Are chatbots overhyped or are they the real thing?
The Next Big Thing in mobile, many people will have you believe, is chatbots, which help people do things such as ordering food, finding airplane flights, getting information, and more by typing or talking. Chatbots use artificial intelligence to simulate conversations with you, and then do your bidding.
As with any new technology, there are plenty of claims about the future of chatbots, including that they’ll completely replace mobile apps. But what’s the truth about them? Are they just a passing fad, or will they eventually supplant apps on your mobile device? Here’s a look at the truth around mobile apps and chatbots.
One thing is clear: They’re more than a passing fad. McKinsey says 29% of U.S. customer service positions could be automated through chatbots and similar technologies. BI Intelligence says that translates into $23 billion in savings annually. These findings echo those of a Gartner report, which estimates that 85% of customer interactions will be done without a human by 2020.
Why Chatbots Will Thrive
The IT consulting firm Maruti Techlabs argues in its blog, “Why Can Chatbots Replace Mobile Apps Immediately?” that the days of apps are numbered, and they’ll be replaced by chatbots. The blog points to a report by Nielsen that the number of apps people use has stagnated over the last several years as evidence that people are tired of using apps. Because of that, the firm argues, many apps will eventually die out due to a lack of interest in them.
The blog also notes that 75% of people with smartphones already use some kind of messaging app, so are used to interacting via text. The blog summarizes its claims of chatbots’ superiority to mobile apps this way: They’re natural-seeming and human-like, load and work more quickly than apps and websites, are easier to use, and can be developed more quickly.
Why Chatbots Won’t Replace Mobile Apps
All that sounds compelling, but the mobile and web analytics firm Amplitude counters in its blog “Chat Bots Won’t Replace Apps Any Time Soon” that the chatbot phenomenon is more hype than reality- and it has statistics to back up its claim. The company surveyed 150 people in software companies who work in product management, engineering, C-suite, and marketing roles, and asked how they are using or are planning to use chatbots. It found that for the moment, at least, there’s a lot more talk than action when it comes to developing chatbots.
The survey found that 88% of respondents have not yet developed a bot. Of those who had developed one, “33% were recent adopters of bots, with only 1-3 months since the bot was added to the app, and 33% were early adopters, with over 1 year of bot use.”
The survey was taken last year, and found that 83% of people had no plans to develop bots in 2016. As to why they weren’t interested in developing bots, 72% chose this reason: “The value that bots will bring to our users is unclear.”
Amplitude CEO Spenser Skates summed it up this way in an interview with Mobile World Live: “When you’re dealing with limited time and resources, it doesn’t make sense to prioritize something that you’re not sure will improve your users’ experience.”
The upshot of all this? Chatbots clearly have a future. But it’s unlikely they’ll completely replace mobile apps now or ever.