Just as with any new technology that enters the market, there is always the lingering question of whether the new technology will replace the old. This question has led to an ongoing debate about whether chatbots would or should completely replace apps in today’s ever-evolving technological environment. While some experts seem to think chatbots will, in fact, soon replace apps, others predict that they will continue to co-exist, and even complement each other for a few years to come.
As a company with extensive experience building chatbots, we may be biased towards bots. Nevertheless, for the purpose of this blog, we will logically and fairly address the pros and cons of both bots and apps, so you can decide which strategy makes the most sense for your specific business objectives.
In order to elucidate our points better, we’ll be discussing the benefits and disadvantages of both technologies, based on two different business scenario where they are used.
But first, let’s quickly establish the definitions of chatbots and apps for better understanding.
A chatbot is a software that is when powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence can engage in human-like conversations. Conversations between the user and a bot happen via a chat interface using textual or auditory methods.
Bots are usually built using a chatbot platform or frameworks and deployed on messaging apps like Skype, Skype for Business, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Messenger etc. or virtual assistants like Alexa & Cortana to converse with end-users.
Advancements in Artificial Intelligence and its components related to it like Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) leading to the building of highly intelligent bots with extremely relevant responses in a natural language tone. Also making the conversation 2 sided, very close to the human-like experience.
An application or apps is a software program that’s designed to perform a specific function directly for the user or, in some cases, for another application program.
Now let’s explore two different scenarios to understand what both these technologies can mean for business growth:
Today’s organizations are inundated with a variety of apps, all of which serve individual goals. With the proliferation of SaaS apps due to their cost-effectiveness and ease of use, the number of apps in enterprises has grown radically. However, the downside of this is – having to handle so many apps can be overwhelming and confusing for both end users and support staff. Employees are forced to access multiple apps to get various tasks done and the IT department has to spend a considerable length of time helping employees manage these apps effectively. This is the single biggest disadvantage of apps, that the bots can overcome.
When you think about scale in terms of geographies, this number can grow exponential rather quickly. Needless to say, the IT teams do struggle extensively to ensure that the right access is being provided to the right people. This feat is not unachievable, but it comes at a very heavy cost – From building, testing, maintaining and updating individual apps.
Moreover, chatbots can reduce the number of enterprise apps, by integrating into multiple apps and acting as a single point of contact for accessing information through a cognitive experience. Bots also automatically take care of security and authentication of users. Last but not least, apps provide more of a pull mechanism of disbursing information. Whereas bots offer both pull and push modes – acting both as a manager and assistant. This enables a better and effective way for information dissipation.
By leveraging enterprise chatbot platforms like Acuvate’s BotCore, you can deploy a single chatbot which can integrate into multiple apps and acts as a single point of contact for employees to get all the relevant tasks done and queries answered. Employees don’t have to switch and navigate through different apps.
Read More: Why should enterprises bet on bots?
A global consumer goods company had a huge workforce of above 160000 employees across several locations. Users were using multiple applications and software to complete routine HR and IT tasks resulting in decreased employee productivity and high operational costs.
We leveraged our enterprise chatbot building platform, BotCore to build an AI bot which is integrated into the company’s most used HR and IT apps. The bot resides as a contact in Skype for Business – the company’s actively used messaging app. It answers the repetitive IT and HR related questions of employees and helps them complete simple tasks like leave application, raising an IT ticket etc.
This drastically decreased the dependency on the IT and HR support staff.
Upon deployment of the bot, the company’s cost-per-contact and cost-per-ticket decreased by over 20%.
Apps have obviously seen their share of the limelight. With Apple’s App store claiming to have over 100 billion application downloads, it’s not hard to see why apps, with the convenience they offer, are a vital part of a variety of devices we use on a daily basis. Whether one is using smartphones or tablets, laptops or TVs, we are heavily dependent on apps for a variety of functions. Infact, apps form the basis – a singular interface- of how we interact with our smart devices.
App fatigue is a real challenge for consumers and brands, alike.
Based on a report by App Annie, the average user uses only 9 or 10 apps on a daily basis, even though they have upwards of 35 or 40 downloaded.
Further, app downloads have also plateaued, even though the number of devices continues to increase. This is primarily because most people are randomly downloading all the apps they can anymore and instead sticking to apps that are already known and established.
Then there’s also the challenge a lot of smartphone users experienced with the usage of their time, leading them to limit their app downloads. Having too many apps on the phone also slows the device down and causes memory issues.
Apps are still very popular and sought after, however, new apps simply can’t expect to continue at a massive growth rate. According to a report from Nielsen, despite the increase in app usage and app choices, the number of apps used per user is staying the same.
It is expected that only a few apps will continue to reside on people’s devices and stay relevant, as they continue to become a primary channel through a lot of tasks centred around work, play and communication, can get accomplished. But organizations across the board will have to identify new ways of reaching customers.
What is particularly interesting is that messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, etc. have seen significant growth. A Business Insider research study reports that the combined total monthly active user (MAU) count of the top 4 messaging apps has grown to 4.1 billion in 2018, with the top three messaging apps claiming user bases of 1 billion or more.
Companies have realized that their customers are on a variety of platforms and that in order to stay on their minds, they have to be present on these platforms as well. And as consumers increasingly move towards messaging, businesses are making it a priority to facilitate channels that can make it happen effectively. Several companies are using chatbots such as H&M, Pizza Hut, Sephora, and others and they’ve experienced success with it.
Building a chatbot v/s mobile app
This is likely the most important factor when making your decision between building a chatbot vs a mobile app. For an organization to generate any ROI from its development efforts, it is important to consider that building mobile apps is an expensive affair requiring large teams, in-depth strategizing, long development cycles, possible outsourcing, ongoing support, which can end up costing organizations a huge chunk of investment to build and support.
It can also be conveniently managed by an enterprise chatbot platform that facilitates the easy rollout of updates. The only expenses enterprises incur with building a bot is limited to their developer’s time. If the bot is being built at scale, then associated costs do increase based on the platform chosen – however, it is still rather minimal compared to what enterprises would spend building an app at that scale.
Will chatbots replace apps?
We don’t imagine chatbots would replace apps, as they may not be comprehensive, exhaustive solution for your company. When built and deployed efficiently, they can be a great way to change the way your business operates, as they add context, consistency, efficiency and human-like conversation to your daily business operations. Most importantly, they’re extremely cost-effective.
If you are a company that is just starting to consider the chatbot route for your organization, consider integrating chatbots with your existing apps and websites to maximize customer engagement and increase employee productivity.
If you’d like to know more about chatbots and watch our enterprise chatbot builder platform – BotCore in action, feel free to schedule a demo with our experts.