Bots: Next big opportunity for brands to engage with customer

I have been using Google Now since a long time and really like it. It’s become like a personal assistant to me – for taking notes, reminding me of events, or simply finding answers to anything. Although it’s great, it does not solve all the information that I’d be looking for on regular basis. For e.g. “knowing how many subscriptions I have on monthly basis”, or “finding out the best Thai restaurant in downtown Boston”, “for making dinner reservation”, etc – I am forced to open up other apps like my banking, yelp, etc to get the best information or recommendations.

Bots are essentially trying to solve this problem of servicing customer with any information that he wants in a conversational manner vs. opening different apps.

Bot is basically a platform with simple conversational user interface. It connects to a number of data sources via APIs so it can deliver information or services on demand, such as financial news, weather forecasts, breaking news, etc. They  are also called Smart bots, AI Bots, or Chat bots.

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With mobile apps hitting the ceiling, many developers and companies are eyeing the “bots” as the next big thing to engage with user and potentially make money down the road.

Tech companies lead Bots revolution

Most of the tech companies are already on bandwagon – Facebook M, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortona and Amazon Alexa. Massive improvements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) by companies like IBM, Facebook, Google have bots a great kick-start. That AI enables computers to process language — and actually converse with humans — in ways they never could before. Few notables that have made headlines in recent past include –

  1. Telegram’s Chat Bot is very famous with over 100 million+ active users. Even though companies like Forbes, and others have set up bot services, Telegram doesn’t do much of advertising. Bit of a surprise to me.
  2. Trim, an AI for your financial life, raises $2.2million for its “Personal Finance Bot””: Imagine texting a bot, “how much am I paying for subscription services right now?” and receiving a list of your Amazon, Netflix, Pandora and Gym accounts with corresponding costs immediately. That’s the kind of bot that this company is developing for banking – pretty cool!
  3. Chatbots obviously lend themselves well to communication platforms, no wonder Slack is popular. There is a Slack bot for practically everything.
  4. Taco Bell’s bot that allows you to order and pay for tacos through an automated chat conversation.

Google has been silent on bots to date. With the amount of data they are sitting on, it’s only a matter of time, Google with come up with something revolutionary!

How do you build bots?

Bots are easy to build in short timeframe. There are plenty of tools and frameworks available for developers. Initially, it could be handwritten rules, followed by machine learning, which requires a massive amount of streaming data and the system learns on its own.

Pandorabots is an open-source web service for building and deploying chatbots.

Bots will have an impact on users and potentially increase productivity

1.Bots will take over our lives: I feel, sooner or later, bots will become integrated into our lives and will take over a lot of mundane activities like reading news upfront when you wake up, checking on your social media platform updates, checking weather, checking school opening delays, traffic updates, paying bills, ordering stuff, scheduling work, etc. Instead of you checking, bots will proactively inform and execute what is important for you, based off habits, behaviour, interests, financial situation, etc. Talk about “no click” era.

2. Less Apps, More Bots: Developers will shift from making apps to writing bots. In the next 2-3 years, I feel we shall see hundreds and thousands of bots literally serving all aspects of human life. With Internet of Things (IoT) innovations, I am excited to see how bots will transform our lives in years to come!

3. Greater Brand recognition for companies: Engaging with user in the context of his/her  current experience. E.g. For instance, if the shopper is waiting for a package to arrive, user can ask bot. If the shopper wants to complain about something, they have an immediate channel to write their complaint and the bot will be trained to respond immediately, or escalate the issue to a human rep. Additionally, chat does not have to be text only, bots can add rich media engaging user in up sell or cross-sell opportunities.

What is the Business viability for Bots?

Although monetary value of bots is still being debated, developers and companies see that as a non-issues for now. Getting users hooked onto bots is the first step, dollars will automatically pour in if the bots adds value.

  1. If you replace humans with bots, then it’s cost savings.
  2. Revenue opportunities could come from subscription fee, commerce offerings, advertising, etc.

Get ready for BOTS REVOLUTION. They are coming!

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