This last November I was in Boston, MA attending Inbound, Hubspot's annual conference. Darmesh Shah the CTO and Co-founder of Hubspot once again took his place at center stage to give his annual keynote speech along with his founding partner Brian Halligan. Darmesh introduced to the crowd the project he had been working on called Growthbot, which is like a chatbot on steroids. Darmesh claimed that this new technology of chatbots would soon revolutionize software and business.
At first mention, I was skeptical, I mean isn't this technology just a new way of chatting online? There are plenty of companies that have already done this, right?
Naturally, after the conference, my curiosity took over and I started researching the idea of chatbots. What bots are available now? What are their capabilities? What technologies are used? etc. and I'm convinced that Darmesh is right. This new technology of chatbots will change how most companies do business. And I predict this technology will be broadly adopted in 2018.
After hearing about Growthbot I was curious enough that I wanted to see what it could do, so I looked it up online and learned that it integrates with Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and Slack. I decided to add it to the easiest channel for testing without worrying about sending messages to my entire network if I screw up, Slack.
For those of you still not using Slack, it's a communication app that keeps all your communication together in one place. Real-time messaging, archiving and search are some of its core features, plus it integrates with other applications or what I'll call bots. So not only can you communicate with your teammates about company projects, you can also communicate with AI bots from other companies to make your web experience faster. What you use to use your browser to do is now being integrated into AI bots.
For example, let's say you have an upcoming meeting to attend in New York and you need a flight from Seattle to JFK.
First, you have to integrate Kayak's app with Slack. You do this by adding Kayak's bot to your Slack channel, after clicking one or two buttons. Most apps/bots can be found on Slack's App Directory here: (http://[yourslackchannel].slack.com/apps (1 minute process)
Once the app is integrated you can use it going forward at any time within that Slack channel.
Second, you start using the app by adding /kayak + your search parameter to any of your channels.
(Some apps add an AI member on the side of your channel and require an invite to the channel you want to use it in such as /invite @[botname], like the image below with slackbot, graphiq, and growthbot)
Now anytime I need to search for a flight I don't need to go to Kayak and search for my flight, Kayak's AI bot does it for me...now for my flight I just type "/kayak flight from seattle to new york tomorrow" and this is what pops out:
Pretty sweet, huh?
The reality is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Let's go deeper down the rabbit hole digging into Growthbot's capabilities.
Let's say I'm doing some competitive research and I want to know what technology my competition uses on their website. With Growthbot all I do is type "/growthbot what technologies does XYZ.com use?" and out pops that companies martech stack. (I use Uber for an example)
Maybe I want to know what ad networks Uber is using. I type "/growthbot what ad networks is Uber using?" and I suddenly see those ad networks Uber is using.
You can see how useful this would be for research. It's a lot faster than searching through Uber's source code or going to a 3rd party website that provides this as a service. Slack has a growing bot community so feel free to explore and see the other great technologies being developed.
Remember in the beginning how I said Growthbot could integrate with Twitter and Facebook Messenger well this technology can be used cross-platform and that's one of the reasons bots will be so powerful. Imagine being on an app you love, let's use Facebook Messenger for simplicity, and your friend mentions how popular Taylor Swift is now but you have your doubts. So you use your bot integration to find out by typing "/graphiq Taylor Swift popularity over time". Right there and then you get a graph showing that last year her popularity decreased from the beginning of 2016.
(I'm not sure if Graphiq has this integration, the image below is from Slack)
If you're sick of filling out forms to get content raise your hand. Yep, I know every marketer's hand in the room went up, and even if you are not in marketing I'm guessing the rest of your hands went up as well. Marketing is changing, quickly, it always has and probably always will. Technology now allows us, marketers to quickly develop campaigns, create hard to resist content, and personalize messaging like never before. Ten years ago a form was something you typically saw on a "Contact Us" page, now you see forms hit you in the face on every modern website you visit. This trend is not good, Google is starting to penalize websites that have pop-forms on their mobile websites and people are no longer willing to fill out another form only to get mildly entertaining content. The effectiveness of forms is decreasing rapidly and newer technologies are being developed that offer a better experience for the consumer and thus a higher conversion rate.
One of the technologies replacing forms is chat. I'm not talking about the "chat with us" buttons that just sat on your website waiting for someone to click them. These new chatbots are interactive, they predict visitor's behavior, and interact with the visitor at the right moment as AI or with a live person. At, Enduur we have two very large clients that had experienced a decrease in their conversion rates year after year. Their conversion rates were hovering around 15% until we implemented and interactive chat with them. After implementing an interactive chatbot their conversion rates went from 15% to 65%, a huge step in the right direction. They ungated their content and started to use predictive analysis to help them know when the user was ready to interact. Such a better user experience than a form and the results were more business, imagine that.
Intercom is one of many chatbots on the market but they have some pretty cool features that led to my understanding of the potential of chatbots.
First, Intercom encourages visitors to leave their email or phone in the chat in a non-intrusive way. If the visitor has something come up and needs to leave they can continue the conversation through their email or text which is a great way to get questions answered.
Second, Intercom allows you to send messages based on user behavior. So, after X number of visits or X number of page views or countless other measurements you can fire off a message of your choice.
Third, their product is not just text based. You can include videos, images, files, and personalize your automatic replies. This allows you to quickly respond to visitors and customers, decreasing required support and improving your interactions.
Fourth, analytics. You can see how many messages have been opened, clicked, and replied.
Fifth, data enrichment. Once a person engages with you or your AI and enters their email, Intercom will expand the data you have on the person with data enrichment adding in names, locations, language, OS, browser, etc.
Sixth, integration. They allow you to integrate with Slack, Facebook, Salesforce, Twitter, Marketo, Shopify, etc.
These are all features that are part of the "Acquire" suite. If you buy their other products you can send in-app messages, automated emails, push notifications on mobile, and maintain customer support through tickets.
This was one of many chatbot companies I researched and seems to be the market leader right now, with one startup Drift nipping at their heels.
Through my chatbot research, I begin to notice similarities in platforms. Many apps have the ability to use SMS messaging, calling, video conferencing and multi-channel messaging. Could there be an application that is helping these bots be so efficient at communication? It turns out there is such an application, that's called Twilio. In full disclosure, I don't know how much Twilio is built into any bot, but the point is that this technology is now available to any company.
Twilio is super easy to understand, it helps any application communicate through every modern communication channel. Video messaging...yes, text messaging...yes. What about calls or authentication?...yes and yes. If you need to communicate your software to your users just implement Twilio and you'll be set.
At this point, I began to see how a company could easily create communication for anyone anywhere through their app/bot and easily integrate with Slack, Facebook, Twitter, etc. but there was still one piece of the puzzle that was missing. A company still would need to create a bot to handle the backend of their software, right?
Finally, I stumbled upon Smooch and Motion.ai. Motion.ai is still in beta but they are creating a platform to...create bots. Yes, you read that right. The tagline on their website reads "Visually build, train & deploy bots to do just about anything".
If you scroll down on their homepage you see the next compelling statement.
"Build everywhere your users are."
So I can build a bot visually using logic to define how it interacts and what it returns to users? ...And it has an API?
This is where I start to realize 2018 is the year of that SaaS companies become bot companies.
I look at their list and I'm familiar with everything they mention "SMS..yea, Facebook Messenger..yea, Slack...yea,etc." but wait what the hell is "Smooch", I've never heard of that before. So I look them up...their tagline
"Multi-channel messaging made simple"
With Smooch you can build a custom messaging app that integrates with anything you can imagine, including bot building/hosting companies.
So what bot building companies exist?
These are the bot companies that Smooch integrates with and I'm sure there are others, but at this point, I see the full potential of the bot companies so I stop going down the rabbit hole. All of the bot companies have API's that any SaaS company could use to return their own data. All of this can be done inside a bot that companies don't need to code but can build out visually. Talk about speed to market!
I predict many SaaS companies will start to adopt this technology in 2017 and in 2018 we will see a mass rollout of bots everywhere.
As Gupshup says on their website
The time to build your bot is....now.
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