23 February 2018
The future of chatbots is unknown. When Facebook announced in 2016 that it would allow developers to place chatbots on its Messenger app, the expectations were high. According to Vice President David Marcus from Facebook Messenger 100,000 chatbots were launched on their platform since then (status April 2017). This way, companies were able to dramatically reduce the workload of their customer service employees. At the same time, they would improve user experience.
At that time experts thought chatbots would eventually replace native apps. Nowadays the euphoria is slightly tempered, as there is still no chatbot that seems to be a real game-changer. We hear positive and negative noises about the future of this virtual assistant. On one side, it is thought that the digital habits of millennials have a positive impact on the development of chatbots. But on the other side, chatbots are thought to be slowly dying, referring to the failure of AI-driven bot M on Messenger.
Ted Livingston, CEO of Kik, a Canada-based platform with over 20,000 chatbots, shared his interesting vision last year. According to Livingston, payments have been the key missing piece for chatbots. Livingston says customers hate the hassle of downloading an app, create an account and learn how to use it. All of this can be solved with bots. You just scan – for example a QR code – with your smartphone and a bot will appear. This virtual assistant will help you with everything. Yet in the end, if let’s say, you want to pay for your lunch, movie ticket, train ticket or something else, there is in many cases no payment-option available.
Facebook allowed payments in its chatbots since the end of 2016 and Telegram launched a so-called Bot Payment last year; a virtual assistant that sends an invoice message featuring a photo and description of the product along with a prominent pay button. This bot also sends additional details like shipping info, phone numbers or an e-mail address. So far, there’s not much information online about the outcome of these ‘pay-through-bots’.
The search for a breakthrough of chatbots continues. As AI chatbots are getting more advanced and more people use the payment-option, brands are inventing new bots such as the Flo Chatbot from Progressive Insurance, which delivers insurance quotes through Facebook Messenger. According to MarketsandMarkets the global chatbot market is growing by more than 30 percent every year and expects it to be worth almost 3,2 billion dollar by 2021.
In the meantime, we remain curious to see if chatbots are going to live up to their promise this year or if in the end they will die a slow death. A wide integration of payments should be able to give a decisive push in the right direction. We expect that, in the rapidly changing payments market, AI and bots can definitely contribute to increasing efficiency and profit margins. The market will decide if, when and how this will be substantiated. As a payment service provider, we are keen on following the developments to support our clients in their current, as well as in their future needs.