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Which bots are working?

Should we invest in a bot?

Are bots going to kill apps?

To answer these questions, it’s important to understand the magnitude of the consumer shift currently taking place:

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  • The entire world is messaging. According to Flurry Analytics, time spent on social media and messaging increased a staggering 400 percent last year. Businesses are starting to realize that they need to communicate with users where they already are, and that chat provides a superior experience: Email is spammy, text is very limited, and phone calls require someone’s undivided attention. Whether you are a CMO trying to acquire a user base or increase conversion, or a VP of customer experience looking to improve customer care, you will reach and be reached by your customers on messaging apps.
  • Messaging is more than just a simple communication channel. It allows you to build a new kind of experience for your brand. While the first bots were bare-boned, automated chat agents, we are now seeing the emergence of full-featured experiences that include complex interfaces, native payments, location sharing, and more. Soon these experiences will achieve parity with native apps; as the Swelly bot demonstrates, some are already getting pretty close.
  • Distributing messaging experiences is frictionless. To reach your audience through a mobile app, you need to build the app for multiple operating systems and get it through the app stores, then help your audience find it, download it, sign into it, and enable its notifications. That’s a ton of friction. Plus, we all know how intense the competition is for apps: The average user spends most of their time on just a few apps. On the other hand, distributing your messaging experience is as simple as getting users to add your bot as a contact, which you can promote via a web plugin, an ad, or your custom link or QR code.
  • Messaging experiences are social by nature. People are consuming these experiences at the heart of their social graph. Not only are they interacting with bots in the apps where they message their friends, they are interacting with bots while they message their friends. If you want to create a viral user acquisition loop or enable social use cases, that’s something messaging can do by design, unlike your single player app.
  • This consumer shift is happening faster than the mobile disruption. Why? Because users are already equipped in hardware, and they are already spending time in messaging apps. Messaging experiences run on top of the mobile OS layer, and this stack is already much more standardized than the various mobile devices could ever be. And in places like China, the shift already happened: 40 percent of WeChat users message with a business every day (source: Qi’eZhiku 2016)

In short, messaging will massively impact your industry in the same way social media and mobile did. So what should you do about this? Should you throw away your app for a bot? No, of course not. If we look at the last major consumer shift, businesses didn’t throw away their website for an app — but they certainly gained new competitive advantages by launching an app.

So the real question is: What part of your business would work significantly better on messaging?

Customer service is a no-brainer. Telco company Rogers Wireless saw a 65 percent increase in customer satisfaction (CSAT) after integrating in Messenger. Running customer service on messaging lets you communicate with your customer in a familiar, rich environment, preserving context. In comparison, phone-based service is expensive and frustrates customers. And on messaging, you can re-engage your customers to upsell products, which transforms customer service from being a pure cost center to actually driving revenue.

Customer acquisition and ecommerce also work great. French dating site Meetic built a virtual assistant named Lara that asks you your preferences and sends you profiles, until you are sold on the value and sign up. Contrast this with a dull sign-up form! By focusing on this specific step of their acquisition process, the company saw a 30 percent boost in conversion. Essentially, messaging is a built-in retargeting channel, which allows you to re-engage with the user at the right time with the right offer.

A whole ecosystem can help. DIY platforms like Chatfuel or Octane let you build great experiences in no time; companies like Sprinklr or Conversocial can help you transition seamlessly to messaging; and new startups launch every day to ease the adoption of messaging.

Just like during any major industry disruption, new market leaders will emerge, incumbents will reinvent themselves, and some companies will just miss the turn.

Don’t be the one to miss — now is the time to get going on your messaging strategy.


The Bots Landscape

Above: VB Profiles Bots Landscape. (Disclosure: VB Profiles is a cooperative effort between VentureBeat and Spoke Intelligence.)

This article is part of our bots landscape series. You can download a high-resolution version of the landscape here.

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