Every morning, I have a conversation with a polar bear.

It’s an admittedly one-sided and sometimes repetitive conversation, but UXDesign’s chatbot is a simple, unique and fun way to keep up with the trends in user experience and design.

A small snippet of an exchange.

So why should you care?

Because 2017 could be the year chatbots become a viable solution for brand communication. In fact, they’ve already started appearing on websites as a simple interface to provide information to users. If you’ve ever reached out for help online, you probably had a conversation with a chatbot rather than an actual service rep without even realizing it. But a chatbot’s role is hardly one-sided: some companies have created bots to chat on a customer’s behalf as well. A perfect example: Trim’s bot, which negotiates service changes on your Comcast account for you.

Why is this happening?

With new applications coming out every day of every week, users are becoming less willing to download apps. Even though mobile app usage is rising, 85% of it is within native install apps. And even if a consumer deems one worthy to be one of their average 25–30 downloaded apps, there’s an 80% chance they’ll stop using it after three months.

Photo by Rami Al-zayat. Source: Unsplash

Messaging apps, however, exploded in usage in 2016. This provides a partner resource for customer service, product research and overall brand information—one of which is most likely already on a user’s device.

Moreover, it’s starting to become easier to create a personal, branded chatbot. Integration with Facebook Messenger has been made simple, requiring little to no coding experience. Other services translate the necessary intensive programming into a more approachable format.

How do you create one for your brand?

To successfully integrate a chatbot as your brand’s point of contact, it will take time and patience on both ends as well as extensive study of early conversation data. More importantly, a chatbot should set up the expectation that it will fail, especially in the beginning. Alerting the user upfront that they are talking to a robot and implementing proper escalation protocols will lead to a more forgiving experience and provide useful information to both parties.

What does it all mean?

While they probably won’t completely replace websites, chatbots can provide real-time information and feedback to a customer without forcing them to open up a personalized app or navigate a website. As resources that are available 24/7, they have a built-in convenience factor, and some have even developed their own personalities. And though chatbots have quite a ways to go before passing the Turing test, for now they make a useful partner for brands that want to easily interact with their customers and vice versa.

It calls me “rock god” now.