We believe that chatbots that are on a messaging platform will become the number one way businesses engage with their customers (and do business) in less than two years time, and in about three years, will result in the shrinkage of traditional websites and the reduction in the creation of mobile apps.
There are a number of reasons why this is the case.
People don’t use apps they download
The app economy has stalled. Consumers across all sectors have app fatigue and are no longer downloading new apps anywhere close to previous levels. And if they are, many tend to use an app only once and then delete it.
Mobile apps take up valuable real estate on your phone. Considering that apps are expensive and time-consuming to build, the future for growth in mobile apps looks grim when compared to chatbots. Why? Because chatbots in particular sectors do what an app can do but don’t need to be downloaded – they live on servers, not a user’s device – so they are easier and less expensive to create, update and deliver to customers. They are frictionless in the true sense of the word.
Facebook messenger growing faster than Facebook
Chatbots on a messaging service, such as Facebook Messenger, WeChat or WhatsApp, is where the growth will be. Over 1 billion people every month use Facebook Messenger and it is growing faster than Facebook. Over 2.5 billion people use a messaging app and teenagers – your next customers – spend more time on messaging services than on social media now, including SnapChat, Facebook and Instagram.
As businesses move to messaging apps to communicate with customers, and away from face-to-face communications, it will be necessary to have one computer communicating with all of the customers at once to replace humans.
Only way to scale customer service
Messaging chatbots are the only way to accomplish this with scale, whereby the chatbot replaces expensive call centres with coded answers relevant to the business or the brand.
Chatbots will be plugged into databases of information and equipped with AI and machine learning to learn about customers as they use the services. While customers are learning about the services, machines are learning about the customer. Learning about the customer will allow chatbots to predict the customer’s wants and improve the delivery of services to individual customers for next to no money. Chatbots can process requests instantly and because they are simply computers, customer interactions, requests, orders and such can be funneled back to the company for analytics and to spot changes in trends for growth.
Because chatbots self-improve over time and with continued use, they represent an enormous opportunity for cost savings for companies. A company has to keep improving and updating a website or an app – not so a chatbot – it improves all on its own if it has an AI component that helps it to learn by interacting with customers.
Chatbots will not only replace the use of many mobile apps, they will also change the way websites are used. In a few years, websites will be more like landing pages only, directing customers and potential customers to chatbots. Already, more than 500 million people use chatbots and that number is expected to reach 2.2 billion by 2020.
Order a pizza on WeChat
A chatbot in a messaging service works like this – assume you are travelling to Chicago – you can talk to a chatbot on Facebook Messenger to look for flights, hotels, sight-seeing spots, restaurants and make bookings for you all in one place (the chatbot) much faster and more efficiently than if you used a myriad of websites.
Chatbots have applications in all sorts of fields. In medicine, for example, chatbots could have conversations with people about illnesses and injuries that are routine, and could send difficult issues to a qualified doctor to address. The same is true for law, investments, taxation, real estate, travel and any advisory service.
Every business will have a chatbot
Every single business and service will have to adopt and develop a chatbot for several reasons: customers will start to demand it; the services will be more efficient and consistent; and economies of scale will mean that it will no longer be competitive not to provide a chatbot service with AI built in. Customers using message services will demand “instant interaction” and instant results from governments, banks, and service providers.
To be clear, the AI and machine learning components of chatbots are not perfect yet but they are rapidly improving.
By way of illustration on how chatbots on messaging platforms are transforming online engagements, a Canadian company, KIK, launched a chatbot for fun for conversations and quickly got 1 million users without doing any advertising or promotion of the chatbot. More telling, about 90% of their chatbot users message with KIK for one week. Chatbots can provide incredible reach and branding potential by having a customer engaged with you for a whole week, asking questions.
AI ethics will be in demand
There will be a new chatbot economy to replace the app economy in the next few years, contributing to the wave of mass unemployment that is predicted with AI generally. In fields like banking, routine jobs will be eliminated and there will be demand for data scientists, coders, AI thinkers and consultants to educate on issues like AI ethics and law.
Ultimately, the messaging chatbots will become commerce platforms that will truly revolutionize international commerce by opening up new shared markets and reducing the costs of trade because just as you can message anyone, you can equivalently do trade with them on the platform – its a powerful combination that will drive commerce for the next decade.