FAQ concerning chatbots:

What is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is a (ro)bot which is an interactive program that talks to you and answers requests. Bots are also referred to as “virtual assistants”, “conversational UI” or “conversational commerce”. They answer as naturally as possible to requests so that it feels like a conversation. Their topic depends on the business’ focus and could be a weather forecast bot, an online-shop assistant, or a hotel reservation bot; and in my case it’s a venue recommendation bot.

What are the advantages of a Chatbot?

The idea (and opportunity) behind chatbots is that there is no huge barrier to use it in contrast to apps, which have to be installed separately. You’d need a phone with an app store, also have to remember your password in order to install an app, need to have free space on the device and a good connection to download it etc. only to mention some of the obstacles getting your app delivered to the user. In contrast to that 1 billion people worldwide are already using Facebook Messenger (and 300 million use Skype) and now with a chatbot I can reach all of them easily. You don’t need to install a specific app to use a bot because it is integrated in the chat provider infrastructure such as Messenger, Skype or Telegram. And since Facebook also launched messenger.com as a separate website you can now use the chat in a browser without an app – next to facebook.com.

Bots could support or replace regular services of bigger companies such as service hotlines or FAQs, which could lead to massive cost savings.

Why a chatbot and not an app?

900 million monthly active users of Facebook Messenger and 300 million users of Skype can request coffee shop and restaurant recommendations without having to go to any app store. They can just directly interact with Mica.

One big adoption barrier for apps is that you have to get people to the app store to download your app. If your app is not mission critical this is even more difficult. The whole process of downloading apps is quite complicated and tedious for many people. It often means that they might have to enter a password or figure out how to free up storage by deleting other apps. Because of that some people don’t use any apps apart from what comes pre-installed or what other people helped them to get onto their phone.

By building on top of the Messenger platform a lot of adoption barriers suddenly disappear.

Another key learning for me was that most people are still quite unfamiliar with the idea of a bot within chat platforms (yet). Most people expect that they have to download an app and are very surprised about the fact that they can just directly send messages to Mica. I’m curious how fast bots will become mainstream.

Isn’t it only a hype?

Microsoft announced end of March at their BUILD conference the bot-support on Skype. Two weeks later Facebook announced at their F8 conference that they finally opened their messenger API for bots and the first bots started to be approved by Facebook. Only a few days later Hi Poncho, a Facebook Messenger weather bot, raised 2M of funding.

Further Google presented at their Google I/O (mid May) another innovative chat platform Allo that also should support bots. Further they announced in mid July their Cloud Natural Language API as a Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning framework. IBM also released their NLP framework Watson. So all of the big players in the field are pushing the topic.

From my perspective a “hype” is something where a topic is exaggerated in terms of publicity in contrast to its value. When I talk to people it seems, that people underestimate the topic of bots when they call it “just a hype”.

Here are some facts to think about:

– Users worldwide using messenger platforms:

  • WhatsApp: 1 billion monthly active users (MAU)
  • Facebook Messenger: 1 billion MAU
  • QQ („ICQ“ of China): ~900 mio MAU
  • WeChat („WhatsApp“ of China): 800 mio MAU
  • Twitter: 310 mio MAU
  • Skype: 300 mio MAU
  • Line App (Asia) : 220 mio MAU
  • Telegram: 100 mio MAU
  • Kik (USA): 200 million registered users (total)
  • Slack: 4 million daily active users
  • Viber: 800 mio users (total)

– Ease to use: No app install needed, platform independent and no waiting involved until a new release is approved. People are used to the user interface because they already “learned” these platforms.

Chatbots are not only a hype, they are the future of conversational commerce!

How long does it take to develop a chatbot?

There is no straight forward answer to this question, as it largely depends on what the bot should do and unterstand. While a simple one task bot can be developed rather quickly (weeks) the development of a complex conversation bot can take quite a while (months).

The development of a chatbot can be split in three distinct phases: conception, programming, testing and further development. Like with many projects the conception and specification of what the bot should do and how it should interact with its users is the most time intensive phase. Good planning and a thorough specification will prevent a lot of issues further in the project.

The duration of the development, based on the specification, depends on the scope of functions and conversational ability, the amount of channels you want to use and the quality of your datasource.

And as with any online project, the launch of the bot, is only the start of the real work. As user feedback is instantaneous and you can also directly monitor which functions are used and which seem to be missing, the need to adapt and extend the bot is even more pressing than with any other App or Webpage and will strongly determine the success or the failure of the project.

How much does a chatbot cost?

Also here the answers is: it depends. It depends on the amount of functions, how clear your use case is and how much work you can (or want to) do in house. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation, where we can help you to structure your chatbot project and then based on that give you a much clearer understanding of the time and costs involved.

Contact: office@chatbotsagency.com

Insights into Chatbots Development

From a talk founder Barbara Ondrisek gave in November: