Chatbots: The Future Of Doing Business Online

This is not a drill. For the first time ever, people are spending more time on messenger apps than on social media. If you’re building a business online, this is where your customers are. And the best way to reach them? Enter Chatbots.
 
Before we delve further, look at the Business Insider report below:

Messaging Apps Market

Gone are the days when messaging apps were only used to chat with friends and family. Apart from chatting, users now use these apps to connect with brands, browse merchandise, and watch content. It has evolved into an expansive ecosystem with its own developers, apps, and APIs.

SO WHAT ARE CHATBOTS ALL ABOUT?

If you’re someone who’s just getting introduced to the world of AI and machine-learning, the pertinent questions at this point, would be – what are Chatbots? And why there’s so much noise around them?

To put it simply, Chatbots are simple AI systems that a user interacts via text. The exchange can be straightforward, like asking a bot to fetch the latest weather reports or something more complex, like having one to troubleshoot a problem with your computer. The service could be any number of things, ranging from functional to fun, and it could live in any major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Text Messages, etc.).

The conversational economy has its roots in 2016. It turns out that messaging platforms are actually the killer app for smartphones. In 2015, more than 1.5 billion people used chatting apps. Additionally, almost 70 percent of all app usage comes from just 200 apps.
 

 
“Decades ago businesses started building websites. Now, they’ll start building bots”

– Dharmesh Shah, CTO & Co-Founder HubSpot

HOW TO USE CHATBOTS FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

Here are a few examples of what Chatbots can be:

  • Weather bot. Get the weather whenever you ask.
  • Grocery bot. Helps you pick out and order groceries for the week.
  • News bot. Ask it to tell you whenever something interesting happens.
  • Game bot. Has a set of games and you can play with it anytime, anywhere.
  • Life advice bot. Tell it your problems and it helps you think of solutions.
  • Personal finance bot. It helps you manage your money better.
  • Scheduling bot. Gets you a meeting with someone on the Messenger team at Facebook.
  • A bot that’s your friend. In China, there is a bot called Xiaoice, built by Microsoft, that over 20 million people talk to.

As clichèd as it sounds, with chatbots the possibilities are limitless. If you have an existing mobile app, chatbots are the perfect partner to help you reach to an even larger set of audience and unlock new opportunities.

WHAT IS A BUSINESS CHATBOT?

It’s basically a text-based service that allows users to perform tasks like scheduling meetings, ordering a product, booking a flight, etc., all via text. Imagine ordering Uber via Facebook Messenger, or byte-sized news stories on CNN bot.

On Day 2 of the ongoing SXSW, Omar Siddiqui, CEO of Kiwi Inc., which created the bot platform Sequel said:

In the same forum, Laura Newton, product manager of the youth-oriented message app KiK, argued:

CHATBOTS TYPES

There are two types of chatbots, one functions based on a set of rules, and the other more advanced version uses machine learning.

On rules:

This bot is very very limited. It can only respond to very specific commands. If you say the wrong thing, it doesn’t know what you mean.
This bot is only as smart as it is programmed to be.

On machine learning:

This bot functions on Artificial Intelligence. You don’t have to be ridiculously specific when you are talking to it. It understands language, not just commands.
This bot continuously gets smarter as it learns from conversations it has with people.

IMPLEMENTATION

Here’s what you need to know before implementing chatbots:

  • Audience – Who you’re talking to? What’s their interest / hobbies / behavior?
  • Problem / Solution – Be very clear what your bot’s doing. Bots don’t have to be complicated.
  • Social – Bots should perform well in a social setting aka group chats. Imagine a bot that randomly picks a friend to pay for lunch or assigns parts to play in a murder mystery

 

 
“Major shifts on large platforms should be seen as opportunities for distribution. That said, we need to be careful not to judge the very early prototypes too harshly as the platforms are far from complete. I believe Facebook’s recent launch is the beginning of a new application platform for micro application experiences. The fundamental idea is that customers will interact with just enough UI, whether conversational and/or widgets, to be delighted by a service/brand with immediate access to a rich profile and without the complexities of installing a native app, all fueled by mature advertising products. It’s potentially a massive opportunity.”

– Aaron Batalion, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners

THE FUTURE OF CHATBOTS

We’re a long way from the world of “Her,” Spike Jonze’s 2013 classic film about the love between a man and an operating system but whether it’s Apple’s Siri, Facebook’s Messenger, Google’s brand new Assistant, Microsoft’s Zo or Amazon’s Alexa, conversational economy is next big thing that the world’s top companies are investing in and chatbots play a central role. As Dharmesh Shah mentioned in his talk at SXSW: “1997: Internet, 2017: Bots”.

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