Hey Siri, What’s a Bot?

A couple of weeks ago, the AdSavants team packed up our laptops and headed to SMCSTL’s 2017 Social Summit. We spent the day sipping coffee and digging into what’s new in the world of social. We listened to talks on case studies, best practices and developing platforms to create employee advocacy, but what really caught my attention was the conversation on messenger bots. So, I thought I’d share a little of what we learned and why we’re excited about it as a new tool.

“A bot is an application that performs an automated task, such as setting an alarm, telling you the weather or searching online”1. Siri, Alexa, and Cortana are the more famous bots, specifically chatbots, that can hold a conversation with you and help you accomplish a task. You might also be thinking about the chatbots that you typically interact with online in a service environment. But what I’m really jazzed about are messenger bots.

Where can you find messenger bots? Why, in any one of these messaging apps:

  • Facebook Messenger
  • SMS/MMS Text Messenger
  • WeChat
  • Kik
  • Slack
  • Vibe
  • Instagram
  • SnapChat
  • Hike
  • Line

Messenger apps now allow users to interact with third-party services within the platform2. You can find plenty of bots in an app store, but what makes messenger bots special is you don’t have to download anything or leave the platform. Meaning the experience is seamless and won’t clog up space on your phone. Messenger bots use conversation to bring a product or service into a messaging app you already use2.

Messenger bots are handy because beyond carrying on a conversation, they can also conduct transactions and manage workflows2. What does that mean for you? Right now, you could buy a good or service via Facebook Messenger—i.e. shop, order food or request an Uber. You could curate a feed of news content that you enjoy, get a notification if your flight is delayed or car needs servicing, or even bank and monitor your finances all in your favorite messenger app2.

Most folks are already doing this stuff online or via apps, so what’s the benefit of doing it in a messenger app using bots? According to Matt Schlicht, Founder & Editor, Chatbots Magazine, “…messaging apps are growing faster than social networks”3. People are already spending 80–90% of their time in just five apps, and most of these are messenger apps3. So users are already there, but why would they use a bot? Bots de-clutter the mobile experience and update us when we need to know something or respond, but are otherwise invisible2. Bots update themselves automatically and don’t take up space on our phones; they can even manage other bots by creating hierarchies that prevent you from being overwhelmed2.

Ok, so bots are nifty, but why should brands get excited? From a customer service perspective, younger generations prefer interacting with bots instead of people, and not having to wait on the phone during business hours4. Messenger bots get 15x more engagement and 73% of customers prefer it over email or phone support for customer service5. Messenger apps are also where the elusive millennials and gen Z are spending most of their time4. Even more compelling, these messaging apps want to bring brands and users together, and are offering even more personal data as an incentive to brands4. With Facebook Messenger, once a brand has established contact with a consumer, Facebook allows the brand to send them targeted messages directly within the app5.

Because bots learn from the data they receive, and the messenger apps provide, they deliver the personalized experience users are looking for4. Since Facebook Messenger’s launch, a little over a year ago, their bots have evolved to offer rich media experiences using images, videos and carousel slide shows—all within the app6. This means as users consolidate their apps, and stop downloading and using new ones, brands can let go of creating, promoting, and updating costly apps. This opens up space for smaller businesses with smaller budgets, as bots live on servers, not the user’s phone, which makes them cheaper to create and easier to update6. While apps won’t completely go away, the bot environment will likely convert apps that aren’t in the user’s top five6.

So what’s next? If you haven’t interacted with a messenger bot before, pull open your Facebook Messenger app, scroll down, click the discover icon and start exploring for yourself. The messenger app environment in the U.S. is fairly young, still evolving and wide open for innovation6. The fact that messenger bots are cheaper than apps, exist in a less cluttered environment, and speak to a hard to reach target audience is exciting news for brands. We’ll be keeping our eye on Facebook Messenger to see what new features roll out. In the meantime, raise your hand if you want to build a bot!

Sources
  1. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/what-is-a-bot/
  2. https://techcrunch.com/2015/09/29/forget-apps-now-the-bots-take-over/
  3. https://chatbotsmagazine.com/how-bots-messaging-ai-are-evolving-7843bdb0c569
  4. https://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21696477-market-apps-maturing-now-one-text-based-services-or-chatbots-looks-poised
  5. https://adespresso.com/blog/facebook-messenger-for-business/?ref=zest.is
  6. https://medium.com/chris-messina/the-future-of-messaging-bots-and-chat-for-business-54b94380ffb7