A Happily Ever After for Chatbots & Messaging Apps?

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On the aftermath of their debut on messaging apps, chatbots have been at the epicenter of an ongoing conversation about personalisation. Why did this collaboration happen? And how far will this go? It’s time to take a deep dive.

In the ’60s, renowned media analyst Marshall McLuhan argued that the ‘Medium is the message’. He was certain that it had a role in shaping and controlling “the scale and form of human association and action” up to an extent. According to this theory, the medium embeds itself onto anything it transmits, and it directly influences the way the actual message is perceived. It tries to be an extension of our senses, expanding our ability to perceive and interact with the world.

Today, about half a century later, the medium becomes an acceptable form of human interaction – say hello to your messaging apps. As of last year, there were 1 billion users (14% of the world’s population) on WhatsApp. And combined with the users on Messenger, there are 60 billion messages – text, video, recordings that are sent and received each day. Where else would businesses find a better level of engagement?

In a recent survey conducted by Facebook, participants who could chat with retailers on these messaging platforms, be it on transactions, inquiries, or post sales services, felt more positive about the business. Commerce became a personal affair. McLuhan was right, and is still right – The impact of messaging does lie on the medium.

It’s been almost 20 years, and why haven’t businesses been largely successful harnessing these platforms yet? Because until chatbots came along in 2016, businesses marketing themselves via messaging apps were oblivious to one philosophy/brand of personalisation – ‘If not human, be humane.’

Ever since they entered the market, chatbots on messaging platforms have been hit. They are having a positive impact on businesses, as more industries are jumping aboard the ‘personalisation’ bandwagon. Now, what is the next step? What does the future behold for this eclectic union? Here are 3 possibilities –

    With chatbots, messaging apps will become the new browsers. They are about to do for businesses what websites were doing for them about a decade back. Forrester Research expects investments in AI and Machine Learning to triple in 2017, to better harness user behavior, to enhance the conversational interface brought about by bots.Messaging apps will become more relevant to IoT installations. For e.g. more customers will begin to receive coupons, notifications on sales etc. via messages when they happen to just pass by the store. Or alternatively, employees in a factory can stay better connected with their machinery, and make better use of the data collected.The ‘App culture’ is sinking, as users are getting more tight-fisted about device memory and data usage. But messaging apps/platforms are still titled ‘essential’ because messaging is now a way of life. Since chatbot platforms can directly deploy bots onto these apps, the need for a proprietary app is canceled. And the scope of services that businesses offer on these apps can keep expanding.

With the advancement in AI and Machine Learning towards its capabilities, chatbots are about to go a long way in understanding the nitty-gritty human behavior through messaging apps. But if McLuhan’s theory still holds good a decade from now, chatbots might even become a critical part of human perception overall.