Uber’s chatbot ‘welcome’ in Facebook Messenger

You Need a ChatBot Strategy Now

What’s your conversation conversion plan?

F8 is tomorrow.

If you haven’t heard, there’s been a secret SDK for chatbots. And it’s available tomorrow to build a chatbot on the Messenger app.

You need a chatbot strategy.

What’s a chatbot?
Here’s some background:

Chatbots give businesses a mini-app within Messenger enabling response to customer inquiries in a friendly and structured way. Here’s an example: if a customer writes to a company through Messenger with a query about a shipment order, rather than needing a human to respond, these bots can field and respond to the user automatically. It’s a bit like a live FAQ, but you can build in text actions for transactions, like ordering a burrito (eg. ‘I want a burrito.’ ‘Buy’ ← And you get a burrito delivered), checking your airline time (see what KLM did), buy a ticket to a show, and more.

If you use Messenger, you can make a payment or order an Uber through the app. What Facebook is now doing gives developers the opportunity to build plug-ins (or links) that can then be placed online, just like a “contact us” button. Users will be bounced to the Messenger app on mobile, or messenger.com on the web where they can chat with a bot or a human customer service representative. Theory is that this can replace FAQs, emails, and also scale automated interactions that could reduce live customer service, but also increase casual commerce and social sales — the promise of which has yet to be fully realized, since we know social/interpersonal recommendations are how people first consider a purchase.

If you follow news about international chat apps, this is old news since Line and WeChat and others have a robust transaction ecosystems built into the apps, bringing a majority of their revenue. Most recently here in the US, Kik announced the opening of its chatbot store last week. Any business can build and deploy bots to interact with its more than 240 million registered users.

Slack has been using chatbots for a while too. That usage is a leading indicator of what can happen with Facebook Messenger. Add that to Microsofts bot APIs, Telegram and even Google talking about chatbots, it’s clear that this is a tipping point moment for what I would call a ‘conversation conversion.’ Conversation as a platform for commerce, service, and native brand engagement.

What’s the opportunity and why do you need a strategy?

As the lines between marketing, sales, and customer service continue to merge, this is where we find the opportunity for conversation conversions. With Messenger chatbots, you can have all three at once, in one app, in context — serving customers right where they are.

1. Scale: When Apple launched the App Store, there was about 6 million users of the iPhone to have access to the App Store. When Facebook launches a chatbot marketplace, the userbase is over 800 million users— more than 100 times the number of iPhone owners when Apple launched the App Store. That means that 80% of Facebook users are active on Messenger monthly already.

2. Engagement: And with the incredible integration of Facebook and Messenger in people’s lives, it’s much more convenient to have simple actions and engagements available in Messenger, especially in context of chatting with another person or groups

3. Timing: It’s early! Apple App Store is crowded and most has been done. Messenger with a chatbot marketplace is a new environment with much to be explored. It’s not noisy and there’s going to be a landgrab for app share and consumer loyalty within Messenger.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.

Summary: Conversational Conversion

You need a chatbot strategy.

Even if just for Facebook Messenger, if not the other messenger services, people are spending more time on chat than social. Next, we will likely see venture financing for bots come next. Brands and services looking to figure out how to market to customers via chat. Consumers trying to figure out how to manage their personal relationships in context with bot relationships.

And in some ways, it’s not unlike Amazon’s Echo with Alexa — as we read more about children chatting with an AI device that helps you order more paper towels, it’s the concept that the Internet of Things starts to merge with conversational requests to the point that consumers interact with brands at the same level they do with their friends.

It comes down to the ultimate personification of the brand — brand as person in a relationship, looking for a transaction (just like we look for our feedback loops of views, likes, and shares). Maybe more natural and perhaps in a better, more intuitive context of chat. The conversation conversion.

One thing is for sure: The scale, engagement and timing opportunity is unparalleled. This launch is very likely the next App Store. Facebook has to make it succeed for continued growth as general Facebook adoption levels off and they try to fend off competition from Twitter/Periscope and Snapchat. Not just for share of attention, but for shareholder expectations of continued revenue growth. And Facebook can be the house that holds the majority of your financial transactions, brand interactions, and surface recommendations to you on the context of your history as well as chat conversations.

Either way, decide your chatbot strategy now, because there is an entire ecosystem of chatbot apps waiting to be developed. It’s where your customer is and where you need to be. It will be as ubiquitous as Facebook Pages and larger than the Apple App Store, and the more that consumers lock in to their relationships and their bots, it’s a long-term lock-in strategy for Facebook that many will find hard to let go in the near-future.

What’s your chatbot going to be?