Integrating mobile and chatbot technology: 3 things marketers need to know

By Pratik Dholakiya

| Retail

If you think mobile apps have lost their charm and using them doesn’t excite you anymore, you’re in for a real surprise. Chatbots, or bots, are taking the digital world by storm, and they’re even getting integrated into mobile apps. Even industry giants are encouraging developers to work on their chatbot platforms. In April 2016, Facebook allowed all developers and businesses to build chatbots for its Messenger service.

Marketers can have a field day with this, because it allows them to interact with customers and prospects. For some businesses, chatbots can replace humans in customer service, while for others, it can become a powerful marketing tool.

Here are three things marketers need to know about chatbots:

1. Chatbots have been around for a while

It may sound surprising, but despite all the hoopla, chatbots aren’t exactly new. In fact, they’ve been around for a few years now. The interactive voice response (IVR) system is perhaps one of the most primitive types of chatbots, and it’s still used by several businesses across a variety of customer helplines. Though these chatbots can provide you with information upon pressing the right keys on your phone, they have their drawbacks. With the emergence of instant messaging apps, however, chatbots turned into messaging-based bots.

Chatbots are nothing but computer programs designed to communicate with real people in natural language through text or audio. Though they may vary according to the level of sophistication, there are two main types of modern chatbots.

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The first type of chatbots are the basic ones designed to perform a set of functions for a business. Facebook Messenger chatbots — such as the 1-800-Flowers one highlighted by Digiday — belong to this type. The second type of bots are a lot more advanced and can perform a variety of functions. They include virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Echo and Microsoft’s Cortana.

2. Messaging apps are fueling the growth of chatbots

More and more mobile users are turning to messaging apps not only to chat with friends, but also to connect with favorite brands. According to a report published by Business Insider, the world’s leading messaging apps have more monthly active users than the top social media apps. Though messenger apps used to be simple programs that allowed sharing text and images, they’ve blossomed into larger and more complex tools, incorporating their own platforms and APIs.

Companies that are looking for a cost-effective and reliable solution to drive audience engagement should consider these messenger apps for inspiration. As messaging app users chat online all day long, a conversation-based solution such as a chatbot can help bridge this gap.

3. Chatbots can make boring tasks fun

Many other businesses can also take advantage of bots beyond just messaging apps. As it happens, chatbots have the ability to turn a seemingly boring task into something fun. A good example is ordering takeout from the nearest restaurant. Though several food-ordering apps exist, customers will still have to browse through and filter results until they find their favorite dish from the menu. However, what if a chatbot could display the results for your query, “Is there a Thai restaurant nearby serving pad thai?” and offer different payment options as well?

Restaurant tech business Orderscape is already planning to launch a full food-ordering chatbot to more than 6,000 restaurants in the US early in the second quarter of this year. Foodiebot is a food-ordering chatbot for Amazon’s Alexa. Shortly after the Alexa rollout, it will be launched on Facebook Messenger. Users will be able to speak their order to Alexa.

On the other hand, a chatbot named Poncho the Weather Cat is changing the way bots can turn an obviously boring topic such as the weather into a fun experience. Poncho, a fictional cat, is currently available through SMS, email, Slack and Facebook Messenger. The bot sends traffic and weather updates in a quirky and fun manner to brighten your day. Its ability to use any major incident as a cultural reference in the conversation certainly makes it one of the best chatbots. It can also share opinions on non-weather-related topics, such as superhero movies and the Oscars, among others. This bot is now available all over the continental US.

Businesses can’t afford to ignore chatbots, as they’re quickly becoming the next big thing in the marketing and tech world. Chatbots continue to evolve every day as developers keep adding new features, enabling them to handle everything from ordering takeout to calling a cab. The above examples will give you a glimpse into how bots will replace the old ways of solving marketing and brand promotion challenges.

Written By

Pratik Dholakiya

Co-Founder of E2M

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder of E2M, a full service digital marketing agency and MoveoApps, a mobile app development company. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, Growth Hacking, Entrepreneurship and Digital PR. Pratik has spoken at NextBigWhat's…