If you were questioning bots continuing to be a trend for 2017, stop right there. Conversational interfaces are currently on the up and up and are continuing to be adopted by more companies.
On June 26, 2017 some of our Masters had the opportunity to attend Chatbot Summit Berlin. For those of you who have not yet been able to attend one of these spectacular events, let me paint you a picture: imagine having some of the biggest bot players in the world come together. The ideas flowed freely and organically, the connections that were made will change Bots as we know them, and the information gained from the Summit was incredibly insightful. We are grateful to have been a part of it.
I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned the power players at Bot Summit Berlin: the combined net worth of all companies in attendance was $1.4 Trillion dollars. Some of the largest innovators and influencers of conversational interfaces and AI were there including Facebook, Amazon, and IBM. Countless other large organizations (as well as developers, bot platform leaders, etc) attended as well.
Our team was busy at our booth during the Summit, but we did have the opportunity to see a few speakers. Here are some of the insights that we gained from those sessions:
Mobile Strategy is Shifting Away from Apps into Messenger
During his keynote, Yoav detailed the shift in mobile strategy. Many companies are abandoning their mobile apps. This is interesting, seeing as only 6 million companies have an app, but over 60 million companies are currently active on Messenger. App usage is on the decline, whereas Messenger usage continues to increase. Companies should be making an effort to be where their customers are, so this shift of focus from typical Apps to Messenger applications is a clear and sensible strategic move.
How do chatbots work?
Chat with our MOCBot in Messenger!
Yoav also discussed the overall quality of chatbot experiences. The conversational aspect bots provide is important to building a brand voice. A company can apply their branding directly to their bot, so their bot speaks in a way that aligns with their brand. The ability to speak to customers and potential customers in a customizable format will be the key to gaining and keeping customers. There are many benefits to being on cusp of change; increasing market share is one of them.
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Millennials are used to conversational interfaces. A large portion of them grew up with instant messaging, and the majority of them prefer messaging over email or picking up the phone to call someone. Messaging apps are arguably the easiest way to get a millennial in contact with your brand, and Bots can create an amazing experience for users.
How Conversational Interfaces Should Go Beyond Simply Providing Information
Eran discussed the importance of AI and Bots during his presentation. Bots are continuing to get smarter, but advances in AI will help speed this along. Eran believes that conversational interfaces should go beyond simply repeating information; they should also help and solve problems using AI and NLP. The ecosystem can understand reason as well as learn, and this should be applied to Bots.
This shift from conversational UX to actual conversations and problem solving will be one of the aspects that pushes Bots to the next level.
Phone Talk vs Chat with a Bot: What People Prefer
Thomas detailed how Deutsche Telekom launched bots on their website: the bot was first launched in Austria, and then in Germany. The purpose of the bots was to find and return information, depending on what the user was asking for. Interestingly enough, many people in Germany did not to use the bot or want to use the bot: they prefer to talk on the phone.
As a result of this, Deutsche Telekom is creating a bot for telephone. With advances in NLP and AI (especially in the audio space) in the last number of months, this will be able to be done and will provide a good experience for customers.
Read also: NLP and Advanced AI in Chatbots
Improvements have been made, but there is still much to be done. At Chatbot Summit Berlin we spoke with many companies about what they want from Bots and what they think Bots can accomplish for them. We are now halfway through 2017, and here are the changes to the Bot landscape we see happening soon:
Large organizations require better Bot analytics than what is currently being provided to them. We see analytics becoming more detailed in the next couple of months in order to accommodate this. In order for companies to justify building Bots they need to get clear insights into their users. In order to make changes to existing Bots good marketing analytics are also required. This is a point we heard from numerous companies.
Now, the main issue is that we have several low-level analytics platforms, but almost nothing for marketing analytics. Currently analytics are more of a developer tool to make bot mechanics better, so there are actually no tools available for business improvements.
Ease of AI Integration
Companies want the ability to stack AI engines to make their Bots even smarter. This will be important as we start to see shifts in Bot UI/UX design. Brands will want (and require) smarter Bots to keep up with user expectations.
The concept that AI is a commodity is true, and it’s also true that nobody likes vendor lock. The ability to switch, or at least the ability to download your established bot as JSON data is very important.
Ability to Switch Between Bot Versions
Brands want to be able to run various versions of their Bots simultaneously, or seamlessly change between Bot versions. An example of this is offering your Bot in more than one language. From a UX perspective it is considerably easier to have two separate bots and be able to choose which Bot to run and in what instances to run it, as opposed to having one bot and try to accomplish the same goals.
Today’s Bots are mainly formatted to have conversational UI elements: Bots aren’t really able to comprehend very much, and buttons and menus are used throughout a Bot experience to help guide a user along. However, NLP and AI are improving, so bots will get more conversational soon. Tools like Alexa can help expand Bot offerings. This is important when we look at user preferences (for example, chat over messaging in some cases) that Thomas Scheerbarth discussed during his presentation. This conversational UI will help expand the capabilities and functionality of all Bots.
There will be a shift towards a mix of UI elements as well as conversation (the ability for a Bot to understand a user). Bots will get better at thinking critically, which will improve their functionality dramatically.
The current Bot landscape looks promising, but many opportunities exist to make conversational interfaces even better. We look forward to helping the Bot landscape grow and evolve as well as see what happens from other players in this exciting space in the near future.