Recently, there has been a lot of talk about ChatBots that are increasingly replacing applications. It’s time to have a lookback at how the ChatBots phenomenon started.
This phenomenon of ChatBots started in China with WeChat. What is surprising is that WeChat has a bot platform for 4 years now! We’re talking about Facebook Messenger bots, Slack bots but WeChat started the gear! Which means that we already have matter on the subject and that we can already know what mistakes not to commit.
But how were ChatBots born in China? In China, social media is much better integrated into consumer shopping experiences.
Compared to Europe or the United States, the Chinese consumer’s psychology is peculiar. Chinese consumers are wary of the products manufactured in their country because of the various scandals that have erupted in recent years about safety standards. Beware, the Chinese consumer feels reassured when asking questions to other consumers or the manufacturer directly, his intention to buy is therefore influenced by the answers he will get.
It is from these thousands of consumers, who need to ask questions to be reassured, that were born the ChatBots in China, well before those developed by Facebook and others.
Since the launch of the application in 2009, WeChat has conquered many users. Even if we leave the bots aside, WeChat is a great social network.
In the third quarter of 2016, WeChat had more than 705 million users. In China, more than 70% of smartphone holders use WeChat. This can be compared to the penetration rate of 67% of Facebook for US Internet users.
Thanks to its platform, WeChat has made easy the development of ChatBots simple and not very intelligent. ChatBots have become one of the preferred means of customer service, because they have reduced the time spent interacting online with consumers. However, this does not mean that you can not develop a smart bot on WeChat.
Chumen Wenwen, a company founded in 2012 by a former Google employee, has built a very sophisticated bot that runs on WeChat and other spaces. The company has combined voice recognition, AI and WeChat platform in a package that provides information to users. By connecting to third-party APIs, the app can answer questions about what’s around you, including movies, restaurants, and more. Even before creating their own website, some entrepreneurs started by creating their WeChat account.
Types of ChatBots on WeChat
There are two types of ChatBots accounts; There are subscription accounts and service accounts. These two types of accounts have been launched as a ChatBot but have been modified to rely less on artificial intelligence. The main users of subscription accounts are content publishers, they automatically receive, once a day, the latest published articles. These users click on an item to be viewed in a built-in WeChat browser. This type of account is for people who want to follow a trademark or influence on WeChat.
For companies, this creates a gold mine of data such as the number of users who have seen this or that article. From these data, companies and brands can then target their audience for a certain type of content. Through A / B testing, marketers can identify effective ways to structure their content and in what format to publish it.
Customer services for brands and companies subscribing to WeChat use service accounts to interact with their customers via the application. Fashion brands, airlines, restaurants, hotels or e-shops often use ChatBots for their online interactions.
On WeChat service accounts, all types of messages (information on latest promotions and events, location of nearest restaurants, updates on airline tickets) can be sent to users. In addition to the simple interactions of subscription accounts, consumers can find themselves engaged in more complex conversations with bots. Nevertheless, developers and brands recognize that at the moment, their robots are unable to handle all types of customer requests. Therefore, these accounts must be supported by employees.
How do ChatBots work?
The WeChat bot platform is simple. WeChat robots work by identifying keywords in text strings and using manually coded rules for how to answer a question. Bots also work with automatic learning, meaning that the more users interact with brands and companies via ChatBots, the more intelligent ChatBots become and learn to understand user requests.
Although robots learn to understand these requests, they continue to send pre-made replies. Unfortunately, they can not yet give very complex answers to specific questions. The bots of brands and companies on WeChat are basically there to provide a simple customer service but also to entertain the users.
What is the future of WeChat ChatBots?
WeChat is installed on most smartphones in China, and the Chinese are completely immersed in a world of virtual communication and technological evolution. With each new version, the functionality of the WeChat application improves and the ChatBots transform the interactions with the consumers, the interactions are thus more and more sophisticated.
WeChat users understand that they can not only have a nice chat with ChatBots, but they can also get valuable advice from these bots. Companies that have official accounts on WeChat know that ChatBots help them to extend their customer service teams more efficiently and allow them to respond to a greater number of requests, which corresponds very well to their business models.
In the near future, for consumers, ChatBots will no longer be a novelty and will no longer be the object of entertainment but will rather be an omnipresence. For businesses, ChatBots will be an integral part of their business.
However, as on Facebook Messenger and other Western platforms, in most cases, WeChat robots do not use a true conversational strategy. WeChat also has buttons that allow users to interact without too much chat. For now, the race is still open, to see who can develop a ChatBot that is more than a website on Facebook Messenger Conversation UI.