The end of one year and the start of another is always a good time to pause and reflect on what is going on in the world of UX and to think about what will happen next.
As we know there is a lot happening in areas such as Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality but two other areas that will, I think, have a significant impact in how we think about future experiences are:
- The evolution of Conversational Interfaces
- The battle between companies to control more of their customers end-to-end journeys
Conversational UIs and Chatbots: The rise of the machine
Calling someone of the phone is so last century. Text them? Pff.. so passé.
Messaging and messaging apps it where is it at these days. Or more accurately, it is where the user is at these days. We spend alot of our time in messaging apps; A trend that is only set to get bigger. It seems only natural then, that we UX’ers, are thinking hard about how we can interact with users when they are in that environment.
Enter ‘conversational interfaces’ and the rise of the machine or rather, the chatbot.
Chatbots and Conversational Interfaces: What are they?
As they guys at Intercom (An Irish company who specialise in this field) explain “a bot is a piece of software that runs inside a messaging app that can perform basic tasks”
Take Uber’s integration with FB messenger this time last year. This means that a customer can now order a uber directly from inside the messaging app. The user’s request is processed from inside the app either via human or more likely a chat bot. This removes the need for a user to have to switch between apps to perform different tasks. And as these types of transactions take the form of a conversation between the user and the messaging app, hence the term conversational interfaces was born.
What does that mean for us thinking about user experiences ?
“Chatbots are the new websites, and messaging platforms the new browsers” as proclaimed by the techie folk in San Fran via this article in Smashing Magazine
As the Chatbots get more sophisticated and users get more used to engaging with brands in this way; it is likely that website or even app development could get regulated somewhat in favor of creating more integrated in (messaging) app experiences. The challenge for us UX’ers will be to image what an optimal user experiences will look like in these new conversations.
The Battle for a bigger piece of the pie: taking more control of the customer’s end-to-end journey.
The recent launch of AirBnb Trips is interesting example of how many companies are looking at how they can expand their reach beyond their own core services to offer additional services and take control over other key areas of their customers core journeys.
As mentioned recently in Future Travel Experience blog, Airbnb Trips will initially focus on the “Experiences, Places and Homes, but the longer term strategy also extends to Flights and Services”
We know that Ryanair too love to offer ancillary services; we can’t book a flight without being bombarded by offers for car hire and hotels. However the launch of their “Ryanair rooms” earlier this year can be seen a more consolidated direct bid by them to take charge of their customers’ accommodation needs. They now offer a comprehensive range of accommodation types from hotel, hostels and intriguingly “Homestays”.
Why are companies thinking in this way? This type of ‘vertical integration’ is beneficial for a number of reasons:
- It’s an opportunity to generate more revenue through ancillary and/or additional services
- Longer customer engagement with your brand (rather then customers leaving your service to go another brand) means your customers spend more time on your brand and as such there is more opportunity to upsell or cross sell your products/services
- Crucially, it allows a company more control over a bigger part of the ‘supply chain’ and their customers experience and as such means they can shape that experience more inline with their brand and strategy.
So Airbnb are offering flights and Ryanair are offering rooms? Game on.
Both these developments share a common thread; there seems to be a movement away from developing new products/services or even more apps towards building one core experience. In the case of the conversational interfaces, the much of the experience takes place in one system, inside the messanging app itself. In the case of the Airbnb Trips or Ryanair Rooms, the customer engages with just one brand, albeit across different parts of the journey. Both these strategies offer the customer a more integrated, seamless experiences. Nice. It will be interesting to see where all of this goes next year and who will be more successful with these strategies.