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Chat as an App Interface: When to Consider It

I used to turn on the Weather Channel when I got up in the morning, and watched as my coffee percolated. I would wait until finally the weather for my area was broadcast, and I would know whether I needed by umbrella, possibly my snow boots, etc. It was pretty inconvenient.

All of that changed when I discovered the Weather Channel Chatbot at Kik’s chatbot store. It was my first experience with a conversational interface design, and I was sold. Not only does it remember my zip code, but I can ask specific questions about locations where I plan to travel, events, places of interest. Much better than any TV or even radio forecast.

Since that first experience, I decided to dig deeper into the conversational UI design.

After all, we develop apps and should be on top of the trends. And conversational design has been the hotness of 2016 with more and more businesses jumping onto developing chatbots or building their entire product concept around the conversational UI.

Even Taco Bell is in on the act now:

taco_bell_slack_tacobot-0-0

The Weather Channel and Taco Bell are just two conversational UI examples of an exploding phenomenon. Many are already convinced that this will be the next big business disruption, replacing the traditional apps that now seem cumbersome and inefficient.

And for a startup? Getting a chatbot in from the very beginning can speed up growth.

Why Conversational App UI Design is So Hot

We love efficiency, speed, and convenience. As technologies have continued to give us those, we have adapted and embraced them. Conversational design promises even more. As Chris Messina, lead experience developer for Uber said a year ago:

“…just because everyone has a screen in their pocket doesn’t imply that they should be forced to look at it to interact with your service. Conversational commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare. I expect more service providers will shift in this direction, becoming more subtle in how they integrate into our lives.”

He was right. Messaging apps have become the new definition of online communication. Here are just a few stats that speak for the value of designing a chatbot:

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  • Another recent study reported that right around 50% of people surveyed stated that they want to businesses to be available 24/7 and that they prefer messaging to email or phone when they have questions or issues.
  • The Business Insider report also noted that chat apps have higher usage and retention rates than traditional mobile apps, and that the majority of users are young – a demographic that is increasingly more important to businesses.

The motivation for any business to make a conversational design app is clearly here. And consumers will be conversing with brands and companies over Slack, WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger and many other platforms as they emerge – it will feel very normal, and it will be the preferred method of communication and purchasing.

It’s No Longer “If;” It’s “When”

Conversation UI design needs to be a top priority for any company that offers products or services to consumers. From the local grocery store, to the national clothing retailer, to the healthcare provider, chatbots, loaded with information and enhanced by AI, can be providing the convenience and speed that consumers now demand.

Here are just five ways in which businesses will benefit when they make the decision to design a messenger chatbot.

Customer Queries and Support

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Consumers are tired of accessing websites to find products and services. They don’t even want to use traditional native apps anymore. And they are tired of emailing or calling with their questions.

Now they would rather use Amazon’s Echo, and its personal assistant, Alexa, to look for products, to find out about availability of what they want or need. If there are service related questions or issues, they want the speed of finding answers right now.

So, bots can be loaded up with FAQ’s and, when AI is added, recognize patterns and develop new FAQ items for the menu. And it’s not always about retail shopping.

  • Patients can use chatbots to ask questions about their medications and dosages within a medical app or type their symptoms and book a doctor’s appointment in their area.
  • Insurance shoppers can compare products and receive extensive details and comparisons on various options available.
  • A smart assistante within an innovative hotel booking app would help you plan your entire vacation, compare the hotel/flights deals and suggest the best things to do in the area.

Influencing on Purchasing Decisions

The Tacobot making suggestions of food items is just the tip of the iceberg. H&M is an excellent example of a chatbot designed to ask customer questions – what styles they like, colors, sizes, etc.

hm-chatbot

It then makes suggestions for items – sort of like having a custom personal shopper. As well, it stores that customer’s information so that when she returns, there is a body of knowledge already there, to be used again. And this is where AI comes in. Shopping patterns are learned and used for future shopping conversations and suggestions to that same customer.

Speeding Up the Shopping Process

Even when a customer knows exactly what he wants, he can check on availability through conversation rather than cumbersome clicking and tapping through a site or traditional app.

Think of the applications for the real estate industry. Home buyers spend hours searching through real estate sites, even with the traditional ability to designate many preferences. A conversational UI design will enable those buyers to message those references and receive back information on just those homes that are a match.

Better Customer Care

In April of this year, Facebook announced the opening up of its Messenger platform, which unlocked a whole new level of opportunities for brands to perform better. Here’s some curious data from Business Insider:

  • The majority of customers now prefer to message the brands privately whenever they have an issue. Private messages are now 5 times the volume of wall posts. KLM airlines have received over 35,000 (!!!) private messages in Q1 2016.
  • The average conversation in private lasts for 5 posts, while the longest found conversation was 425 messages long. And conversations as long as 200 messages are quite common.
  • So no wonder that it takes 600 minutes of average for a company to respond to a customer’s question on Facebook. And of course you need a team to manage all that conversations.

Yet…social customer care is important:

customer-care

Using a chatbot to tackle this process not only improves the response time and customer satisfaction, but also reduces the costs of hiring additional support personnel and taking customer complaints out of the public eye.

Improving The Sales Team Performance

Earlier in 2016, Salesforce announced the launch of Einstein, an AI-powered CRM add-on that will rummage through all your data and deliver better business insights and predictions based on big data.

SaaS Co took this idea further are are now building LISA – an intelligent sales agent that will help you organize your email leads, reply on time and draft better custom proposals. And that’s just one use case.

  • Smart chatbots could help your team handle the outreach process and scoop different data about the prospects from different social media channels and present it to you as ready-to-use insights.
  • Or you can take another route a build a completely-automated sales platform like Niki – a smart personal shopper that can handle any sorts of requests from ordering a cab to helping you choose a new fridge.

For startups, conversational design and progress in AI technologies has created even more opportunities for disruption. While we used to say “there’s an app for that”, we soon may want to switch to “there’s a bot for that”.

If you are interested in how conversational UI design can be used in your project or would like to know how to design a chatbot app that users love, let’s talk either talk personal or get connected with April – our in-house chatbot for a quick detour of our services.

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