In 1994, I was a huge fan of the X-Men animated series. I distinctly remember an episode titled “Time Fugitives”, which featured Cable, a time-traveling mutant vigilante from the future, talking to a floating cube that gave him historical information about the X-Men of the past. I never thought that technology would exist in my lifetime, but I found myself a week ago sitting in my living room asking my Google Home (which resembles an air freshener rather than a cube) questions about historical context.
Conversational UI’s - chatbot and voice assistant technologies - are becoming commonplace in consumer’s lives. Messaging apps alone account for 91% of all time people spent on mobile and desktop devices. Soon, almost every major smartphone and computer will be equipped with Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, or Samsung’s Bixby. These voice assistants are even being integrated into common home electronics - televisions, set-top boxes, video game units, and even washing machines and refrigerators. Sales of home personal assistants are on the rise, with the Amazon Echo alone having increased sales nine-fold year over year. Search giants Google and Microsoft are reporting significant increases in voice searches, each claiming about 25% of mobile searches are now performed using voice.
The trends are clear - conversational UI’s are only becoming more prevalent in our lives, and some predict will replace common technologies that we use today. And in order to continue to engage audiences wherever they are, in the way they prefer to engage, companies should be investing in developing apps that leverage these technologies at home and in the workplace.
Benefits of Building Applications for Conversational UI’s Now
While you may question the business benefits of developing applications that leverage conversational UI’s at such an early stage in the maturation of this technology, there are some clear benefits that come with being on the leading edge of leveraging new technologies to engage consumers:
Early adoption can lead to great PR
Standing on the leading edge and developing applications for these emerging platforms can present a great opportunity to earn publicity, and position your organization as an innovative brand. An example of this can be seen in this eConsultancy article about CapitalOne’s Amazon Echo skill.
You can test new market opportunities
Conversational UI’s may present an opportunity to engage with a market that your organization is not currently. You may identify opportunities to gain new customers, improve customer satisfaction, or create new revenue streams by extending existing products and services into platforms with voice and chat interfaces. Some companies are already starting to offer paid tiers for services delivered via or selling advertising on conversational UI applications.
Early adoption can provide a competitive advantage
While being first to market with a conversational UI app is not always a guarantee of success, it can provide you a leg up over the competition. If you start early, you will have an opportunity to identify best approaches to engage consumers on these new platforms, allowing you to have a well-defined experience once your competitors enter the market. Your brand may also be able to secure a percentage of the market share early due to a lower cost of user acquisition.
US consumers are creatures of habit, and prefer to go back to familiar stores, products, and services they trust. In an ideal scenario, your conversational UI application will become integrated into consumer’s work and or home life before the market is saturated.
In all fairness, developing a conversational UI application is not easy. There are some risks associated that we would be remiss if we did not inform you of:
This is still the wild-wild west - very few best practices or standards have been established.
It can be expensive to develop and implement, across the myriad of devices/services.
There is a potentially high learning curve depending on the platform you are building for and technologies you use to develop your app.
At this time, there are no clear methods for efficiently testing features on voice assistant applications.
Deployment of content to this various platforms may require use of many different CMS systems.
While there are risks associated with this starting to leverage conversational UI applications, the long-term benefits may outweigh the short-term losses.
Stay tuned for part 2, where we will discuss how you can start leveraging conversational UI applications to build your brand and grow your business.