From everyday help to everyday fun, here are some of the ways that chatbot technology is being used so far…
“First there were websites, then there were apps, now there are bots.” That’s what Kik announced when they launched their chatbot store a few months ago, allowing developers to create and add their own bots. Although the hype around chatbots—which some say should instead be called “intelligent assistance”—has been at a peak this year, the need for bots has been building for some. A year ago, BI Intelligence reported that chat apps had surpassed social networks in size. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Viber currently claim 3 billion monthly users, compared to the 2.5 billion who use the four top social networks, prompting Business Insider to call them “one of the most important new platforms for publishers.” Recently, Kik also released some stats to help (entice) brands building chatbots, reporting that their 300 million users are spending at least an hour a day on the app, have about six different chat sessions daily, and spend an average of 12.7 minutes within each. Now Kik has launched a new tool that allows users to share bots with friends via invites, so branded bots could soon go viral.
In April, we wrote about how chatbots could change marketing, concluding, “In other words, the bot future is coming, and it’s coming fast. The chatbot technology could change customer service, brand offerings, and marketing, creating a personalized channel of communication with consumers that provides the attention and immediacy they are demanding. Be prepared.” Since then we’ve seen a slew of bot projects and experiments pop up that show just how powerful bots can be for brands. Online vinyl store The Edit sold $1 million worth of records in just eight months using a chatbot that texted daily album suggestions to consumers. Users could then reply with “like” or “dislike” to personalize their musical preferences, or “yes” to receive a purchase link. The digital indie record store experience results in about 300 albums sold per day.
Bots are being created to sell, to assist, and to just plain entertain. If you’re still not sure how chatbots could fit into your brand’s future, take some inspiration from these five, which show the variety of ways bots can speak to the digital generation:
Currently, 70% of Mic’s audience is between 21-34-years-old, and they are continuing to reach the highly-coveted demographic across relevant platforms with “meaningful” journalism, recently launching interactive bots on messaging platforms Kik and Facebook Messenger. The DisOrDatBot— which has helped make Mic the most popular publisher on Kik—asks users to choose a side on a well-known issue and then informs them if they are in the minority or the majority. Users can choose from four questions each day, and results are tallied and sent out daily. The bot acts not just as a fun interactive polling system, but as a way to learn about current events: if users want to find out more about the topic they’re being polled on, they can simply tap the “huh?” button to be sent a Mic link that explains the subject.
Chatbots aren’t just for brands (even though we’re writing this to help inspire them). In the U.K. a 19-year-old built a chatbot lawyer that helps users to get out of their parking tickets. The DoNotPay bot was made with AI tech and interacts with users to help them through the appeals process. The program asks a series of questions and provides details and links on next steps to take to contest their tickets.DoNotPay, which calls itself “the world’s first robot lawyer” has reportedly helped 250,000 cases and won 160,000 cases so far.
Most young users are spending time in chat apps to have fun with their friends, staying constantly in touch, sending pictures (or Kimojis) and videos, and hanging out digitally. So it only makes sense that some chatbots would be created to amplify their chat app entertainment, and provide some fun content to exchange with their groups. Microsoft’s WhatIf bot is one of the first examples we’ve seen. The bot, available on Skype, Messenger, and Telegram, is a spin-off of Project Murphy, the AI tech behind the popular HowOldRobot. What-If answers all “What if…” questions with creative images, providing visual answers to questions like “What if I were the president?” or “What if Charlie Chaplin was a baby?” Does it solve a problem or make a process more seamless? Absolutely not. But What-If provides the same kind of ridiculous, mindless fun that young consumers have been seeking out on apps like Snapchat—just inside their chat apps instead.
Dating in the 21st century comes with its complications, but have no fear, Ghostbot is here. Intended for females who want to get rid of an aggressive suitor, Ghostbot “is a bot that ghosts on your behalf.” (“Ghosting,” for the digital dating uninitiated, is cutting off contact with no notice.) The bot which was created on top of Burner—a platform that creates anonymous and open phone number—will respond to a flagged contact in “a human-like amount of time” with comments that are meant to “de-escalate and not engage.” The goal is to ultimately end the conversation and although daters could just tell the person themselves, for females it tends to come with its complications: “we noticed that women disproportionately receive aggressive and inflammatory messages…If they respond or don’t respond, even if they try to be diplomatic or let it go, the guys on the other side escalate that situation.”
An app created with the digital generation in mind is possibly leading the way for the future of savings accounts. Digit is a Google-backed chatbot that reportedly sneakily helps “people who tend to spend and not save,” by looking into income and spending patterns and automatically moving money into the user’s savings account on a daily basis—only a few dollars at a time so they “hardly notice” the money is missing. It communicates with users through text messages, providing updates and allowing for commands like “save more” and “save less.” The fee-free service was launched in 2014, and has been able to raise $13.8 million from venture capitalists.