If you’re like the average mobile user, you use a messaging app to chat with friends and family. Very likely, you’re also conducting business through chat, communicating with colleagues, customers and vendors. Chatting is easy, natural and instant.
But the world of messaging is about to undergo a significant change. While all your current chat buddies are probably humans, your new, soon-to-be chat buddies are likely to be bots. Bots are computer programs that will chat with you, just like any human. Bots will serve, advise, inform, entertain, help, assist, trade, transact, motivate, monitor, track, alert and remind you. Sometimes you will not even be able to tell, nor will you care, whether your chat buddy is a human or a bot.
Why is this happening? It’s the natural evolution of the computing industry. The mobile phone has become the world’s primary access device to the Internet. Its most popular and frequent use is messaging. As users spend more time in messaging apps, software developers are starting to deliver services through messaging apps. The messaging app is becoming a platform on which new services are being built. The software programs connect to the messaging platform and send or receive messages just like any other user. Think of them as robots, messaging bots that are programmed to converse with other users and carry out certain actions.
Bots can do whatever they’re programmed to do. Anything possible with desktop apps, websites or mobile apps will be possible through messaging bots. As more offline devices get connected online such as smart cars, smart homes, wearables and connected devices, software programs will be able to control those devices too.
How will this impact you as a consumer? For one, services are about to get a lot more convenient. All e-commerce activities will become available through your messaging app. You will be able to buy things, order food, book travel, make reservations and so on through your messaging app. You will be able to chat and transact with any company you do business with, your bank, insurance company, telco, utility company and more. You will receive better and faster customer support through chat. You will be able to track and monitor stock markets, railway waiting lists, news items and more through your messaging app.
How will this impact you as a business manager? All your enterprise activities will be conducted through messaging because of its simplicity and convenience. Traditional enterprise services such as enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management will be accessible through messaging apps. Sales tracking, performance monitoring, training and development, employee engagement, inventory tracking, etc., will become a lot easier through messaging apps. Organizations will become nimbler and adaptive with the ability to quickly and efficiently coordinate all their resources—human or machine—through smart messaging apps.
Given the all-pervasive impact of coordination and communication, this will become likely the most significant source of competitive advantage for businesses that adopt smart messaging.
What will messaging look like then? Plain-text messaging gets cluttered in large groups. There’s no buy or book or confirm button that’s required for consumer transactions. There’s no way to automate workflows and business processes for enterprises. Smart messaging apps, on the other hand, contain smart messages that have structured data with buttons and fields. Smart messages also make it easier to build messaging bots that can implement advanced algorithms that enable the above-mentioned advanced services.
This is already happening. In China, the messaging app WeChat enables consumers to buy products, order pizza, book taxis, send payments, perform bank transactions and more. In India, HDFC uses sales-tracking bots to manage the performance of its sales teams and training bots for learning and development. ICICI, PNB-Metlife, Bharti-Axa and others are developing bots for internal business workflows.
Start-ups are going even further, developing their entire business models around messaging bots. Social fitness company FitCircle has developed fitness and nutrition bots. Next-gen staffing company Quick Work has developed staffing and training bots for its candidates. A disclaimer is in order here. Many of these companies are using the smart messaging platform, Teamchat, developed by my company, but there are many other messaging platforms and messaging-based services emerging as part of a broader trend.
What should you do? Entrepreneurs and developers have the opportunity to re-purpose old services into new messaging bots. Businesses have the opportunity to adopt smart messaging to dramatically improve internal communication and coordination across their organization. One can pave the new road or become roadkill as this new trend emerges.