The Future of Chatbots and Mobile Apps

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Two technologies stand poised to wage a battle for dominance in the customer service sector within the next few years. Mobile apps have long been a popular way for companies to offer support to their customers, but the relatively recent rise of chatbots may soon threaten their supremacy.

To settle the debate, we’re going to compare the pros and cons of each option, and give you our prediction on which one will emerge victorious.

The first question we need to answer is: why do some people foresee chatbots overtaking apps? To answer that, we need to look at what most companies are currently using their apps to accomplish.

It might seem like the variety of tasks that apps can perform is endless, but here’s something you might not know: most companies don’t do much with their app that couldn’t be done on their website.

Websites and most apps (be it native or hybrid) essentially serve the same purpose: they provide a collection of information that users can navigate through to learn about the company that made them. The reason that apps are particularly in vogue right now is because the demographics of internet users are shifting.

Most people don’t access the internet from a desktop anymore—they use their mobile phone to do it. The scales tipped in 2016, and the trend is predicted to continue (until, presumably, someone invents a more compact and convenient way to access the internet).

New Tools for a New Era

Mobile apps represented a better way to grab customers who were searching the internet with mobile devices for several reasons: they were easier to use than web pages, and easier to find than mobile sites. However, that’s hardly the case now. Apps used to be easier to find because there weren’t very many of them, but all of that has changed. Today, Google Play and the App Store each have well over 2 million apps.

Chatbots, on the other hand, haven’t yet made it to six-digit numbers on Facebook Messenger, which is by far their largest platform. What that means is that chatbots represent a much less competitive space than mobile apps, which some users are even avoiding now because of the sheer proliferance of them.

Lest you think that chatbots are less competitive because they’re less valuable though, consider this: Facebook Messenger has over a billion potential customers for them. Early adopters can still use chatbots to carve out a much bigger slice of the pie then they’ll be able to once they become the norm.

How Chatbots Are Pulling Ahead

Chatbots can provide all of the functions that a website or mobile app offers: namely, the communication of essential information to visitors, whether they’re on a mobile device or a computer. However, chatbots also offer a level of interactivity that apps can’t hope to match, making them a more powerful resource when built correctly.

A user on an app who doesn’t see an answer to their question has to call customer service and hope someone picks up the phone. A user interacting with a chatbot can simply ask them, and receive an instant response. As such, chatbots stand to make much better customer service tools, and can even take an active role in driving sales by responding to a customer’s input and making suggestions.

The Spotify chatbot is an excellent example: it lets you search for music easily, then suggests new playlists based on things like your mood or present activities and share it with your friends.

Spotify's chatbots

Spotify’s chatbot let’s you share your favourite music with your friends. Tap the +, select Spotify,
find songs and share.

Chatbots on Facebook Messenger can also accept payments directly, making something like Hipmunk‘s Messenger-based travel bot the only point of contact a customers needs to book a trip.

Mobile apps aren’t going to disappear this year, but app use is expected to stagnate within a few years. Meanwhile, Chatbot use is steadily rising. If you want to make sure you’re reaching the most potential customers, it might be time to give the app idea a break and focus your energy on a more up-and-coming technology.

Nick Rojas

Nick Rojas combines 10 years of experience working with and consulting for small to medium business and a passion for journalism to help readers grow. He writes about technology, marketing, and social media for the aspiring entrepreneur. When Nick is not sharing his expertise, he can be found spending time at the beach with his dog Presto.


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