Apps are dead again according to articles across tech media. This time they will be replaced by chatbots. So will we re-train 500 mobile developers to program chatbots? No, but chatbots will become an essential channel to complement apps.
Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, WeChat, Line and other chat and messaging services are used by billions of people to communicate with their social circle every day. The natural extension of this will be to communicate with anyone, including businesses and other institutions and organizations, in the same way.
Two friends (Tom and Jon) are chatting on WhatsApp and one of them suggests to go to the cinema that same evening.
In the chat window you type:
Jon: @AMC Entertainment: What shows are available tonight at 9pm nearby?
AMC: Tonight at 9pm we’ve got Captain America (9 seats left), The Nice Guys (more than 15 seats left) and the Jungle Book. Would you like to book one of these options or do you want more choices? The venue is AMC Yorktown 18.
Jon: Yes, Captain America for 2 people.
AMC: Excellent, click on the link to confirm the booking and pay through Apple Pay or another payment method of your choice. Confirm booking.
Tom: Cool. So we are booked?
Jon: Done. See you at 8.45
Note: @AMC Entertainment is the Facebook page used to call on them.
As we’ve pointed out many times, new technologies usually need longer than expected to take off but when it happens it goes much faster than anyone anticipates. We think chatbot is one of these technologies and the reason is simply that it fulfills real consumer needs. It solves a problem for the millennials and other groups that have grown accustomed to using chat every day. Furthermore, Facebook, Microsoft and Google’s recent push into this space is attracting interest from everyone.
DMI has been experimenting with and implementing chatbots for 10 years. We’ve used them for customer care (IKEA and Vodafone) together with Artificial Solutions, fun and games (Axe, Universal Pictures and DMI’s blog) using Pandorabots, integrating voice recognition with Siri into apps, IBM Watson for hotel bookings, and replacing FAQs for banks using various other solutions. One of the challenges have been the desire for human-like behavior which is very difficult to achieve and often distracts from the purpose of the engagement.
How Easy Is It?
Basic use cases such as the one described above, a holiday booking or asking for the weather forecast is fairly straightforward. Where it gets really complicating is when, for example, a conversation with a chatbot starts on one topic, switches over to another topic and then goes back to the original topic, two people are having a simultaneous conversation with the chatbot (e.g. about planning a holiday), or when self-learning is applied as in the case of Microsoft Tay. In many cases it’s better to focus on giving the right answer as quickly and efficiently as possible and forget about the human-like features, but it can still be a major challenge.
What’s Your Next Step?
Think about what problems chatbots can solve for your company and contact DMI or another specialist in this space to discuss the opportunities.
Will Chatbots Replace Apps Anytime Soon?
Not in the next 3-5 years at least. Chatbots provide a great complement to apps and websites, but doesn’t replace them. The speed of opening a weather app to check the forecast for the next 5 days and click to see the details makes many tasks faster and more convenient through an app than a chatbot, and that will continue to be the case for some time. The same thing is true for shopping for clothes online, reading the latest news from NYT or BBC or listening to music. Apps and websites are here to stay as long as they help users achieve whatever tasks they want to accomplish.
What Do You Think?
Chief Innovation Officer
P.S. Don’t forget to talk mobile with the DMI bot here.