Why choose chatbots over apps? Matteo Volani, founder of Rotterdam-based Skilla, shares his thoughts and experiences.
Guestblog by Matteo Volani
This year I became one of the 33.000 chatbots developers and entrepreneurs who are heavily betting on Conversational Interface as the new way to interact with businesses and brands. I started working on Skilla in February with the idea to develop an application to connect youngsters to collaborate on projects and work on startup ideas.
In March, along with my mentor, we started perceiving the power of bots. For the kind of industry I’m in – personal networking – chat and conversation are the most powerful tools we use to interact and connect, so it made lot of sense for us to go for a bot approach. The idea is simple: go to Skilla, answer a few quick question to build your profile, find people who are willing to collaborate with you and chat with them.
By the end of April, our path was crystal-clear: why should we develop another app for overly-crowded marketplaces, if we can provide the same service faster and smoother through a messaging interface? We decided to move toward a bot-solution over an app for different reasons.
Conversational design is definitely the way to go in 2016. Why? Here are three simple reasons that will let you understand how apps are becoming obsolete:
Frictionless. Starting a chat is all it takes to use the service. No download, install or tutorial involved.
Centralized. We have different apps in the same familiar environment (messenger inbox), reducing both the cognitive effort for us and CPU load for devices when navigating between apps.
Convenient: The asynchronicity of messages allows us to manage different conversations (apps) in parallel, as we can’t do with current apps.
Let’s check the stats. Nowadays, the average mobile user downloads zero (!) apps per month, and 90% of the time we spend on our mobile is spent on messaging platforms and email. For the first time in history, messaging apps are growing faster than social apps: Messenger alone has 1.2 billions active users, WhatsApp 1 billion, WeChat 700 million, Kik 400 million, and so on. Developing bots for these platforms means a potential reach for your product/service that no other platform or marketplace can offer you.
The personality of your bot is one of the most crucial factors for the positioning of your brand. Not the logo, not the colors, not the avatar. The words and the sentences your bot will tell the users are the main driver to position your business in the user’s mind.
Words are the most powerful mean to clarify concepts, so this allows you to be extremely clear and specific about your value proposition and how you wish the user to think about your product. You will choose your speech patterns based on the scope you’re in and the kind of audience you’re targeting. Your bot might be extremely formal and polite, it could be funny and friendly, or sarcastic and spicy. When building the conversation, it always keeps in mind the end user.
Ecosystem and experiments
The Bot ecosystem is growing at a very fast pace, and it’s a great movement to be part of. This is the dawn of bots and who’s into bots is aware of it. The members of the community are open, friendly and always ready to learn, share and help each other, there’s a common willingness to take forward the bot phenomenon for everybody’s benefit. Everybody is collaborating to foster the progress of the chatbots.
At the same time, there is room for experiments. Nobody cracked down the system yet and there’s definitely still a lot to do. Every day new bots are born in new industries, with new purposes and different aims, contributing to the development of the whole ecosystem.
On a personal note, we’ve been experimenting with Resume-bot, Event-bot and personality related questions within the conversation, before defining the right flow we wanted for Skilla. Every time you roll out an update or a new feature or a new bot itself, it’s highly uncertain how users will interact with it. It’s such a new tool, widely unknown outside the tech community, that you will be constantly surprised for how people interact with chatbots compared to apps.
The conversation interface lets people’s personality come out and shape the conversation itself: you need two people to have a talk, otherwise is just a monologue. So for the first time the person is not only the user, but the person becomes an active part of the process.
Thus developers are pushing the limits of what can be done through conversation: it started with basic tasks like weather forecast or movie recommendations and moved towards e-commerce, recruiting, dating and much more. Sky’s the limit really.
All of this without leaving an app that’s already on your phone, that you already check several times per day.
Isn’t this extremely powerful?
Matteo Volani (Italy) is the co-founder and CEO of Skilla, a chatbot for finding the right people for your project. At the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship in Rotterdam he’s working on his startup.
Image: Ananya440 @ Pixabay