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.
How can it get any better? Well, your chat experience is about to change dramatically, perhaps even without you realizing it at all. 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. The world of messaging is about to undergo a significant change.
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/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.
What can bots do? Bots can do whatever they’re programmed to do – which is just about anything. Anything possible with desktop apps, web sites or mobile apps will be possible through messaging bots. As more offline devices get connected online, such as smart car, smart home, wearables, IOT devices etc, software programs will be able to control those devices too.
How will this impact you as a consumer? As a consumer, services are about to get a lot more convenient for you. All ecommerce activities will become available through your messaging app. You’ll be able to buy things, order food, book travel, make reservations and so on through your messaging app. You’ll be able to chat and transact with any company you do business with: your bank, insurance company, telecom company, utility company and more. You’ll receive better and faster customer support through chat. You’ll be able to track and monitor stock markets, railway waiting list, 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 ERP, CRM, HRMS etc will be accessible through messaging apps. Sales-tracking, performance monitoring, training and development, employee engagement, inventory tracking etc becomes a lot easier through messaging apps. Organizations will become nimbler and adptive 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 business that adopt smart messaging.
What will messaging look like then? It is hard to perform the advanced activities described above with traditional messaging apps. 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. To address these limitations, a new type of messaging apps is emerging: smart messaging apps. These 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.
When will all this happen? Well, it’s already happening. In China, the messaging app Wechat enables consumers to buy products, order pizzas, book taxis, send payments, perform bank transactions and more. In India, HDFC is using 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. Startups 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 Quickwork has developed staffing and training bots for its candidates. A quick disclaimer: 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? Every new wave of technology creates opportunities and risks. Entrepreneurs and developers have the opportunity to repurpose old services into new messaging bots. Businesses have the opportunity to adopt smart messaging to dramatically improve internal communication and coordination across their organization. The only choice for entrepreneurs and businesses is to pave the new road or become roadkill as the new trend emerges.