While idea of the “killer app” has turned out to be mostly hyperbole, the prediction that bots are “app killers” seems to be coming to fruition.

With messaging platforms like Slack and WeChat offering convenient methods of communication with A.I.-based interactions and Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa removing the need for touch or visual interaction, bots are quickly usurping the app craze by driving more efficient business practices than ever before.

Well on their way to the tipping point that apps reached years ago, bots are skyrocketing upward. Early adopters have ensured that these innovative tools will grow into increasingly indispensable roles.

In order to take full advantage of the expanding bot market, businesses need to know when to get on board. Not every business needs to take the leap just yet, but knowing what is on the horizon can help businesses make the right strategic decisions today.

For many companies, developing a bot is not a high priority. But for those with high-volume customer service centers, those wanting to automate marketing tasks, and for simple scheduling tasks, bots make a lot of sense.

1. Customer service bots

Bots are already poised to take over the basic customer service role of getting customers connected to the right department when they call or chat for service. With bots handling basic customer queries, customer service departments have the bandwidth to solve more challenging problems, instead of spending time answering calls from frustrated people who’ve been waiting on hold for twenty minutes.

Current bots excel at taking on repetitive and entry-level customer service tasks. Some can even hold human-like chat conversations. They can help determine if a customer needs an automated answer or needs to talk to a real person. Some, like Apple’s Siri, follow simple voice prompts for conducting searches or adding calendar events. If your business traffics in large numbers of incoming customer requests, a bot can help to swiftly triage information and categorize requests, making it possible to optimize human interaction. Agentbot, for example, can perform a range of tasks, including systematizing information and maintaining multiple simultaneous conversations in real time.

2. Marketing bots

The more sophisticated bots grow, the closer they come to automating the role of actual marketers. Just as Amazon’s Alexa can offer assistance by telling you the weather or who won a game, marketing bots can follow up with customers to drive new business. Humans once performed all of this labor-intensive and routine work. Now, your business might consider a cost-effective marketing bot to automate and strengthen personalized customer relationships.

3. Assistant bots

As smart, scalable solutions, bots are able to amplify an organization’s performance and efficiency. Basic administrative bots take over communication and can execute a variety of tasks, from number-crunching to personal shopping.

Where current bots fall short is with context. Anything other than a simple, on-topic conversation goes beyond a bot’s current abilities. The next generation of bots will be able to understand context in conversation, as technology moves into more advanced stages of machine learning and natural language processing.

In the future, one person’s bot will schedule meetings with another person’s bot. Because project management will be incorporated, bots will help workers track their time and progress. As businesses develop internal bots, people will be able to query them about things like quarterly sales figures, and receive instant, correct answers. Businesses looking to optimize HR-type jobs that are rich in repetitive and paper-pushing tasks would do well to adopt a bot to tackle such work.

Bots of tomorrow

As apps fade in dominance, and the next generation of consumer interactions becomes largely text- and chat-based, bots will come to dominate our online lives. While this may sound far-fetched, bots are relatively simple to create. With bot engines like the ones provided by Facebook and Microsoft, any business can quickly create a bot tailored to their needs. This ability will increase in both speed and complexity as more people use and refine the available tools.

When to hop aboard the bot train depends on the circumstances of your business. At this point in time, bots are the answer to specific tasks — customer service, marketing, and administrative assistance — but as the field develops and bots refine their skillsets, the sky will be the limit.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.