“Chatbot” has become a marketing buzzword. It was also one of the main themes at this year’s MIMA Summit that several of us from Preston Kelly attended. We see chatbot technology and voice-based UX as two of the most exciting trends to watch in 2017 and beyond.
What exactly is it?
According to Chatbots Magazine, a chatbot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence that you interact with via a chat interface. The services range from functional to fun and can live in any major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, text messages, etc.).
Voice-based user interfaces, like Amazon Echo and Google Home, rely on your voice and sound instead of an on-screen chat. With both chatbot and voice tech, our interaction with brands and publishers will change from browsing a website to having conversations. A true paradigm shift.
For example, if you were trying to get a forecast and Weather Channel had a bot, you could message Weather Channel on Facebook asking what the weather will be tomorrow and get that information chatted back to you in real time. Or, if Weather Channel had a voice-based app for Amazon Echo, you could simply say “Alexa, what’s the forecast for today?” and hear the answer through that device.
Why it’s a trend that’s here to stay.
1. More people now use messaging apps than social networks (more on that here). And, they spend massive amounts of time with them. Apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are an important new channel for distributing content, providing customer service, connecting with consumers and even selling products and services.
2. Our screens have gotten much smaller. They say constraint is innovation’s best friend, so it’s no surprise we’re seeing the idea of invisible UX catch on, making use of our voices instead of relying on screens alone.
3. Technology is becoming more human-like. It’s getting much better at recognizing speech, accents and sounds.
Who’s doing it right?
Campbell’s serves up recipe ideas through its Campbell’s Kitchen app for Amazon Echo.
1-800-Flowers Chatbot lets you order flowers by “talking” to its Messenger bot. No need to call the 1-800 number or go to the website.
The Hi Poncho weather bot is a pretty fun way to get your weather and daily horoscope.
Should you do it?
Yes, if it solves a problem for your customers. If a voice-based app, or a chatbot, helps you do that on a platform your audience already uses, then go for it. Do it before your competition does. Otherwise, we suggest avoiding the shiny-object syndrome, i.e. doing something just because it’s on trend.
Regardless, give chatbots and voice-based apps a try. Nothing beats experiencing them for yourself. You can even try building your own mini-chatbot using a service called Chatfuel that lets you create a full-featured Messenger chatbot without coding. In 7 minutes. For free. No kidding.
Chatbots may seem like a novelty right now, but give them a few years, and there will be way more conversational interfaces around us – whether it’s by voice or via online chat. Yes, this means that talking to our machines will soon become the norm.