Much to my dismay, last time I was in Silicon Valley for the Startup Grind annual conference I was showing a chatbot we had been developing to a couple of developer friends and they had not seen anything like it!
"Wow, that's cool. Does that sit on messenger?"
Was I ahead of the curve for once?
Certainly not for Asia.
Bots have been a big thing for years, WeChat has had a chatbot platform since 2013 and people don't email in China they WeChat!
The Chinese are using WeChat to order food, to hail a cab, and to buy movie tickets. Why go through the hassle of making the booking yourself when you can make a request and let a bot do the work - they have your credit card after all. It was the start of conversational commerce.
Bots such as Chumen Wenwen (WeChat's personal assistant bot) and Microsoft’s Xiaoice already have significant traction with tens of millions of users - so why the lag for the west?
Programming a conversation to make it look and feel like a natural interaction seemed an inevitable jump from man powered website chat windows that more often than not disappointingly display ‘leave your email’ or 'usually responds in 4 hours' when the team from across the world obviously has to sleep.
Services like Melbourne's own Leadchat have certainly done a great job of solving this problem using man power and filling the gaps with a help desk managed by service agents from across the globe - but let's talk about the robot alternative.
I am the user _ I am no longer concerned with your calendar link and suggested times of 5am or 11pm as my only options to connect with you, nor do I want a response that occurs 5,6,7 hours after I enquire or need help.
I need to know now!
And who more willing to serve 24 hours a day than robots?
It IS IMPOSSIBLE TO COMPETE WITH 24 hours a day of flawless service.
Sure there will be a learning curve. If there is a flaw, or rather a human error - then you simply re-program the bot to accomodate for the query that caught you off guard, and that way the next consumer is answered promptly and correctly.
Anticipating the FAQ's is half the battle, and something you will need to anticipate as part of your help desk regardless.
This is the ability to personalise your brand experience 24 hours a day - at scale.
The only rules - it needs to be creative and it needs to be on point with your brand.
Customer service and lead generation were the first generation of chatbots.
There were and still are a great solution for your digital representative. So if you know very little about the benefits of bots, I would start here. Try chatfuel or Manychat and if you are looking for something a little more bespoke without the branding check out Melbourne based developers ingenious.ai.
But what next?
Can messenger be used as a sales channel? an entertainment channel? a marketing channel? Of course.
What problems are unique companies solving in this exciting new medium and how is it translatable to your business? Could be a stand alone product or could be complimentary to your core product? A service perhaps.
Let's take a look at a few bots solving problems in a novel way.
BOTs AS A SERVICE
Poncho - a simple bot that delivers the weather in a quirky way.
Snaptravel - helps you book a hotel from messenger. It recently raised US$8m in funding.
Cleanstack - your personal trainer and nutritionist
BOTS AS ENTERTAINMENT
Mojihunt - a game that requires you to match up emoji's that went viral on messenger
TrumpBot - 55,000 users sign up to survive 24 hours as Donald Trump
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon - launched a bot via the Amazon Echo platform
BOTS AS A SALES TOOL
Sephora - Selling on messaging platform - Kik
Burberry - Selling on WeChat (Case Study)
Spring - Personal shopping bot
Jumper.ai - Allows you to quickly create a bot and sell using a hashtag as the trigger to fire the bot
BOTS AS A COMMUNICATION CHANNEL
Hypebeast - Delivers its lifestyle magazine to messenger based on your personal preferences
PersonaBots - Influencers such as Diamond Batiste and Snoop Dogg are using bots as a communication tool broadcasting their latest news or instagram posts to their fans
Nike - On WeChat at the Festival Of Sport (Case Study)
So Why Bots?
- Messenger is exploding - it now has 1.2BN monthly active users
- Engagement - They are fun and people want to play with them
- They work 24 hours a day delivering your customers / users to the funnel of your choice
- They are new and exciting enough that people engage with your CTA (Call to Action)
- On-going communication - people cannot help but open messages delivered to their mobile, open rates are through the roof
- Personalised marketing at scale
- They add an extra level of value to your advertising ie. comment below and a bot automatically pops up with the offer.
- Sell directly through the bot (check the shopify messenger add on)
*Disclaimer be mindful if you want to develop a serious game changing bot it will need to be custom built because most of these create your own bot services 'own the data' as outlined in their fine print.