Chatbots making serious waves in Asia

Across APAC, a revolution is taking place that will forever change how brands and publishers interact with their audiences.

From Japan to China to India, chatbots are growing in popularity with more and more industries recognizing the benefits of using this medium to ‘talk’ to and engage with users.

This may come as no surprise, especially given the popularity of platforms like Snapchat and SNOW which reach users on a device they already rely on – their phones. Not to mention, chatbots now let you do everything, from diagnosing medical conditions to enhancing your selfies.

Familiarity

Messaging apps – on which chatbots live – are now officially more popular than social networking apps The issue for brands and publishers, however, is that messaging apps are ‘closed door’ social networks and take place in the private arena, unlike Facebook and Twitter. The question brands and publishers now face is how to engage with these private social network users.

Here lies the strength of chatbots. They seamlessly and effortlessly integrate into a messaging ecosystem that millions of users interact with constantly. There is nothing extra to download, no next step, and no clunky code to embed – just a platform that people everywhere are already using to engage with friends and family on a daily (or hourly) basis.

Banking on Chatbots

This familiarity is what gives chatbots the edge even in industries where ‘positive user experience’ isn’t a term commonly thrown around at company meetings. For example, major banks, including DBS bank in Singapore, have begun investing resources into creating chatbots to enhance the overall online banking experience in order to make it more accessible and enjoyable for customers. Similarly, insurance companies are beginning to utilize chatbots as the industry aims to appeal to millennials. As Adelyn Zhou, CMO of TOPBOTS, puts it: “People are much more open when conversing with a chatbot – they share more information because it is in a conversational context.”

In the Snapchat generation, do we really expect users to go into their banking app, select a payee, select an account, and then send funds via Venmo or any other service? Every barrier that brands add to their user journey will harm their funnel, and chatbots are now here to make it more seamless.

In-App Service

Banks aside, the service industry is where chatbots are thriving the most. In China, WeChat now offers chatbots that enable you to order at a restaurant, book a stay at a hotel, or plan an upcoming trip. It may not be long before chatbots can connect to smart devices and allow you to cook dinner, clean your home, or even drive your car.

Meanwhile in Japan, Line recognized the need to step up their chatbot game, announcing a chatbot competition that will take place in early 2017. This smart step allows users to have a serious impact on what type of chatbots they will potentially see in the near future.

Talk Data to Me

By ‘chatting’ and ‘replying’ to users, chatbots are able to gain invaluable data and insights on user behavior, and tailor their responses and deliverables accordingly. This data is especially crucial for publishers as it enables them to provide tailormade content and thus deliver readers narratives they actually want to consume.

This has already worked wonders for Techinasia. The publisher started using chatbots to send out custom stories and offer subscriptions to its readership. As a result, the outlet gained what it referred to as “priceless data” on what their readers are interested in.

A Look Ahead

Zhou asserts: “In less than 5 years, chatbots will be where apps are today. And in less than 10 years, highly intelligent chatbots will be where websites are today.” That said, in 2017, I fully expect to see more and more brands and publishers rely on chatbots not just in APAC, but globally as well. As a go-to source for bookings, searches, tasks, purchases, and more, chatbots may even start to rival Google as an in-app search engine. Instead of leaving your messaging app to search for the latest news, find out the weather, or skim a recap of your favorite show, you’ll just ask your reliable news chatbot to send you the content you want. Now that’s something we’ll all be talking about.

Shaul Olmert is Co-Founder and CEO of authoring and distribution platform, Playbuzz

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