It’s easy to pass up conversational bots as the latest passing trend, but the fact is, this form of communication is old, really old. Human communication was revolutionized with the origin of speech approximately 500,000 years ago. Symbols were developed only about 30,000 years ago. So, it’s no surprise this form of communication is what comes to us naturally and intuitively.
Early computers were accessible to a select few that could either program a board or talk to the machine by punching holes in paper tape. The Personal computer industry revolutionized this and slightly less sophisticated users could now use a keyboard to run word processors and spreadsheets. With the invention of the Mouse and Graphical user interfaces, computing now was accessible to more people than ever. Next came the ubiquitous smartphone – humans now had access to more computing power and knowledge than ever before.
This is great, but as per “Designing for People” principle, we were still “fitting the person to the machine rather than fitting the machine to the person” i.e. the interaction was still unnatural and not what comes intuitively to humans.
So , why we couldn’t we just talk to computers? In order to implement Natural Language processing, developers never had access to the massive computing power that they now have access to thanks to cloud computing, advanced Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms can now run on the cloud and improve their natural language skills with every conversation.
As of June 2017, 51% of the world’s population is on internet.The next billion will undoubtedly be from the developing nations where that demographic is likely to leapfrog straight into conversational interfaces skipping the clunky forms and apps that others have taken years getting accustomed too.
These users may not even need the Internet but will be able to harness the power of cloud computing using simple SMS or Voice based bots. Imagine people in villages who just need to make a normal voice call to order fertilizer and use SMS to pay for it.
|World population||6.5 billion||6.9 billion||7.3 billion|
|Users in the developing world||8%||21%||40%|
|Users in the developed world||51%||67%||81%|
|Source: International Telecommunications Union.|
Does building a bot make business sense?
YES! WeChat is the largest social network in China with 700+ Million subscribers. Users interact with bots built for Wechat to order taxis, shop for groceries, look for restaurants and book airline tickets. WeChat has gone from a Social app to a full fledged platform – most entrepreneurs now in China first set up their Wechat account and then build their website (if at all).
Facebook with Facebook messenger and Google with its assistant are trying to emulate Wechat’s success in China. Facebook’s recent announcement of “Messenger Marketing” lets businesses talk with their customers via their messenger, thus making the communication much more personal and effective as compared to email marketing. Once customers are engaged via messenger the business can then use a simple bot to actually convert the user into a customer e.g. a restaurant can say “Hey, here’s a 10% coupon for being a loyal customer” around lunch time and the user can redeem the coupon and order his meal with a few clicks staying within the messenger interface itself.
This is extremely powerful when compared to trying to engage the customer via a marketing email and then redirecting them to an app or a website so they can then login and order. Imagine sending them status of their delivery on the same messenger interface too which traditionally would have been sent on SMS. The unification of email, sms, apps all into one powerful interface that’s as natural as can be is an opportunity that businesses simply cannot ignore.
If you’re serious about offering your customers a seamless user experience then a Bot should be part of your well thought of multi-channel strategy. Below you can find a few Bots SourceFuse built for it’s clients to either enhance user experience or open up new markets for existing digital businesses that we had helped build and scale.