Innovation February 06, 2017

Talking Interfaces

Frederik De Bosschere

Lead Strategist

Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about chat bots. 'Apps are dead, and if you don’t have a bot, you’ll soon be extinct too’ is the general idea. Although things might not change that drastically all too soon, you need to be on your toes. Here's why you want to have this big shift on your radar.

What is happening, and why is this happening now?

Messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WhatsApp, … are where people now spend most of their digital time. Their numbers of users (both absolute and monthly active) have surpassed those of the big social networks. People open chat apps more than any other app. For example, WhatsApp users average almost 200 minutes of conversation every week.

The app market is becoming saturated. People only download new apps if they bring something truly useful or special to the table. Those apps are then often only used for dedicated actions and brief moments in time. The messaging platforms are winning the ‘engagement wars’ in a very big way.

As people spend the majority of their time in between blue or green speech bubbles, companies like Facebook, Google and Apple are now integrating third-party functionality or services into that chat environment. Booking a restaurant or an Uber, finding a funny image or GIF, playing tic-tac-toe, … It’s increasingly done without ever leaving the conversation.

This leads to messaging services being the next big platform, after social networks and mobile app stores, for brands and companies to find their place on. It’s high time your self-contained app or service breaks from its shackles to come out and play.

Just so know, we can help you with that.

Bigger than bots

People talk a lot (for instance: Facebook reports over 60 billion messages a day on Messenger & WhatsApp). So without intelligence, offering relevant assistance or services within a conversation would be impossible. Luckily, advancements in natural language processing and artificial intelligence have led to computers actually understanding what humans want. No longer through a shared language (commands, graphical user interfaces, …), but through plain old talking.

So … Should we expect omniscient bots capable of solving our every need? No, not just yet. The general purpose AI required for precisely understanding the intent behind someone’s question or remark (including all of the subtleties) is just not there yet. Attempting this already today, will lead to many bot conversations that will fail spectacularly, and feel like an interactive voice menu on repeat.

What does work then? The simple things. Using (and training) AI to answer first-line support questions, and then handing things over to a regular old human agent (when things get complicated). Or for very focused use cases like a bot helping you and your colleagues schedule meetings and finding available rooms.

Luckily, this paradigm shift is not restricted to just chat bots.

“Conversational commerce (term coined by Chris Messina) refers to using natural language (chat, voice, …) to interact with people, brands, bots or services, in ways that didn’t exist before in a two-way messaging context.”

Conversational interfaces hold much bigger potential:

  • Would it make sense to create a small app that users can open right from Messenger or iMessage? For example: Airbnb lets users share interesting residences with companions, and vote on their favourites, without having to open the actual Airbnb app.
  • Would your entire app work better as a conversational interface? Things like coaching or personal finance insights work great when speech bubbled.
  • Or could you integrate messaging into some parts of your product? For example, improving customer servicing through a simple chat interface, or removing friction from the onboarding by incorporating easy Q&A steps?

The advantages are bigger than simply scaling customer interactions with chat bots. Chat is a familiar, intuitive and natural interface, with everything neatly organised into threads, and a clear overview of previous interactions. Just to name of few of the benefits of conversational UI.

Talking Interfaces

In our inspirational Talking Interfaces session, we’ll help you make sense of this important shift, and how your company can benefit from it. 

Yes, tell me more!
Yes, tell me more!