We look at a case study of Chatbots in design by +rehabstudio.
Chatbots have actually been around for more than 50 years. In 1950, Alan Turing theorised that a truly intelligent machine would be indistinguishable from a human being during a text-only conversation. Over the last 50 years we’ve had many forms of “chatbots”, from Eliza in 1966 (the world’s first chatbot mimicking responses of a psychotherapist) to Alice in 1995 (a chatbot which served as the inspiration for the 2013 film Her).
Over the past couple of years chatbots have been rising in popularity, particularly within the design world. Now, they are even more accessible to brands, especially after the release of Messenger Platform, Facebook’s platform to build your own bot, which at the beginning of July 2016 already had more than 11,000 chatbots available.
The opportunity for brands is massive with companies like Uber and CNN already taking advantage of the fact that chatbots can do more than just chat – they can send videos, audio clips, GIFS, and other files, meaning the opportunity to engage, centralise and simplify the user journey and nudge consumers along the purchasing process to the right product is huge.
According to Peter Gasston, Creative Technologist at +rehabstudio, “The messaging space is an exciting place to be in at the moment. There is a huge opportunity for brands here to get closer to consumers through messaging, which is a hugely familiar channel for them. It’s also a big opportunity for brands to listen and learn from their customers – not just broadcasting to them: every interaction is a survey.”
Instant Messaging apps are on the rise, while app downloads are on the decline. Experts call this the era of conversational commerce.
Noticing a big trend around ‘app fatigue’ and the fact that on average, users download zero new apps per month, they took advantage of this shift from apps to messaging platforms to create their own bot .
Add to this that the average UK child is more likely to be able to confidently use a mobile phone before being able to ride a bike and that over 70% of children have access to a touch-screen device at home, they saw the potential to hack learning and help National Geographic Kids engage children in a very different way.
+rehabstudio decided to change the way content was consumed by creating an interactive and engaging experience that allowed children to learn whilst having fun using an interface that is both natural and familiar – chat.
Their chatbot allowed the user to have a conversation with a T.Rex called Tina. They used questions from school children to train the chatbot to answer the most common queries, as well as adding in some more left-field questions too. The result speaks for itself – in just 2 weeks, actions on the National Geographic Kids Facebook page doubled, with a 59% increase in likes, and a 2,000% rise in visits.
WHAT CAN BRANDS TAKE AWAY FROM THIS?
Chatbots have the power to revolutise the way we shop and the way we learn. Done right, chatbots can immediately impact a brand’s bottom line, but done wrong, it can have a negative impact on a customer’s perception of the brand itself.
Key to this is working with the right partners, investing properly, and experimenting. Vital, too, is building trust with consumers’ in their daily lives. According to Peter, “Brands need to ask themselves: ‘does this make our consumers life more convenient?’ If yes, do it. If not, then it’s not helpful. Brands shouldn’t just duplicate apps - if the service works better as an app, we shouldn’t be creating messaging bots for the sake of it.”
Rob Bennett, Managing Director at +rehabstudio, adds “The best chatbots are long term relationships, not one night stands. Not only do they relieve us from the administrative drudgery of researching and purchasing, but they can remember our preferences, our proclivities and the things we like. By establishing trust and delivering value, they help us along a journey”.
Peter adds that “businesses need to clearly set the user’s expectations very early on by establishing a clear and narrow domain for their bot, ie. what the bot is there to do, and then test it, test it, and test it again. Bots should do exactly what they say on the tin and they should do it seamlessly to ensure there is no tension or friction for the user”.
BE WARY OF GOING HEAD FIRST INTO AI
AI is complicated and often not worth the effort. Brands don’t necessarily need to see chatbots as an unknown journey into the AI space.
Peter highlights this, saying, “Lots of businesses are trying to create bots that use Artificial Intelligence, and this is difficult because AI is still in the infancy stage. There is no requirement to even use Artificial Intelligence; many bots have been really successful just through using a mix of text input with interface elements like buttons and links. In fact, depending on what experience you’re offering to users, guided bots which use graphical user interface elements such as links or buttons can be far more effective.”
More work is needed to improve the chatbot experience and the most forward looking brands are already investing in this.