How chatbots are taking over apps
Here’s an experiment: Take out your phone and unlock It to see your homepage. Now check out your apps and count them all. Note how many you actually use day to day…
Chances are these numbers stand pretty far apart and FYI, on average we only use 5–10 apps regularly. This is because our human brains are not great at consuming ‘clutter’ – otherwise known as the mass information out there.
To actually use apps requires us to download or purchase them, enter our details, sign up, sign in, familiarise ourselves with the user interface (UI) and remember it. This fastidious process is off-putting so we are using a handful of them.
Bottom line is we like efficiency and our minds respond best to simplicity.
The simple life of Apps
Since the Apple Store launched in 2008, apps were the predominant interface of smart device interaction. To date more than 100 billion apps have been downloaded from the Apple store alone.
Though interestingly, Jillian D’Onfro contends that only 1,000 of the one million apps in the App Store or Google Play Store have 50,000 or more users. That’s only one-tenth of 1% of all apps. And although we might have lots of apps, (as you discovered when you started reading this) it is said that as many as 50% of people who download an app use it just once. I too am guilty.
The crux of the matter is we are not using technology in the same way we used to. We demand more, faster, and better for the pace at which we use our devices. Remember when we used to actually change our Facebook profile pictures every couple of weeks? The world around us is changing faster than the app stores, and the strive of today’s tech is to make the future a more functional place.
Apps have reached their first-world existential crisis: the economy is so heavily saturated that it cannot offer consumers anything extraordinary anymore and hence cannot grow any further. It’s not that people don’t want to use apps anymore, there’s just too many of them, they take up memory on our devices and simply put, they are not sustainable for our advanced minds to comprehend. However the key take here is that people still want to receive services and information through tech, and now require a different experience.
According to a report by Gartner, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human by 2020.
“Ever been to Tennessee JARVIS?”
“Creating a flight plan for Tennessee.”
―Tony Stark & JARVIS
Chatbots emerged early in 2016 and in less than 6 months tech giants launched both created their own Chatbots and Bot development platforms. When it comes to changing the tech game you can’t undermine the path Chatbots are paving.
Who knows maybe assistant robots like Tony Stark’s ‘JARVIS’ or ‘Number 7’ from Benchwarmers will actualise. It’s a brave new bot-filled world, equal with new possibilities and new risks.
What exactly is a Chatbot? Well unlike apps, Chatbots communicate in your language and offer solutions like humans can. It’s not human, but an interface generated via code which enables engagement with us via voice or text. It can respond to queries, provide information, and call you by a nickname your real friends and family would refuse. A core mission of the Chatbot is to mimic human to human interaction, minus the awkward “how are you?” “good and you?” “yeah good, and you?” loop.
Jokes aside, Chatbots carve a new innovative territory, hybridising speed, efficiency and personality into tech. Subsequently, Chatbots are taking over apps and it’s no secret that eventually they will be powerful enough to put apps to their death.
Let me explain.
Chatbots are in a way the product of what apps have taught us. The app most people spend half their time on is (surprise surprise) Facebook, and the second and third are Facebook owned. Facebook Messenger is the single app that has evolved to deliver utility, services, games, and commerce directly through its omnipresent UI known as ‘chat’. So to be fair, Chatbots were conceived out of apps evolution. We gotta give them some credit.
‘Chat’ is not a new concept, it’s kinda been around since about the beginning of time. Even the least tech-savvy person can have a good ‘chat’. Ironically we’ve had to journey through the whole app life cycle to discover that the best UI is our natural language. (However technology needed time to evolve to this point too). Today’s ‘chat’ encompasses a world that merges real life with tech, and removes the dreary task of sifting through product listings and lousy search results. Where technology once plainly enabled us to communicate, it is now preaching a new wave of communication.
At a very basic level, our lives revolve around communication with people or businesses. Our preference for direct and simple communication is signified by the globalisation of messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Kik etc. In this messy messaging environment, conversational Chatbots provide a simplified and natural approach to data interaction.
Chatbots have a voice and can talk back to us, so digital experiences can be more meaningful. Conversational interfaces adopting personality is the new user experience. The magic of Chatbots comes alive in crafting experiences through conversations and providing valuable unique understandings.
The Voice Experience
It’s no secret that voice interaction is challenging the meaning of user experience (UX). ‘The voice’ is emerging as an alternative or even complete replacement to traditional visual interfaces.
So let’s dive in.
Voice interaction is the ability to converse with your devices in your natural language and receive responses and solutions. It means your devices can respond to your queries, provide you with information, and call you by a nickname your real friends and family would refuse. Chatbots are voice-activated assistants that can be taught different skills (but more on that later).
This interaction between people and devices carves profound new turf in communication. Let’s compare it to learning a foreign language. We learn languages through practice and regular immersion, so the invention and adoption of conversation with our devices is likely to be enhanced by similar participation.
Right now the immersive environment is primarily within the realms of personal and home use. But we foresee that as people get more and more accustomed to it, they will expect it in business and commercial settings. (For anyone who’s ever struggled with a projector screen or phone settings, imagine just saying “show me my screen” or “start the meeting”).
Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are smart home speakers that thrive on voice interaction. These devices offer absolutely no visual display and relies on audio for both input and output (with the exception of a few flashing lights).
Thanks to big improvements in voice-recognition accuracy, smart speakers allow true hands-free operation. These products prove that the increase in flexibility and efficiency is enough to make them desirable even to users who already own a voice-enabled smartphone.
We mean business
So with all this in mind, let’s look at what voice interaction means as the new customer experience. The voice can be seen as the latest tool and toy in communicating brand values. (Cue for traditional marketing disciplines to walk the plank.) The ability for a company to directly communicate to its consumer, and vice-versa, means brand experience and interactions will become radically more valuable and intuitive.
The voice medium can facilitate unique campaign possibilities and experiences. Voices, as we know, convey a wealth of meta-information to the listener – in pitch, tone, inflection, accent, and pace. So imagine brands leveraging the voice as a facet of their personalities. It’s like custom tailoring your brand ambassador. The voice of the chatbot can be utilised as a service so we can use bots as personalised 1-on-1 service at scale.
In a content marketing setting, bots can use a strong brand voice in conversation and deliver stories, exclusive content, games, and campaigns through messaging platforms like Facebook, or Kik.
Chatbots can be taught particular skills with intent to better connect the customer and brand/service.
Amazon’s Alexa can be paired with Uber and get you wherever you need to go. A more novelty example is the latest move by spirits brand, Patrón Tequila, – they recently partnered with Amazon’s Alexa to bring its ‘Cocktail Lab’ recipe library to consumers via voice activation. Patrón additionally also introduced its ‘Bot-Tender,’ an AI-enabled chatbot that suggests cocktail ideas to customers on Twitter Direct Message, Facebook Messenger, and website. It’s this kind of content and innovation that will allow brands to build richer relationships.
We anticipate that in future, brands will know their customer through conversational experiences, anticipate their needs and provide satisfying solutions. The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots, voice-activated assistants and messaging apps are just mere trends driving the future of customer experience, a future that’s much closer than you think. According to a report by Gartner, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human by 2020.
We remember when touchscreens turned web design on its head and our smartphones into gaming devices. ‘The voice’ hints a similar rapid shift. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), speech recognition and natural language processing have led us to the threshold of an era where frictionless voice interaction becomes reality.
With almost a third of the global population carrying a microphone on them daily, it’s a clear sign the interface is the most user-friendly, right? Well as designers we must adapt to the very different set of affordances the voice has to offer.
If consumers are going to respond and be understood by their products, we must learn to apply design principles that work best to these interactions with a new interface. This means developing a big library of commonly understood and intuitive cues and responses for the user to interact.
The most central design element of the web – the ‘click’ is perhaps lost in the future standard of interface design.
This is huge.
Voice interaction carves a new innovative territory, hybridising speed, efficiency, and personality into tech. The rapid proliferation of voice interaction capabilities in our individual digital ecosystems raises critical questions for any designer whose work plays a role in the customer experience.
Ultimately, voice interaction means our digital experiences can be more meaningful. Conversational interfaces adopting personality is the new user experience. The magic of voice interaction comes alive in crafting experiences through conversations and providing valuable unique understandings.