Chatbots are the new cool kids in the mobile world right now. Ever since Facebook announced its Messenger Platform in April, bots seem to have been designated the current ‘it’ technology.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella declared them the new apps, and the “next big thing.” So what are these things that are about to revolutionize mobility?

Chatbots are software-powered conversational agents that interact intelligently with users via text and voice on messaging platforms. However, this is not a new concept. Conversational bots have existed for years, and in different forms — AIM’s SmarterChild, anyone?

But chatbots aren’t the pinnacle of digital communication, and they aren’t going to make apps obsolete.

What they will do, however, is facilitate a far more personal and interactive relationships between brands and their customers by becoming a brand bot concierge.

How bots fit into the digital world

Chatbots can live in many of the places where we already communicate, like websites and mobile apps. What makes them different from other digital media is that bots live within consumer messaging platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, providing a tool for brands to meaningfully engage with customers.

And that’s what has everyone abuzz right now — the opportunity presented by Facebook Messenger and its 1 billion active users.

It’s now easier than ever to have a presence where millions of users are already spending time. And it’s here where brands and business have the chance to offer a unique kind of experience to customers: helpful bots that serve as virtual concierges.

A good bot is a great brand concierge

A bot will work best when it’s a complementary piece of a brand’s digital strategy that includes other channels. These digital denizens can get input and direct users to other media, connecting them to information they want and helping them act quickly on that information.

For example, a dialog may start with a bot on a messaging platform, but will likely transition to a more efficient, engaging, and immersive experience on an app or a website.

Functioning like a hotel’s concierge that offers friendly suggestions, answers questions, and points guests in the right direction, over time chatbots will become intelligent enough to learn exactly what you want or need, and then usher you to get it directly from the source.

At ArcTouch, we recently took this idea and built a proof-of-concept bot called Stainley. In this case, Stainley is the bot for a detergent company and is on call to answer users’ questions about stains.

The bot asks users about the type of stain, then shares related content from the detergent company’s website about how to treat that particular stain. At the end of the discussion, Stainley offers up a product discount.

Ensuring your brand has a helpful bot

There are a wide range of scenarios where bots can improve experiences. The problem, however, is that building bots can be easy. So easy that a virtual gold rush has populated the messaging platforms with bots that over-promise and under-deliver. As a result, the early experience for many users has felt a lot like interacting with poorly designed automated phone systems.

While lots of learning is still taking place — an undeniably important part of how any new technology evolves — some of the bad bot experiences inevitably leave users feeling much less enthusiastic about their favorite brands and businesses.

So, just how do you build a good bot and avoid a bad one? Your brand needs to think about its bot just as it would any mobile app or digital experience, putting the user first and starting with these questions:

  • What single problem should your bot solve or what clear need should it fill?
  • How will your bot provide a useful, concierge-like service by sending users to existing apps, tools, or channels you already provide?
  • What will the bot do that other channels can’t or don’t?

Answering these questions will put you ahead of the game, but the key thing to remember is your brand’s bot should provide an engaging, delightful, and useful experience.

This post appeared originally on Marketing Tech News; used with permission.