for that moment to make a choice. And it holds no value after that. Similarly if you are in a mall trying to find a place to sit, you look for benches or seats. Once you locate it, the persisting of information holds no value any longer.

If one puts structure to it, there are few key attributes

  • Person is looking for information & more specifically “type of information”
  • Value of information in “context to their environment”.
  • Once information is acquired & used, it’s of no value any longer as “potential environment & context changes”

So lets see this in a scenario for a person trying to board a flight.

  • Type of Information: looking for Boarding gate
  • Current Context & Environment: For specific flight, departing at a certain time, from a location to a destination
  • New Potential State: At gate, now looking for departure times.

This is an instant need which should be met by an instant utility. And this kind of utility is what bots in Messaging platforms could provide

Bots vs Apps

There is already a discussion on what should be in an app versus a messaging bot. The discussion leads us to an earlier & similar discussion regarding web apps & native apps for mobile. Similar to that debate there could be multiple factors that would influence if some functionality should come through bots or apps. And one of the ways to think about is utility & duration of the need.

A feature or functionality which has only instant & yet temporary value to users should be delivered as bots. Letting apps to focus on longer engagements & richer experiences.

Say, someone is trying to finding their boarding gate, would you want to download yet another app, search for an app when at airport, get details & forget about it (while it gnaws on your precious compute & battery life) or ask a bot that provides information & then goes away on its own?

This use case based differentiation would enable right services to reach users, in right time & right duration. Use bots when one needs quick contextual information & apps for longer activities, like browsing hotel rooms in Athens.

Utility Bots will be having different use cases such as:

  • Show parking spot in a parking structure
  • Find seating area for the elderly
  • Show discount codes in the shop where a person is or finding men’s section

Parts of these functionality will be or are already in different assistants like Siri or Google’s assistant. But as messaging platform would evolve these will converge in without requiring users to move between them.

Imagine some day you are trying to find your varsity jacket, and you text your spouse. And a contextual bot or assistant tells you that it’s in dry cleaning. Lesser nuisance.

Or it could very well, just blow away the secret surprise being planned for you!