There is a tsunami of Chatbots coming our way and as a marketer you would have no choice, but to learn to surf on it indicated Mr.Beerud Sheth (Founder of Gupshup) while referring to the Chatbot economy at a conference in Mumbai a few weeks back. Mr. Sheth was unveiling Gupshup's Bot Builder Platform amidst an eager audience of technology enthusiasts. The platform provides an intuitive interface to build bots for techies and non techies alike.
A recent article posted on financemagnates.com states that “Bots are promising to take the trading world by storm in 2016.” The author cites a study that predicts that
"Retail chatbots are expected to reach $489 billion in assets under management by 2020, up from $18.7 billion today.”
So, why such a hoopla around chatbots?
We will all agree with the fact that we’ve come to a saturation point with the mobile app stores, especially in the developed markets. While more than a 1000 apps are launched everyday on App Stores, most users don't download any new apps as per recent studies. Besides, most mobile apps, while easier to use than a mobile website, are accessed so irregularly, that they don't warrant an indefinite space on your mobile phone.
However, Bots interact with users on the platforms they’re already engaging – like SMS, chat apps, or work communication apps like Skype or Slack. So, there is not need to download and a new app for essential services like an Uber, a Netfllix or a CNN.
Intrigued by this value proposition, we started researching a bit on the Bot Economy and its effects on marketing. Here are the few things we have realised:
1. Rise of the Automated Marketing Butler
Shopify recently acquired Kit CRM Inc., a virtual marketing assistant that uses messaging to support SME's in marketing their online stores. Since its inception in 2013, Kit helps manage SME's in their marketing initiatives so that they can focus on their operations and other important aspects of business.
Kit takes the basic inputs from the decision makers and runs targeted ads on Facebook and Instagram, posts updates on the brand's Facebook Page, makes recommendations based on store activities etc..all via conversations through messaging. As early as last month, Kit introduced an API which enables connections to other apps in the Shopify App Store, thus giving their customers a more holistic experience.
As evident from Kit's capabilities, a lot of services currently offered by digital agencies to their clients are being automated through Bots. In no time, they would metamorphose into your personal digital marketing butler.
2. From ASO to BSO
Facebook has launched a ‘bots store’, letting brands create their own robotic customer service reps that can interact with Whats App and Messenger users. Telegram and Kik have already beat Facebook through a first mover advantage in this space. Recently launched Botlist - an app store for bots, is a third-party database cataloging bots across platforms, including email, web, SMS, Slack, mobile, apps etc. Botlist already has hundreds of Bots across platforms.
Thus, in the near future, we have to move from App Store Optimization (ASO) to Bot Store Optimization (BSO). However, whatever tools and techniques we use for ASO may also be valid for BSO.
3. Branded Chatbots
Facebook has been testing messenger based bots with select partners including Uber, Lyft and KLM. Customer support, tracking online orders and even delivering top news stories are just some of the ways bots can be used through the Facebook Messenger interface.
Mark Zuckerberg recently demonstrated Facebook’s first bots including CNN, which sends articles to users through conversations, and 1-800-Flowers which leverages on the platform enabling flower deliveries with personalized messaging. Some of the other bots will deliver weather and news updates, receipts and shipping notification.
This is ushering in a new concept of "always on" communication – where customers are given 24/7 access to brands and companies through an intuitive and easy to use messaging interface. Ironically, Bots and humans would be working in harmony to create a seamless and engaging experience for the customer.