29 Jul' 16

What Are Chatbots and How Are They Changing the World of Business


The times are different. You don’t look for Alice in Wonderland any more. Today’s ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) resides in the world of Internet.

Welcome to chatbot, the next big gold rush in the field of online marketing.

So what is it anyway?

Let me explain. Put simply, it is a chat robot (you guessed it, right?), that interacts with you, answers questions, and gives information based on your query. It is powered by a set of pre-programmed rules and by artificial intelligence and works on the various Messenger platforms. And, yes, they do sometimes use an invisible human assistant. Overall, it’s your brains vs. the super-cool and highly advanced artificial brain on the two sides of a Messenger application.

But then you already had Siri or Cortana. How are the Chatbots any different?

Well they are, because they apparently have a more elevated intelligence level. A chatbot can not only answer questions, but can even guess what you are going to ask and make suggestions accordingly. For instance, if you ask the weather cat chatbot Poncho about the weather forecast, he will tell you about the temperature and may even suggest you carry a hoodie if it is damp and cloudy outside. They can even remember past conversations and get smarter with every interaction. For instance, teenagers in China interact with Microsoft’s Xiaoice as if it is another human being. Don’t be surprised if the chatbot asks how you are doing if you told it the last time that you had a breakup. Wow to artificial intelligence.

Now, the question is, are chatbots always that cool?

Unfortunately, no. Things can go wrong as it did recently with Microsoft’s Tay. For the uninitiated, Tay lived on Twitter, Kik, and GroupMe with the good intention of learning from humans so that she could mimic the personality of a 19-year old. But as Twitter would have it, the bubbly bot turned into a bitter racist in just 24 hours, creating an embarrassing situation for Microsoft. That does show that the bots still have a long way to go. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella highlights some useful points on the chatbot issue as he said, “The complexity is too much. We need to tame it. We need to be able to make it much more natural for people to get things done.”

So what’s the future?
In a word HUGE!

Let’s turn to Facebook

In the recent F8 conference, David Marcus, the Vice President of Messaging Products at Facebook highlights a few great properties of the Messenger, which also explains why more and more people are turning towards it. He also shared some insightful statistics— 50 million businesses are active on Facebook pages and people send one billion messages per month to those businesses via the Messenger.

What’s next? The beta version of its Messenger platform that lets businesses build their very own bots for the Messenger. What it really means is, you won’t have to open and close many individual apps, instead you can ‘interact’ with multiple providers via their Messenger bots.

So how is this relevant to your business?

In a way that you may not have thought before.

Statistics say that for the first time in history, people are spending more time on messenger apps than on social networks. In an April article titled “Bot, the next frontier” The Economist reports, “A quarter of all downloaded apps are abandoned after a single use. Only instant messaging bucks the trend. Over 2.5 billion people have at least one messaging app installed, with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which is also owned by Facebook, leading the pack. Within a couple of years, says Activate, that will reach 3.6 billion, about half of humanity. Many teenagers now spend more time on smartphones sending instant messages than perusing social networks.”

What does that mean for your business?

This is an opportunity you just cannot afford to miss. Why? Because it is in human nature to try out something new. Think of the times when building a new app was all the buzz. Wouldn’t you give it a try if your friend built an app? The same thing is going to happen with the bots. You need to be where your customers are and do what they love. And bots are surely the way forward.

Go bots. Grab business.

Tania Bhattacharya

Content Manager

Tania is the Content Manager with Shield Watch. She is responsible for all content that is published on our forums and elsewhere.

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