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The bots are coming! Are you ready?

Last week we held our MARCOM Annual Conference (more on that in a future post) where I moderated a roundtable discussion on bots. I thought I ‘d share a few notes from my handout.

Working Definitions (sometimes used interchangeably)

  • Bot: A piece of software that is designed and created to automate the kinds of tasks we would usually do on our own such as making a reservation, adding an event to your calendar, opening a program or displaying a summary report (e.g. general personal assistant bots such as Siri [Apple], Cortana [Microsoft], Echo [Amazon], Google Assistant [Google])
  • Chatbot: A computer algorithm typically built within a messaging platform that is designed to simulate an intelligent conversation with one or more human users via conversational interfaces (e.g. Hyatt chatbot on Facebook Messenger or H&M chatbot on Kik)

Global Drivers of Bot Adoption

  • Over 50% (3.7 billion) of the global population now has internet access
  • Of this group, 78% access the internet via smartphone and 76% use some form of social networking
  • Instant messaging has now surpassed social networking as the top daily online activity. It has simplified how we interact.
  • Websites can be complicated and tend to suffer from way too much info for today’s quick consumption habits
  • People are tired of apps (65% of smartphone users download no new apps; 7 used on average). Also, apps need to be downloaded and most are poorly designed and require new UI learning each time
  • Advancements in natural language understanding and rise of voice and image based search

Common Bot Traits

  • Specific to Each Messaging App (e.g. Quick replies, buttons, persistent menus, list templates, carousels)
  • Enriched UI Elements (e.g. Predefined elements used to enrich UI and UX, HTML5 webviews give app-like look and feel)
  • Supportive Conversation (e.g. Structured inputs and predictive text to minimize typing effort for users)
  • Streamlined interface (e.g. All interaction and history in one stream, growing ability for bots to connect to other bots)
  • Group chat (e.g. Ability to add bots to a group or bring a bot into a conversation through an in-line reference).

Bot Monetization Models

  • Subscription (freemium model)
  • Offering data/analytics insights
  • Selling actual tangible goods
  • Referral fees (e.g.  Airline Bot talking to Car Rental Bot)
  • In-bot virtual goods

Finding Bots

  • Search within a supporting messaging app (FB Messenger, Skype, Kik, WeChat, Slack, etc.)
  • Featured in a messaging app (e.g. Bot Discovery in FB Messenger)
  • External bot listing sites and stores (e.g.,,,
  • Shortlinks /QR codes posted on print materials

Evolution of Bots and Predictions Going Forward

  • 2015 : First bots launch on select messaging platforms
  • 2016-2017 : Bot compatibility integrated into most messaging platforms (Over 100K bots on FB alone)
  • Next 1-2 years : Users learn to adopt and use bots as bot ecosystem grows
  • 2-4 years from now : Most daily mobile tasks are bot assisted in some way, while bots in general get smarter through AI
  • Ongoing : Human supervision (human takeover/triage when needed)

“Chat apps will come to be thought of as the new browsers; bots will be the new websites. This is the beginning of a new Internet.” -Ted Livingston, Founder of Kik

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