Changing the way consumers communicate with brands
This month, chatbot startup Cleo received an impressive $700,000 in funding from notable investors, including Niklas Zennströmthe founder of Skype. The continued interest of big companies in innovative chatbot start-ups emphasises their importance in the tech world, and promises interesting future advancements for the app-dwelling assistants. Through the extensive capabilities of Artificial Intelligence, chatbots have found a place within finance, marketing, retail and, of course, good old entertainment. Here’s a few of the chatbot companies that have caught our eye, starting with Cleo itself.
London-based startup Cleo has developed an AI-powered chatbot to help users manage their finances. The chatbot is presented as a ‘financial assistant’ that can be accessed through the Cleo app or Facebook Messenger. Users can talk to the chatbot via text or voice to access a breakdown of their financial data, track their spending and set reminders and alerts. In a funding round closed in late 2016, they gained $700,000 from Skype founder Niklas Zennström, Zoopla co-founder Alex Chesterman, Wonga co-founder Errol Damelin, as well as Lovefilm co-founder Simon Franks. The company’s mission is to reduce the complexities of the financial sector, representing a general trend in FinTech and InsurTech.
Launched in 2016, Aiden was showcased at TechCrunch Disrupt London 2016. The company has created a virtual colleague that helps businesses to manage their marketing budgets. CEO Marie Outtier has a background in marketing, and wants to use AI-enabled personal assistants to enhance the marketing strategies of SMEs and digital agencies. According to Outtier, marketers spend 10 hours a week hunting for data – but Aiden does this instantly through data analytics and machine learning. The conversational interface does more than just respond to commands, and offers individualistic advice based on data collected from Facebook and Google Analytics. Aiden is designed to feel like a co-worker rather than a program, compiling data into comprehensive charts. Aiden currently works with six major clients.
Swelly bot was created by Swell and was launched in early 2016. It’s essentially a Yelp for everything, although a community of users backs all recommendations. The developers of the opinion-gathering interface have basically capitalised on how much people care about the opinions of others, and turned it into a comprehensive chatbot. The team at Swell claim that the primary reasons as to why people leave a shop without buying anything are because they are indecisive and don’t trust the opinion of in-store assistants. Swelly bot addresses these issues by re-enforcing choices with the support of an unbiased community – which is good news for commercial businesses. The bot doesn’t just work in retail, though – it can also be used to find the best restaurants, places of interest or even business-related services. As of December 2016, the chatbot boasts an impressive community of 1,500,000 users.
Kip is a chatbot designed as a penguin that organises collective purchases for businesses. Kip was set up in 2015 and makes it easy for companies to source what they need by simply asking the bot to do it for them. Kip finds the items, compares prices on Amazon and works out what purchase has the best value. That could be anything from the number of office chairs that need replacing to how many skinny lattes to order from Starbucks. It’s compatible with Slack, an instant messaging and sharing platform for co-workers. Even if some co-workers don’t have Slack, they can still add items to the collective basket via email. Kip isn’t just for teams, and can be messaged directly by individuals to become a savvy personal shopper. Although Kip only works with Amazon at the moment (which, let’s be honest, is hardly going to hold it back), it is looking to partner with other stores including eBay. What sets the chatbot apart is a fun emoji feature that uses emojis to indicate products to buy – if you wanted an umbrella, for example, you could simply send the umbrella emoji. This is an example of chatbots tapping into popular culture and appealing to a digital society.
HealthTap created their chatbot in 2010 with the aim of making healthcare more accessible. The bot connects user queries with advice from a bank of 67,000 medical professionals, and can be installed via Facebook Messenger. The chatbot works by analysing the request, drawing on previous questions related to the topic. If it can’t provide a suitable answer, users can choose to send their question to a doctor. The chatbot then notifies the user when a reply has been written. If the question is a little time sensitive, there’s also the option to talk directly with a doctor in real time. The healthcare industry as a whole is facing massive disruption, and the availability of on-demand, mobile advice from comprehensive chatbots will accelerate this trend. HealthTap has raised almost $38 million to date.
These five examples showcase the variety and ability of chatbots, from FinTech to ultra-anthropomorphic companions. However, since April 2016, over 34,000 bots have been developed for Facebook Messenger alone. If you haven’t seen it already here’s a great clip demonstrating just how easy it is to book and Uber through Facebook Messenger.
With so many chatbots circulating in numerous different apps, it’s a constant race for businesses (both user and creators of chatbots) to keep up. Chatbots are now synonymous with AI, which has captivated investors and developers alike. This is a killer combination in advancing the technology behind bots. In short, if you aren’t already using chatbots on a regular basis, you soon will be – welcome to the chatbot economy.