Hello Bots, Goodbye Apps: How Brands Should Embrace Chat Bots

Face it: Bots are all the rage right now. Not only are chat bots becoming more useful for consumers, they’re becoming an increasingly common way for brands to forge relationships with their customers.

Face it: Bots are all the rage right now. Not only are chat bots becoming more useful for consumers, they’re becoming an increasingly common way for brands to forge relationships with their customers.

Whether it’s taking care of customer-service needs or helping someone find specific products, the rise of artificial intelligence combined with the accessibility of mobile has forged a new path for companies to prove how innovative they can be. And, excitingly for brands, it’s also taking the advertising world by storm.

Flashback to 2008, the year the app store came to be, when brand applications really took off as a way for companies to engage with users worldwide. They served both brands and consumers well by giving consumers a way to receive dynamic, meaningful content directly from the brand.

However, as all of us who built them for brands know, they were expensive to create and hard to keep updated with good content. Because of this, brand-created apps became a thing of the past.

For many who’ve grown up in the digital age, using chat bots is almost instinctual, and brands are aware of consumers’ love affair with their devices. It’s here that brands have the ability to shine, serving up the personalized and relevant experiences that allow users to tap their way down their own paths.

At their core, chat bots were created as another way for customers to interact with brands, from seamlessly checking the weather to receiving fashion advice from favorite retailers. One can even order a pizza by utilizing a chat bot.

The beauty here lies in the ability for brands to communicate directly with customers–24 hours per day, seven days per week–eliminating the need for users to dial a customer-service line.

For consumers, this eliminates the need to wait hours on telephone holds or even days for responses via email, thus driving the chat bot revolution.

And to show how far we’ve advanced from the days of deciding between the Apple iTunes App Store and Google Play, these chat bots are seamlessly integrated with chat apps like Facebook Messenger so that users don’t need to sign up all over again to connect with new brands.

The conversational design of a chat bot adds a human-like element that allows people to engage where they are already spending a majority of their time: on mobile. Additionally, the mounds of data available on each user is crucial in creating an experience that is worthy of someone’s time, allowing bots to read messages, view purchasing and browsing behaviors and offer consumers content accordingly.

Currently, six out of the top 10 apps are messaging apps, creating an overall user base of 1.4 billion people and growing. Topping the list are two of Facebook’s own: WhatsApp and Messenger. In fact, since April, 30,000 bots were developed for Messenger alone, and that number is expected to grow.

Some of the pioneers of this new technology are Sephora, which offers beauty tips and product recommendations on Kik, and Uber, which allows users to hail cars through Facebook Messenger.

For brands, the creation of chat bots allows for seamless integration with messaging platforms. Chat bots are not only more cost efficient to create, but they can be developed more quickly than branded apps.

Chat bots that are programmed to understand and field users’ questions are expected to feel even more human in the near future. But as chat bots continue to evolve, brands must balance the desire to always be connected with consumers with creating services that actually add value to the experience.

Brands should use this time–as chat bots are just starting to emerge–to experiment with different types of content that fit both their message and the channel. Since the technology is still relatively new, many businesses are jumping on the chance to be the first to offer chat bots.

To keep up with consumers’ growing expectations when it comes to mobile, brands must stay ahead of the curve and innovate or risk being left in the dust. The winners here will be the brands that can successfully combine meaningful brand experiences with the ease of human interaction: the magic chat bot recipe.

Don’t be surprised if what is now run by the power of text strings in a Google search will soon be taken over by the power of voice using services like Amazon Alexa, Google Assist or Siri.

MichaelAaron Flicker is the president of advertising and strategic marketing agency XenoPsi.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.