Crazy for Bots: The Benefits and How They Will Take Over Business

A lotta bots are getting hot.

“If you’ve been reading some of the tech trades lately, you would be forgiven for believing bots have finally taken over society,” writes Christian Brucculeri on “Once we look past the noise, the opportunity is vast.”

Their widespread use is being driven by advances in artificial intelligence and by burgeoning mobile messaging, with analysts predicting that by 2020 humans will be sending 160 trillion mobile messages daily. That’s huge for marketers, since average read rates in mobile are 90 percent compared to 25 percent for email.

For the uninitiated, bots are the software applications that perform simple, repetitive automated tasks on the internet at rates that leave humans in the dust. They’re most often used to analyze and file information from web servers in a process known as web crawling or spidering. The digital critters known as chatbots are specifically used to interact with people or each other — in applications ranging from practical to just plain fun.

How bots are improving our lives

Bots take over tasks that would be tedious for humans and make them faster and more efficient — often becoming, in effect, personal assistants. They allow for fast, easy, highly personalized online shopping, banking, bill paying, appointment making, entertainment viewing, mapping, controlling of home devices and a host of other valuable purposes.

While automated bots have earned something of a bad reputation for their sometimes nefarious uses and are forecast to cost worldwide advertisers $7.2 billion this year (via DDoS attacks, viruses, website scrapers, etc.) today’s chat bots are considered more consumer friendly, reports can and do communicate directly with humans, but many businesses are more interested in how inter-bot communication can help them with e-commerce, customer service, call center interactions and internet gaming.

In one example of how they’ve been maximized for retailing, Chinese company WeChat has synthesized a chat-based interface and powerful API with a mobile wallet, chat-based transactions, chat-based media and interactive widgets that allow retailers to “friend” and market to users. Features allow users to do anything from hail a taxi to track their fitness or pay their electric bill. And many of its 10,000 small business members forgo their own websites or mobile apps completely, reports

Success stories (how bots are making money) 

“Companies and developers have shown a surge of interest in bot technology and their potential to change the way people talk to businesses and transact, receive customer service or consume entertainment,” observes Kathleen Chaykowski in Forbes.

One example: A few months ago business messaging platform Facebook released a platform within its Messenger chat app that incorporates some 11,000 chatbots. It’s now recruited some 23,000 developers for its bot platform, and its app draws more than 900 million monthly active users. The bots in question do everything from tracking NBA sports games to ordering clothes, managing personal finance apps and booking flights, says Chaykowski.

The future of the bot revolution could be bright indeed.

“Given the drawbacks of apps, there should be plenty of demand for bots,” reported The Economist in April. “Much like web pages they live on servers, not a user’s device, meaning they are easier to create and update. That is likely to make them attractive to businesses which have shied away from developing their own apps.”

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