In the app business, developing a chat bot may be a gold mine

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About five years ago the fever of the apps spread among the companies; Before that, it was websites, and more recently, social networks. In each phase everyone wanted to revolutionize their business with their dot com, mobile app, Twitter account. And now it’s the chatbots turn. On a global level, brands of all the twists and turns have built theirs, with more or less success and sophistication: from Barbie to Lufthansa, to Unilever, the NFL, Burger King, H & M, Ford, the list grows every day.

Chatbots are the new pretty girl in marketing.

Bots there are many, but what we refer here is a very specific type: Chatbots or conversational bots. They are programs inserted in a communication application, especially those for messaging, although they can also “live” like profiles in social networks.

And how they can serve a company? “They are especially useful for processes that can be automated, such as technical support queries. We have found that in such queries there are usually ten common questions, “explains Joel Monton, user experience designer at Wizeline, a software consultant who has developed bots for The Wall Street Journal and The Sun.

Chatbots, the perfect ally for your social networks

“They are becoming popular because the whole market is on social networks, and most on Facebook,” continues Monton. It is not the only reason why most (if not all) of the commercial bots being developed for the public run on Facebook Messenger. Yes they can operate outside of that chat, for example, on the company’s own website or in their app, but it is a fact that prioritize Messenger.

“Sending messages is one of the few things people do even more than surfing social networks,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, in November 2014 in an open Q & A session at his company’s headquarters. A quote that has become almost a commonplace when talking about the bets that are being poured on the messaging applications, and the bots are one of them.

In the case of the Nike Style Bot – which was launched last December in Mexico to suggest clothing and products to users – the program can operate on other platforms, but “we have not enabled it because it is not natural for consumers”, Says Ana Lizz Pardo, digital brand manager for Nike Mexico. Another powerful reason to give priority to the Facebook messenger is user data, the main capital of social platforms. So, the bot knows in advance everything that Facebook knows about each one, and that helps you deliver more relevant messages.

“Facebook and Google are putting the first DNA molecules with their APIs [open programming tools], but there’s still a lot left in the specialization,” says Alan Lazalde of Kubo Financiero, a Mexican Fintech who develops his bot. “I think what is going to happen is that many species [of bots] will be created. Now we are seeing some completely generic ones, but I think it will be the companies that will end up specializing them. ”

Examples of success and failure achieved thanks to a chatbot

The ultimate goal of the Nike Style Bot is that you click the “buy” button, through close customer service and enriched with content, yes, but the ideal of every conversation is a sale. Attracting more customers to the end of the purchase process funnel is one of the main missions that are given to commercial bots. This is the case of Aeroméxico Aerobéxico, which since September 2016 has been providing various customer service requests on Facebook Messenger and is able to quote and book flights without leaving the messaging application.

“Following the implementation of Aerobot, Aeromexico’s conversion rate was up 300 percent compared to other channels used to purchase tickets, such as bookings from its website or via email,” says Juan Carlos Asensio, vice president for sales from Yalo, a Mexican software development firm that has also worked on bot projects with other major companies such as Cinépolis and Elektra.

There are also small companies that have looked at bots a way to improve their sales process. In Mexico City, home-based vegan food service Los Loosers has just turned six years of cycling through the streets delivering sandwiches. From the beginning they have taken all their orders through private messages by Facebook and Twitter, but in December of last year they implemented a bot, with help from Yalo.

The process was simple: a hungry user would send a “Hello” and the bot would reply with the menu of the day in photos; Asked the number of dishes to order, the address and the cell phone number of the user and, in theory, the order was ready. However, often the bot did not understand the address and the interaction was diverted to a flesh-and-blood worker to close the order, reported two frequent diners of this service. The Loosers declined to comment. The Looserbot ceased operations in June 2017.

In the strip that joins the restaurant scene with the startups, another chatbot has been more successful. Weno is a platform that picks up the menu of different healthy food restaurants in Guadalajara and Tijuana and serves as an intermediary to order online. The mission of this chatbot that runs in Messenger is to simplify the search between the dishes. “Operate in a small context: you tell him that you are hungry and he sends you suggestions of restaurants depending on your location. Or you tell him what you crave (for example, “avocado” or “taco”) and look for dishes, to finally go to the restaurant page in Weno.

Entrepreneurs will play an important role in creating this ecosystem, also by integrating artificial intelligence solutions in all of their processes, not just in sales and customer service. It is still a technology in the making, but its economic impact can already be seen.

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