Bots. Bots. Bots. How will it end?
I had been procrastinating on writing something about bots and the payment space for well over 6 months [scratches dandruff-ed head]. You know, so I can sound smart and be seen to be in tune with the trends. Well... I never got round to it.
Shame on me.
There's no point over-emphasizing what the trends look like and what is going on... Countless articles on the new bot + AI + messaging movement have been written. Just search on Medium for those topics.
IMAGE CREDIT: Via a Google search
A Nigerian bank (and a South African one too) even launched something and someone else launched a Facebook messenger bot that gives you latest FX rates. Even me and my goons had a little (only-slightly-related) experiment thingy with BBM. Fantastic stuff going on all round.
So I'm going to skip that. The part of explaining and advocating the trend. I'll simply like to predict how I think the movement will evolve. How will it play out?
1. Everybody with their own Bot
Every Harry, Dick, Tom and Ope building and running a bot for his own SmallCo. This is pretty much what it seems all the players are pushing. You know, a scenario where you can Facebook (or WhatsApp) chat with your local laundry to come and pick up your clothes. Or CNN (and Bella Naija) delivering to you your daily dose of bad news or scandal. Whatever floats your boat. Given the level of "intelligence" being displayed by the bots out there in messenger-land and knowing that there'd likely be more and more just-a-little-above-mediocre implementations, I don't think this end game is what will win. Why exchange 10 messages with some bot to get a cab, if I can just tap a button on an app? Just an example.
2. A few bots to rule them all
Three to five really smart and efficient bots by a few leaders in the space ferrying service requests via APIs to 3rd party products. Think of Facebook M calling Uber for you and still able to get your bank account balance by integrating to APIs from your bank and Uber. Think of Amazon's Alexa ordering pizza for you. Think of Siri or Cortana serving as gateway to a lot of online services. Even Google's ubiquitous search box already has quite some intelligence built in, can a simple "search query" just bring pizza to my door?
You can tell this is the one I'm really excited about and rooting for. Customers already use some of these bots for other things and these bots are getting really REALLY smart and have lots of your personal preferences data. Can they just open up more and allow "service providers" to compete to fulfill end user needs? This will likely happen.
3. Push and respond backend services
Imagine watching the latest Game Of Thrones episode and tweeting something about it, then you get a DM remininding you that your cable subscription will expire before the next episode and would you like to renew? And all you have to do is push a button to answer "yes" or "no". If you say yes, your account is debited and your subscription is renewed. Finish. How cool is that?
This to me, makes sense. A lot of services "normal people" use can (and possibly will) be redesigned with this experience. Pushed boarding passes as you approach the airport. Cab booking prompts just as your plane lands. Automated loan offers just after you receive an "insufficient funds" response for a POS purchase. Etc. Etc.
4. Absolutely no UI. Just magic.
This one is like the "push and respond" experience, but there's just no "response" required. Stuff just happens. And it's the right stuff. No need for permission, and no mistakes are ever made. Crazy eh?
So, in my guesstimation, these are the four user experience models that can be (and are being) designed around bots + messaging + AI. And I am actively rooting for number 2. Actually, I think it would play out in a sequence... and the industry will progress along a curve that looks like:
1 > 3 > 2 > 4.
How long it will take to cycle through that curve, I neither know nor can safely guess.
Now, read this too and epp me thank Joseph for pointing it to me.
How do you think it would end?
If you take my prediction(s) too much to heart, you are on a long sometin.