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Chatbots: towards the end of mobile applications?

The Rise of Chatbots

Some bold companies have announced the upcoming arrival of their chatbot on instant messaging platforms with the promise of revolutionizing the user experience.

The Silicon Valley giants have entered the race to clinch the leading position on this new technology while the drop in the number of mobile applications downloads coupled with the rise in the use of messaging platforms heralds a bright future for Conversational robots Popular with users, some brands have already understood the interest of no longer focusing solely on mobile applications.

Chatbots or conversational agents

The term chatbot, or conversational robot in French, refers to an automated agent with which it is possible to interact by text via the main messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger or Skype. These agents, governed by simple rules for the most elementary and by the artificial intelligence for the most elaborate, are able to answer many complex queries. The concept is actually far from new: the first chatbot appeared in 1966 when an MIT professor created a program called Eliza able to return a predefined answer to a parameterized question upstream. But it is primarily thanks to the progress made in recent years in new technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), natural language processing (natural language comprehension) and machine learning (automatic learning), that chatbots take a completely different dimension by drastically increasing their abilities of comprehension, interaction and reasoning. For example, it is now possible from Facebook Messenger and with the assistance of a bot to search for a ticket, order a VTC, or even transfer money to relatives.

A new user experience

With a 24/7 availability, chatbots allow you to quickly and easily obtain personalized, contextualized and real-time answers. Accessible from the main messaging platforms, users can address their robot as if they were speaking to a human. Thanks to machine learning, they are becoming more intelligent: the large amount of data generated by users is then analyzed and exploited by algorithms, thus becoming a real lever for customizing and improving the customer experience. Another advantage is that the use of a chatbot via a messaging service does not require the user to install an umpteenth new application on their smartphone, a strong point when you know from a comScore study that each months, nearly 50% of Americans do not download any new application …

The boom of messaging platforms

If smartphone owners are now reluctant to install new apps, why not give them the ability to get in touch with brands directly through their favorite email apps? By the time Facebook Messenger exceeded one billion users, more than 2,000,000 messages were sent every second through Apple’s Imessage email application. In 2016, more than 1.5 billion people used a messaging application, accounting for three quarters of smartphone owners worldwide. For the first time, people use messaging applications more than social networks. While it is obvious for many brands to be present on the main social networks, would not it be just as sensible for them to be present on these messaging platforms? Today, only a few pioneers dare to venture on the subject and offer the experience of a virtual assistant to their users. The future will be conversational, oral or written but conversational. Moreover, Gartner predicts that by 2019, 20% of user interactions on smartphones will be done via virtual personal assistants. In order to provide an optimal user experience, brands will have to be present in the right place, ie the messaging platforms, and at the right time, which means all the time.

The conversation, the new interface?

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, announced that “Chatbots will fundamentally revolutionize the way people experience IT.” The bots will initially improve the applications but soon they will replace them to become THE new interface. Satya Nadella adds that “more or less all the people who create today mobile, desktop or web applications will create bots tomorrow as a new interface”. In the same way as the revolution in uses created by mobile in recent years, pushing companies to take the shift from the web to mobile, we will witness a turning point to the interfaces conducive to dialogue, moving from a menu interface to a conversational interface. The pivot begins elsewhere in China where sculpins become more and more common and perform particularly on the WeChat platform, direct competitor of WhatsApp in Asia, thus offering us a good example of what awaits us for the next years.