It is time.
It is now mid-2017, the so-called 'year of the chatbot'. Businesses, brands, and researchers have tried to make sense of the chatbot trend for the better part of this first half of the year.
Are chatbots worth it? Should businesses migrate to using some sort of automated chat interface to service their customers? Do consumers even care about chatbots?
As you know, we have put our share of work in answering these very questions. Our latest research has recently been picked up and featured in various online publications like Econsultancy, CBR, and Business Insider.
In this article, I want to bundle up a bunch of reasons (and highly relevant stats to back them up) to help you understand why chatbots will grow your business. Though I will include some of our research, I will also refer to some of the amazing work others (including competitors) have done.
Let us get started.
1. (Almost) Everyone is on messaging apps
The figure to back this up: Over 2.5 Billion people have at least one messaging app installed on their phone (The Economist).
That is over a third of the Earth's population right there. Impressive figure if I've ever seen one.
Source: The Economist
The hard truth is this: not having a mobile messaging application strategy in 2017 is almost like not having a social media strategy. With literally over a third of the population on these platforms, growing businesses must focus some of their energy discovering the messaging app channel to make sure they stay relevant.
PS: I am going to share a few mobile messaging related stats & figures. As you'll see, most chatbots live on mobile messaging apps and therefore make them highly relevant to this article.
2. Consumers expect businesses on messaging apps
The figure to back this up: 63.9% of consumers believe businesses should be contactable via messaging apps (The 2016 Mobile Messaging Report).
Alright, a bunch of people are using messaging apps all over the world, so what?
You're right, the sheer amount of users may not convince you to adopt a mobile messaging strategy just yet. But, what about your customers' expectations? This statistic reveals consumers don't just use messaging apps to talk to friends and family, they are also starting to expect the businesses they love to be available through them.
3. Old means of communications won't do anymore
The figure to back this up: 49.4% of consumers would rather talk to a business using a messaging app than a phone call (The 2016 Mobile Messaging Report).
This is a big one for me because it really shows a shift in consumer behaviour beyond the technology. I am sure a sociologist could take this statistic and write amazing things about the evolution of our society, human interactions, and the impact of technology on our social lives.
But I am no sociologist. So, instead, I will focus on the obvious: your customers would much rather chat with you using their thumbs than their voice.
No one likes to be put on hold. Most people don't actually enjoy using a phone to have a vocal conversation with another human. This trend is even stronger with, you guessed it, millennials. Millennials see phone calls as intrusive or presumptuous. As a result, 75% of millennials will choose to text over call.
4. People love to text. A lot.
The figure to back this up: Over 60 Billion messages are sent every day on Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp alone (Facebook F8).
I am adding this statistic to simply strengthen the points above. 60 billion messages are sent per day on just two messaging apps (albeit the top2 messaging apps out there); that is a significant amount of thumb-typing activity.
What to take from this number, beyond its enormous size, is people love to chat. Not just text, not just send - discuss stuff.
Two and a half billion people would not send over 60 billion messages per day if there wasn't some sort of back and forth going on. This is golden for chatbots! Chatbots are all about back and forth, exchange, and discussions; exactly what consumers seem to love about using messaging apps.
5. Mobile messaging is already winning
The figure to back this up: Messaging apps are the number one customer service channel in the US, South Korea, India, and Singapore (Twilio Global Survey).
This is the perfect way to wrap up the consumers' sentiment towards mobile messaging apps. In Asian countries, messaging apps like WeChat have long been adopted by thriving businesses. People use them to do everything, from ordering food to booking a taxi. In fact, the West is very much lagging behind the East in terms of messaging app adoption.
As we can see, the convenience of using messaging apps is already winning. Where businesses have made these channels a priority (i.e. in the East), consumers have jumped at the opportunity to use them extensively making messaging app channels a huge success.
6. A format people actually read
The figure to back this up: Text messages boast a 98% open rate (Mobile Marketing Watch).
I don't think this one needs further explanation. A comparison, maybe? On average, emails get a 20% open rate.
Texts are read.
7. Chatbot awareness is growing
The figure to back this up: 57% of consumers are aware of what a chatbot is (The 2017 Chatbot Report).
Although chatbots are relatively new technology for the general public, awareness has grown at an incredible rate. Look at this graph pulled from Google Trends using the search term 'chatbot'.
That massive trend you see right there started in March 2016. Though quite a few people have not yet interacted with a chatbot, more and more learn about their existence every day.
This is important for businesses, as it means their initial dabble into the chatbot industry will most likely resonate with a big part of their audience. Some companies could have, up until today, justified not jumping on the chatbot trend for fear of investing in a technology their customers knows nothing about - not anymore.
8. Consumers want interactions.
The figure to back this up: 85% of consumers want to receive messages from brands and to be able to answer (Twilio Global Survey).
Remember when I mentioned us humans with messaging apps installed enjoy actual conversations through these channels? Did you think to yourself 'sure my customers love to chat and exchange loads of messages with their family, but they probably won't want to talk to us, right?'.
Turns out consumers want to engage with brands through messaging apps. Not just receive messages, offers, promo codes, product updates, and the like. They want to have the opportunity to actively reply and start a real conversation.
Again, this is a great opportunity for businesses to invest in chatbots. A chatbot is a perfect solution to allow customers who want to reach out via messaging apps but also exchange multiple messages and start a real conversation.
9. Beyond awareness, there is demand
The figure to back this up: 35% of consumers want more companies using chatbots to solve their queries (The 2017 Chatbot Report).
What is better than consumers knowing about chatbots? Consumers wanting more of them.
Our research showed over a third of consumers want more chatbot interactions in their lives. We dug a little deeper and found plenty of reasons why that is (one mentioned below, keep reading).
As chatbot awareness keeps on spreading, businesses can expect this number to keep growing.
10. The automation trend shows no sign of slowing down
The figure to back this up: 85% of all customer interactions will not require humans by 2020 (Gartner).
There are quite a few different versions of the same statistic. For example, Business Insider predict 80% of businesses will have a chatbot automation in place by 2020.
Whatever number you pick, the result is the same: the trend is not about to slow down. This may not be a customer-facing reason to get into chatbots today, but it does remain a good reason to start now rather than later.
After all, if over 80% of businesses in your industry will get to some sort of chatbot automation by 2020, why not get ahead of the curve and start today?
11. Not just how they want, but when they want
The figure to back this up: 51% of consumers want businesses to be available 24/7 (The 2016 Mobile Messaging Report).
Here is something we all know: customers are demanding. In terms of mobile messaging, we found they not only want to start using this channel to interact with businesses, they also want to do it whenever they please!
Being available 24/7 all year round is pretty much an impossible feat for most businesses. Impossible unless you include some sort of chat automation in there. That's right, chatbots!
12. Instantaneity is key
The figure to back this up: 69% of consumers prefer asking questions to a chatbot because it gives them an instantaneous answer (The 2017 Chatbot Report).
I mentioned in point 9 above that we dug deeper to find why consumers actually want more chatbots. One of the biggest reasons is instantaneity.
Once again, this is an area where a sociologist might find a lot of interesting things to say. Rather simply, though, no one likes to wait. We live at a time when almost everything is at our fingertips, from hiring a cab to renting a flat or accessing thousands of series.
Chatbots offer the same sort of instant gratification. The customers who decide to take a chunk of their precious time to ask your business a question about your product do not want to wait for you to answer 'within 48hrs'. They want it now, and chatbots allow that.
13. Priorities are in order (or not?)
The figure to back this up: 10% of consumers would rather give up sex than messaging (Twilio Global Survey).
Alright, a fun (or scary) one to end this article. Turns out about one out of ten people would be willing to give up sex rather than texting. As shocking as it might seem, I suppose this does reinforce the thesis of this article!