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Chatbot HistoryMarch 9, 2017Written by Alex Debecker

Introduction to the Chatbot Trend

How did we ever manage without them?

There is little doubt that today chatbots are everywhere.

Most of the time we don’t even know that we are using them. From social media helpers to big business facilitators, they have many invaluable uses. But first of all - what is a chatbot?

Quite simply, a chatbot is a service which is powered by rules and, more and more often, artificial intelligence. You interact with it by using a chat interface, such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram or WeChat.

Many are used just for fun, but the convenience of being able to chat in real-time has become invaluable.

In this article, we are going to look at why the chatbot trend has picked up so much steam lately, how businesses are starting to use them, and what we can expect from them in the future.


Why do chatbots make our lives so much easier?

Let’s say that you wanted to buy a new outfit from an online clothing store.

Usually, the first step would be to visit the store’s website, browse through all the items, many of which are not what you are looking for; then finally you find what you want and buy it.

Now let's assume that this particular online store has a chatbot available on Facebook Messenger.

Instead of wasting all that time, you could go to their Facebook page, tell the chatbot what you are looking for and it will help you to find the exact item. Just like a sales assistant would help you in the shop itself, the conversational chatbot is there for you - except it is much quicker, available 24/7, and doesn't require you to leave home or the office.


Where we will find them

Buying clothes is just one example, chatbots have lots of use cases and will soon be present in our everyday lives.

So many of us now check the weather on a daily basis: should we take an umbrella or not? The weather bots will tell us to the minute what will happen.

Online grocery shopping is now very big and made incredibly simple by - yes you’ve guessed it - the grocery bot.

No time to buy a newspaper? Well, this doesn’t matter because we can hear all about current affairs simply be using a news bot like The Guardian.

the guardian persistent menu facebook messenger

The Guardian news chatbot


Bots are also useful for helping to manage personal finances and schedule meetings, no matter where in the world the other person might be.

They are even being used for life coaching; helping to find solutions to problems. The Xiaoice bot, for example, becomes your friend and is, somewhat sadly, used by more than 20 million people.


Chatbots help businesses on social media

Facebook users no longer interact with their friends or colleagues across timelines - they are using the Messenger app.

In fact, today (March 2017), Facebook boasts over 1.8 billion monthly active users and over 1 billion for Messenger and growing.

facebook messenger growth graph techcrunchFacebook Messenger daily active user growth (source: Techcrunch)

This trend has become a stepping stone for chatbots, paving the way for bots to allow users to have access to all sorts of services, such as ordering a taxi or food inside their messaging app.

Interacting with a chatbot is simple. Users just have to send it a message to start interacting with the brand. This led companies to commission chatbots that can, for example, answer customer support questions at any time day or night.


Technological trends come and go, but chatbots are here to stay

Chatbots make our lives easier.

They save us time and help us to be better organised. They allow us to keep in contact with friends, relatives and business acquaintances effortlessly and quickly.

From a business point of view, chatbots also make our lives easier. They help us automate processes and offer new opportunities to attract, convert, and delight customers.

As with all technology, chatbots still have a long way to go, and it will be interesting to see just what they will be able to accomplish as they develop.

One thing is for sure, they are in use by millions of people around the world every day, and the chatbot trend is just getting started.