Are Chatbots the New Apps?
For centuries, people have been looking for ways to automate routine work. From the printing press to Industry 4.0 to instant money transactions, history has known numerous cases when machines and software do a better job than humans. The next step is communication: chatbots are considered the future of customer service. These “robots” can do more than answer standard questions with pre-written replies. When combined with natural language processing (NLP), chatbots can create replies themselves, without human input. They can also be made smarter over time as chatbots are learning from past questions and answers.
Today, increasingly more businesses in industries from FinTech to e-commerce use chatbots too, well, chat with their customers, increasing customer loyalty and brand awareness. Pizza Express’ chatbot can take orders, Skyscanner’s bot helps you book tickets and the H&M chatbot is all about giving shopping advice. It seems like chatbots will soon replace some of the apps that have the same functionality.
Here are some of the reasons why chatbots might oust traditional mobile apps.
- There’s no special installation process. All you have to do is search for the bot in your favorite messaging app and just start chatting.
- Bots are easily distributed. Bots can be linked to, shared on social media and even recommended by other bots. In the case of Slack, another team member can add your bot so that your whole team could use it.
- Quality mobile apps are expensive to build, maintain and deploy. But in the case with chatbots, you’re taking advantage of the fact that you don’t have to build the messaging infrastructure – it’s already been developed, promoted and maintained by someone else. You can deploy new features through continuous integration to the back end alone. True, chatbots are far more limited in their UI design than apps, but they’re highly optimized and tested to serve their purpose.
- People love messaging and communicating. It’s a fun and often necessary thing people do willingly. Why not take advantage of it? Chatbots let you talk to them just like you would with a sales assistant, minus the unnecessary phone calls. Plus, a chatbot brings your customers closer thanks to the friendly and relaxed atmosphere that prevails in messaging platforms. This makes communicating with a chatbot a far less intrusive alternative to downloading a whole app.
- Other reasons include user engagement, affordable and quick development, deployment lifecycles, moving to the cloud easily.
Luckily, there are many tools and technologies that make building a chatbot easy. Microsoft, for example, offers rich support for both development and distribution with their cloud solutions like Azure Bot Services and a natural language processor (LUIS). Azure Bot Service lets you build enterprise-grade chatbots while you still own and control your data. Microsoft’s QnA maker also lets you build a simple Q and A bot based on the FAQ for your product.
Though chatbots are as popular as mobile apps now, they’ve already managed to prove their effectiveness in customer support, event scheduling, shopping and more. Thanks to their simplicity, affordability, availability and human-alike communication capabilities, chatbots can compete with mobile apps and even replace them. The choice is yours.