Chatbots: A Passing Trend or New Way to Prototype?

17th January 2017 · Kevin Howes

Chatbots have been around for a while, is 2017 the year they finally become a key part of Prototyping processes?

Chances are you’ve encountered or heard about a Chatbot at some point. Whether it be Cleverbot, one of the first mainstream internet robots to reply to queries with relevant (if not sometimes nonsensical) replies, Bots that help you around a website or assist you in retrieving information such as KLM’s bot on Facebook Messenger, or Microsoft’s AI Twitter account TayTweets, who after being coerced by trolls, started posting racist, genocidal and extremist statements and had to be shut down. Up until now, many have seen them as a gimmick, purely for a bit of fun. However, other purposes are being explored and the advantages of realistic, AI Chatbots are becoming clearer.

Perhaps the most obvious and beneficial use of bots is to drive traffic and revenue. Bots can not only answer questions but also act as personal assistants, personal shoppers and even booking agents. For instance, a bot could book a taxi for you, or find a coupon for the shop you’re about to enter. While these benefit the consumer by providing an individual customer experience and speeding up various processes, they also reduce the workload for a company and steer customers towards successful conversions.

Bots Driving Revenue
Chatbots being used to drive revenue and customer traffic towards conversions

Behind the scenes uses for chatbots are now being implemented too, namely in prototyping. With chatbots able to understand speech patterns, responses and needs of their human counterparts, they can give companies heaps of information about their product before it launches. In an article on Medium, IDEO discuss how they used bots to collect conversation from people and learn exactly what people are looking for. The chatbots gave an opportunity for people to be more intimate, honest and relaxed than when talking to a human. Understanding the specific needs of the consumer gave invaluable advantages to the creators when designing a final product.

IDEO Milton Chatbot
IDEO’s Milton Bot used to offer information about applying for benefits and in exchange gaining insights into what people really need.

Chatbots provide something that businesses don’t: the sense that you, the consumer is the complete, individual focus. The bot works for you, understands you and hopefully provides exactly what you need. They also suggest anonymity, allowing those with more personal needs to be more comfortable admitting what they need. By considering these informal responses as well as those which are gathered normally, companies can truly benefit from using chatbots in prototyping their products and ensuring they meet the true needs of their customers. 2017 is sure to bring a rapid rise in the development and utilisation of the bots – what other purposes might they be used for?