“Chatbot” has been one of the top buzzwords for 2016. The hype around chatbots reached its pinnacle towards the end of last year and there are no signs of it subsiding yet. Conceptually, a chatbot is just a dedicated piece of software which users can chat with online to get their problems solved or get their queries answered. Here are few reasons why chatbots can be ‘the next big thing’ for businesses across different industries:
Chatbots are the new apps – While there are more than 4 million available apps in the top two app stores lead by Google and Apple, most of them remaining unused. Generally, users access only five apps on a daily or weekly basis and a majority of them are messaging apps which have high stickiness, where they are being used nine times a day against twice daily for the average app. They are also able to retain nearly six times the number of users as the average app. With top three messaging apps claiming more than 3 billion monthly active users, messaging apps offer engaged and young user base of unparalleled size. At the same time, the larger chunk of smaller developers, and thus their brands are often overlooked in app stores. It thus becomes imperative for the companies to have chatbots as a customer touch point, in the digital customer journey.
They are easier to adopt – While companies have been trying to go digital-first, a larger part of target consumers are still off these channels. For serving customers, beyond millenials, it has been a steep curve for companies to make their customers browse websites, register online or download their mobile app. However, text based approach of chatbots can help companies tap into the customers who are comfortable users of chat applications. These customers can also be first time smartphone users or for that matter, their mobile phone could be their first internet touch point or who have just moved up from feature phones. Since most of the chatbots are on messaging platforms, users can gain access to a range of services from a central hub, one they are already using frequently and without downloading any software (read mobile app).
Much each easier to deploy – At a broader level, there are two types of chatbots – native chatbots, which are present on their own platforms (websites or mobile apps); and third party chatbots, which are built on existing chat apps, where Facebook’s Messenger, Kik, Telegram, Slack and WeChat are dominating the space. Microsoft and Facebook have also launched their own set of tools to support developers for creating chatbots. To ensure that it doesn’t miss the bus, Google has recently acquired API.AI, a chatbot technology company. All three of them share a common vision of future where ‘chats’ initially and then voice based commands, would lead the human-machine interface. To conclude, providing access to respective APIs, defining set of routines, protocols, and basic software applications are enough to roll out a basic chatbot which can go a long in ensuring minimum human interference.
Ease of adoption, rapidly maturing NLP and technology support from messaging platforms means chatbots are evolving rapidly. It is about time that companies start looking at chatbots as an important part of the technology stack for their digital transformation, especially for improving the customer experience.