July 10, 2016
Messaging bots are the all the rage. So what’s all the fuss about?
Bots are a lot easier to install than mobile apps. To “install” a bot, you simply search for the bot from within your favorite messaging app and click to start chatting. The bot has immediate access to your identity, too. For a mobile app, you open your app store, search for the app, click install, wait a minute to install, open the app, and login/create an account. You’re looking at a few minutes rather than a few seconds. The bot install results in at least a 10X reduction in friction.
Bots are easily distributed. Let’s say your friends are all using some awesome bot, they can easily share the bot with you from the messaging app itself. Bots can be linked to, shared on socialmedia, and even recommended by other bots. In the case of Slack, another team member can add your bot so that your whole team can use it.
Quality mobile apps are expensive to build, maintain and deploy. In the app paradigm, you need to have skilled Android and iOS client development teams ideally paired with a strong UXer or two. Then the app needs to be tested, refined and submitted to app stores for approvals. Rinse and repeat. In the bot world, you leverage the fact that messaging apps are built by someone else. New feature deployment can be done with continuous integration to the backend alone.
There is a very long-tail of use-cases that don’t justify a mobile app. Because of the low-friction install, distribution and development of a bot, a whole slew of use-cases open up. Users won’t likely install an app for their dentist or hairdresser. Therefore, to build dedicated apps for these use-cases would be futile. Instead, would that same user add their dentist and hairdresser to their contact list?
Messaging apps are ubiquitous and dominate consumer’s mobile engagement. Between Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WhatsApp, Kik, Line, Viber, Telegram, Slack and Hangouts messaging has almost complete market penetration. On top of this, messaging has 5.6Xhigher 12-month retention than other mobile apps.
Consumers are experiencing mobile app fatigue. What’s the last app that made it onto your home screen? How many apps did you install this month?
Bot interactions are intrinsically bi-directional. In the web and mobile app paradigm you need to provide contact info and/or rely on push notifications for the “receive” component of the UX. These notifications have to be stitched together by links and intents into the corresponding UI view. In messaging, incoming messages are a first-class citizen. This lends itself nicely to commerce and financial transactions which are, by definition, bi-directional.
Moving complexity to the cloud reduces a user’s cognitive load. Sure, you can always search Google, comb through results, click a few links, extract out the necessary information, and formulate a decision. However, isn’t it easier if a bot did that for you? Thisis especially useful when on the go or when time is limited.
Bots are extremely portable. While messaging apps are a bot’s native environment, they can just as easily exist in live chat, personal assistants , car audio systems, as a voice in your ear, smart watches, email, and push notifications.
Bot software development cycles are extremely fast. The first time the request can be serviced manually, then an automated version can be deployed behind the scenes. You get the added benefit of not wasting time building the wrong thing.
Humans are innately hardwired for language and conversation. Because of this language has evolved to become powerful, nuanced, and flexible. It goes without saying, but language has been used extensively for all of recorded history to do amazing things. Bots leverage this underlying human trait.
Today’s apps may be inextricable from their mobile hosts, but apps remain a far more flexible technology than their predecessors. Apps let us keep our favorite software products in our pockets and use them wherever we go, whenever, so long as we have a web hook-up. Bots are the new apps because they go beyond devices and provide a new version of mobility. Not only are we able to use bot technology anywhere in the world , but we can use the bot across multiple devices and interact with it in a variety of ways. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella calls this “conversation as a platform.” Rather than tapping, swiping, and searching, we will be able to just talk to bots to get exactly what we need. It’s the convenience of apps taken to the next level.
Facebook understands the No. 1rule of marketing - forging an emotional connection is the secret to customer loyalty. When I see a happy memory from the past, the memory makes me feel good and I transfer those feelings to Facebook.
Bots go further by making the emotional connection a seemingly two-way experience. Users may feel like their bots are their buddies, virtual friends they can joke with, who could grow to know their true selves. And bots are programmed to make users believe this is possible. Mezi, an AI-powered shopping bot, is programmed to feel like the user’s best friend who also happens to be an expert shopper. It’s easy to see how shopping with a code-based best friend could inspire even more feelings of good-will than the occasional Facebook memory.
Apple killed the iPod because people prefered to listen to music on their iPhones. Smartwatch sales fell flat because they didn’t offer a radically new functionality. Tablets are on the decline. These stories speak to a trend in consumer technology: downsizing. Apps are the last vestige of the single-purpose product era. Bots will integrate all of these apps in one place, where the user won’t have to think to switch between solutions. Bots will make using technology as fluid as moving through life.
At WebriQ we have been involved in a number of BOT implementations, through native Facebook API implementations and through dedicated platforms to build and manage BOTS on Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Slack. A couple of examples are WebriQ, Lawdingo and Buzzin Brisbane
Learn more on BOTS