I’d like to start with a quote from Ted Livingston, founder and CEO of Kik: “Chat apps will come to be thought of as the new browsers; bots will be the new websites. This is the beginning of a new internet.”
So what are chatbots? Chatbots are applications and games you interact with via conversational messages or preset text-based buttons. They allow communications to scale from 1-to-1 to 1-to-many in a new creative format. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and more specifically machine learning will be at the core of many of these technologies but some bots will remain very simplistic. I want to highlight that chatbots are nothing new. Many of us might remember interacting with basic versions of them via AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), IRC channels or even SMS/MMS services. Services like MoviePhone allowed us to interact with an automated text-based chatbot to receive the latest movie details when we typed in our zip code.
Why now? Mobile messaging apps like Kik, WeChat, Telegram and Viber already have integrations that support chatbots, and hundreds (if not thousands) of supporting bots and apps already exist. Line just announced their ChatBot API, and as we get closer to Facebook Developer Conference F8 and just over a year since the Facebook Messenger for Business announcement, there are plenty of recent announcements pointing to Facebook Messenger supporting chatbots and conversational technologies. Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular with developers, platforms and investors. And with increased marketing and visibility, consumer adoption is growing quickly. Union Square Ventures is calling this “The Great Bot Rush”.
Be ready for it. While Line, Kik, WeChat, Telegram and others have already explored integrations, Facebook has only recently been doing so – examples include their new FB Messenger integrated Basketball Game, Uber and Spotifyfeatures. The advancement of technology combined with the massive rise of mobile messaging apps that range from 500 million to one billion users has allowed companies to explore the next evolution of chatbots. This is already a growing trend in Asia… the rest of the world is just catching up and “leap-frogging” to the latest technologies.
It’s all about distribution and interaction. With billion(s) of estimated mobile messaging users and as the potential for distribution increases, the opportunity to engage consumers directly at scale is very appealing to businesses and organizations of all sizes. We are already seeing brands and media companies adopting messaging app based chatbots for distribution as well as customer engagement. Having interacted with about 40 bots and seeing some of the upcoming technologies, I believe chatbots will focus on three key social consumer experiences: content consumption (informational and entertainment), customer service and productivity (including shopping experiences).
How should you get started? Without going too deep on recommended technologies, I would highly suggest looking into companies like Imperson, BetterBrand, DigitalGenius and Msg.AI that are focused on brand and customer experience based opportunities. Each has their own focus/core competency. For instance, msg.ai is focusing on “Conversational Commerce”, while DigitalGenius is focusing on “AI Customer Service”. BetterBrand and Imperson are focused more on creative-based messaging opportunities. In addition, for the simpler integrations and chatbots, companies like ChatFuel and Assist already have tens of apps built into the platform and already integrate with FB Messenger, Telegram, Kik, Slack and others.
Stay tuned. We can expect plenty of announcements and news within the next few months. In the meantime, here are some recommended articles to read:
- “Conversational Commerce And The Mobile Experience” (via MediaPost)
- “The Future of Chat isn’t AI” from Ted Livingston, Founder and CEO of Kik (via Medium)
- “The Messaging Landscape in 2016” (Via Medium)
- #ConvComm – Conversational Commerce Apps Collection on ProductHunt
Adam Hirsch is an executive vice president with Edelman Digital.