18 Mar Why You Should Be Using Invisible User Interfaces
At h2o we love keeping tabs on emerging themes within the marketing arena. We’ve identified an emerging trend that we call Invisible User Interface (IUI) technology as something that we think is going to be huge over the next couple of years. “What’s that?” We can almost definitely hear you cry? Sit back and we’ll tell you.
‘There’s an app for that.’ This has almost become a cliché, however, in recent years it has become a reality. The mobile app market has undeniably matured and potentially peaked. iOS and Android app stores are saturated with a multitude of apps for almost every conceivable aspect of modern life.
Such is the diversity of apps available that it can almost be overwhelming. Consumers are starting to reject the idea of having 20+ apps on their phone to manage every minute of their conscious day, not to mention their sleep. Consumers want a more holistic, integrated and interactive method of simplifying their lives. Whether this is an indictment of our society or the next step towards the rise of the machines, we don’t know.
Brands are beginning to realise that having an app out there is no longer enough to achieve the market penetration and gain the attention that it was just a couple of years ago. The latest technological trend of interest to brands is messenger bots. These artificial intelligences that communicate in an almost-human manner are appearing on brand websites, home devices like Alexa and interestingly, social media. This conversational marketing can create what appears to be almost a personal human touch to what would otherwise be a faceless, anonymous online interaction. As we are all taught in marketing school (this totally exists), people develop almost personal relationships with their favourite brands. So if your messenger bot talks in a brand-appropriate manner, it can encourage this relationship, in addition to existing on a convenient and available platform.
From mid-2016 brands have been exploring possibilities of using bots on social media to act as a combined customer service representative, personal assistant and sales force for customers without the consumer having to download an app. At h2o, we always like to be ahead of the technological curve, so we created the phrase ‘Invisible User Interface’ as it’s hidden within the user-face of an existing platform e.g. Facebook Chat, Whatsapp, Amazon’s Alexa or a company website.
Advances in AI over the past 12 months has been made possible. The bots are more adept, nuanced and better at interacting and responding to users’ requests. This means that brand can be more ambitious than having its bots merely advertise the latest offers. With almost a billion users on Facebook messenger alone, this presents a potentially enormous audience for brands that are quick to adopt this new marketing opportunity.
When combined with big data, IUI can use your previous activity to either recommend potential new purchases, services you may enjoy, or provide feedback and analysis on your behaviour. An example of this is Cleo, who can help act as your own personal financial advisor. You can monitor and keep up to date with your finances to let you know how much of your hard-earned money you spend on food (and what type of food). You can also set up budgets and set financial targets for yourself, all through Facebook Chat. Cleo can communicate with you through chat, potentially chastising you for getting that foot-long Subway instead of the salad you’d promised yourself. This can potentially grow and expand so that Cleo can manage your life through IUI.
Showcasing how far the technology has come already is the example of Transferwise, who have recently unveiled their chatbot on Facebook Messenger. It enables you to transfer money internationally over the messenger tool. Skyscanner also has a bot that’s simplified the ticket booking process into a conversation rather than a tedious series of menus.
It’s not just banks and airlines that are rolling this out. Burger King has plans to introduce an ordering bot into existing platforms. This has enormous marketing and business ramifications for the industry as a whole — if I were one of the millions of Deliveroo drivers that now infest city centres, I’d be monitoring IUI very carefully (and brushing up my CV)…
The ability for IUI to link to text to voice and voice to text software means that this technology can enable users with sight or mobility problems to feel confident about interacting with the bot and making purchases online independently.
IUI is not limited to social media platforms. It can be hosted on brand websites to act initially as a question solver before offering cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. The key advantage of IUI is that it allows brands to offer all the advantages of a website or app — browsing product ranges, getting advice and making purchases within another interface.
The potential depth of IUI is astounding from a marketing perspective. This technology is still in its infancy, with bots for a single purpose: finance, mortgages or burgers over a single platform. However, we’re anticipating that in the near future bots will be able to communicate over a variety of channels e.g. Cleo over Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and text. We also think that bots will soon manage other single function bots to undertake multiple functions and services to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ for managing your life (Botception?). An example would be a bot that manages bots that monitors your schedule, food and transport. For example: “I’ve ordered your favourite salad from the shop round the corner from the gym, it will be ready 15 minutes after your spinning class finishes, your Uber will pick you up 20 minutes later to take you to your meeting. Don’t forget to buy flowers on your way home.”
To summarise, we think apps are out, and bots are the future.
If you’re interested in using bots to reach your marketing goals, get in touch with us, we’d love to find out more about your business and how we can help. If you think IUI sounds really interesting, but you’re not sure how you could apply it to your industry, don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of ideas. Click here to contact us.
Nathan Brenninkmeyer is a Senior Developer at h2o creative communications.
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