Channel dependency: the new big risk in the chatbot industry

The Facebook scandal is one of the hottest news in the tech industry during last few weeks. Apparently, a firm called Cambridge Analytica was using data from Facebook to help Mr. Trump win the presidential campaign. The news reveals us all the data privacy issues behind the scene and the enormous power Facebook has with their 2.2 bn users.

The dependency consumers have on Facebook is already a well-known issue the due to the addictiveness of the social media platform. But what many people haven’t realized yet is the vast dependency business and companies have on FB.

Recently Facebook announced that they are reviewing all privacy issue of their platform and shutting down temporarily the access for companies to add new messenger bot.

So far they haven’t even shared an ETA for when would messenger be available again. This temporary access block has caused some severe problems for many bot service platforms built on top of Messenger.

The risk of Platform dependency

I have suffered by first hand the problem of platform dependency. Back in 2016, we built a chat platform to help companies to offer customer communication services via Whatsapp. Our value proposition was attractive, so we had many customers signing up for our product. But our integration with Whatsapp was very unstable. Each time Whatsapp changed their app or made some update we had to readjust our integration. Consequently, our customers frequently suffer issues like losing messages, disconnections, etc.

After 6 months hoping we could stabilize the platform, we finally gave up. We couldn’t stand anymore the kind of dependency we were having with Whatsapp. We had to rethink our product strategy, so the core value of our product depends 100% on us. We started to test different approaches within the bot space. That’s when we found out the potential of Website as analternative channel for bot development. The result is Landbot.io, a conversational website builder.

Website chatbot, the alternative to facebook messenger chatbot

Let´s explore in a little more detail about what is Website chatbot. A quick definition would be:

“A Native Chatbot which interacts with users in a website browser environment”

Some benefits of a Web Chatbot are:

Less dependency and risk.

When it comes to working with 3rd party platforms, there are always risks of generating too much dependency of the platform and jeopardize future sustainability. We can already see this point in the current messenger blocking issue.

What will happen if Facebook decides in the future to limit the reach rate of each bot, just like what they did with news feed? With Website bot, companies will have much less dependency as they will work on their own environment.

User Privacy Issue.

For companies in highly regulated industries like healthcare, insurance, banking, etc. the privacy issue is critical. You can have more engagement or more open rate on messaging channels, but at the end, the users belong to the platform owner. So companies will lose control of data exchanged in a messaging channel. That’s one of the main reasons many Banks are moving away from Messenger and building their own Chatbot platform like Erica from Bank of America.

User Experience Customization.

One fundamental difference between the website and messaging channel is the control companies can have the complete customer journey. They can customize every element of the UI which can benefit the user experience considerably. Instead of NLP, you can use interface-based interaction to solve many UX issue. For example: in a registration process if a user wants to edit some info, instead of asking the bot to change it, you can design the interface to modify the data directly.

Benefit existing channels.

The Website for many companies is one of their main customer interaction channel. It makes a lot of sense to build better experiences on that native environment to benefit their existing users and to avoid adding unnecessary friction. Think, for example, a new user is going to your mobile website and wants to know about your product, and instead of giving him the information right away you invite him to chat in Messenger. In the mobile browser, users have to log into their Facebook account and give permission to start talking to the brand.

Ideal use cases for a Website Bot.

Lead generation:

We can use chatbot as a landing page to capture leads of potential customers. Conversation interfaces by nature focus better the user attention, have better personalization capabilities and can be used to do real-time qualification.

Why better than messaging?

Landing pages are the natural destination for most marketing campaigns. Unlike messaging channel, it´s platform-agnostic, you can use the same landing page for AdWords, LinkedIn ads, or Twitter ads.

Example of landing page by Landbot.io

Feedback survey:

Another compelling use case is to ask user feedbacks, but instead of annoying forms, we could humanize it with conversations.

Why better than messaging?

With conversational UI and proper survey design, you can get more reliable, actionable data, because the polling experience is interactive, which gives you the freedom to prevent “bad” respondent behavior. Unlike messaging channel, user interactions are usually anonymized by default on a website, which will help to reduce possible friction from the user about revealing his ID.

Example of a Survey Bot

Customer Service:

Answer customers question using a chatbot to replace FAQ and knowledge base with a more interactive experience.

Why better than messaging?

For companies with a digital product like SaaS platform or marketplace site, a web bot can gather all user data thus get better context and offer a more personalized customer experience. A website chatbot can reduce friction by solving user request immediately without changing the communication channel.

Example of a Support Chatbot

The challenge of cross-channel communications

A final thought about the future of chatbot: in my opinion messaging and website chatbots are not exclusive, rather than complementary.

For example, in a marketing campaign, a user can start the journey at a website based chatbot. Through the conversation, he ended up subscribing with his Messenger account. After getting the lead, the business could leverage the messaging channel to deliver relevant contents to the subscriber according to the data collected from the web chatbot.

Companies should de-risk the dependency on a single channel, Website and Messenger are not the only channels available; you should also take into account emails or voice channels like Echo. Today’s customer journeys are much more complicated and rarely rely on one single channel.

The real challenge for companies is to offer frictionless experiences across multiple communication channels.

If you have not created your own chatbot, now is the time. Get started by creating your free Landbot account today!