EP004 – Bots for Brands

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[Podcast Transcript] Bots for Brands?

Land of Digital Opportunities is a podcast series for business leaders driven by innovation and productivity, and keen on growing an idea, team, or a company! Every week, MediaAgility sits down with someone with strong innovation acumen and who has achieved a remarkable business presence in the digital industry, and together we unfold ‘Why’.

Goldy Arora: Welcome to the 4th episode of Land of Digital Opportunities podcasts by MediaAgility, a global digital consulting company. Every week we invite an industry experts to explore the land of digital opportunities and see how new technologies can help businesses become ready for the coming years and gain competitive edge. So today, we are going to speak with Kamal about Bots for Brands, Kamal is a partner at MediaAgility and has been working with CIO’s of some of the innovative companies and in this podcasts we are going to hear from him about what Bots exactly are and more specifically how businesses can benefit from these new technologies? We will also ask from him his recommendations on how to really narrow down and to decide which business function to start with, when you are ready to take your first step towards getting advantages of these Bot platforms for your business and at last we will ask him about what are some of the innovative things, he or MediaAgility is doing with Bots. With that, let’s talk to Kamal about Bots for Brands.

Kamal, Welcome to the Land of Digital Opportunities podcasts.

Kamal: Thanks Goldy! Thanks for inviting me.

Goldy Arora: You’re welcome, we are glad to have you here today. Kamal, I have attended developer conferences of Facebook and Google I/O, Microsoft majorly online, I have been seeing this snippet of Bots but still I have limited understanding of what these Bots are and most importantly how businesses can be benefit from these new technologies? So, being an expert in having working in this area for sometime now, why don’t you talk to us a bit about what Bots exactly are and specifically how business can be benefit from these Bots?

Kamal Puri: I think Bots are really powerful in connecting brands to consumers. It is a answer to the question that businesses always have, Should I have a mobile app or a web app. Most of the time brands have a mobile app because they like stickiness from the users, they like loyalty, they want to deliver a wonderful user experience to their customers which is a challenge on mobile if it is a web app today and I believe Bots solve that problem and is kind of a middle way that provides all the brands a platform where all the users of mobile are spending majority of their time. So, Facebook last year revealed almost 900 million active Facebook users spending 1 hour every day on Facebook and same are the stats with other messaging apps either Skype, IMessage, hangouts which will be converting to Allo sometime this year from Google. So all these are answers to the questions how to deliver a really powerful user experience on Mobile where people are spending majority of their time and Bots is the answer to that question where it gives you a platform where every users online is spending 1 hour every day and that is the biggest platform where brands can deliver a wonderful experience through these different messaging apps either it is Facebook messenger app or Skype or Imessage or Allo, all these are trying to deliver a beautiful user experience through the messaging app to the users, that’s what Bots are all about. So when I talk about Bot, it really consists of 3 major elements- 1st one is the reach which is provided by all these platforms where people are spending majority of their online time. 2nd is the natural language processing which has become really simple and powerful over last few years through various Machine Learning Algorithm and data that all these platforms allow us to consume today, So Natural Language Processing is a solved problem for majority of the platforms and 3rd is Machine Learning where you can actually learn and know a lot more about customer when they are online on these apps then when they come to a standalone app which is yours. So if you take an example if I am a small consumer brand and I am trying to sell my clothes and people come to my site and open my mobile app to buy something on the site, they are really looking for what their need of the day is and do not much about the app but once I am in Facebook, I am connected to the social graph, I know what their IMessage friends are, I know a lot more about the user and I can deliver a very powerful user experience through these apps once they are connected to the platform. So, I believe combining these 3 really delivers the promise of Bots, what they really stand for.

Goldy Arora: That’s the good summary of what Bots are? So, if a s business user I get it right what you are saying is that these Bots are kind of artificial human being which can understand the context of what I say, what I type with the help of Natural Language Processing and it can interact like human being, is that the right small summary for Bots.

Kamal Puri: Yes, lot of Bots are pretty smart these days  and they understands small transactional messages and not long ones so far but as long as those messages are directly questions, queries which Bot can answer to, that really powerful experience.

Goldy Arora: Welcome back! You are listening to Land of Digital Opportunities podcasts by MediaAgility, back to the conversation with Kamal about Bots for Brands.

So Kamal, if we take that as Bots description and as a business user if I understand what these Bots are and may be some direction on how they can help my business in may be getting comparative advantage and becoming ready for coming years but there are still you know loads of vendors like Facebook, Microsoft, Google and bunch of others plus there are multiple business functions that I have to run as a business owner or the business leader, what would you recommend the listeners where they should actually take this initiative of getting Bots advantage.

Kamal Puri: I think what I have been experiencing is working with multiple customers, you need to think about what your goals are, are you trying to increase your sales? Are you trying to improve your customer experience? Are you trying to grow your audience? Are you trying to increase your reach? Once you know what is the most important thing in the business for you based on that you can really think about use cases and scenarios where Bots can play a pretty active part. The most popular I have seen are playing an ecommerce role where applications like 1800flowers are really taking advantage of Bot platform where I can go to the Bot of 1800flowers where I can say I want to order flowers for my mom for the mother’s day and it will recommend me 3 options to chose from and I will pick one and give to me my address with just a single click of sharing the location and that’s it. My order is placed and flowers will be delivered to me on the next day. Things like that are really powerful when we talk about e commerce and biggest advantage of using these platforms and building your own ecommerce app is you know a lot more about user who are in those platforms through the social graph of the user, through the profile, persona of the user once they logged in through their Apple, Google ID, it’s really simple and customer gets a really personalized experience because you are giving them offers based on what they really need than doing a bundle demographic style marketing where you say, okay you want to do marketing that say 15% off on all electronics or let’s do a 20% off on goods which is a traditional way of doing marketing. Now you can do a more personalized one on one marketing to each of the customers that is going to talk to you on your Bot platform.

The second important function where we are seeing lot of traction is in support and customer service area, I am sure you must have experienced long IVR queues you call up a bank or insurance company or to place an order to the pizza hut near to you, so all these IVR’s can be actually replaced with Bots. If I want to get a pizza deliver to my home, I will just say Hey, Pizza hut, can you deliver me a pizza and one click share my location, it will give me 3 options- which pizza’s to choose from or it will also remember what was my last order and just repeat that and that’s it, I don’t have to install a pizza hut application on my mobile phone, I don’t have to go to browser open the website, it is that simple and that’s what really the promise of Bots are to bring a great user experience from user’s point of view and for brands it is a big customer base where they can target to where people spend majority of their online time. These are the 2 major functions where I have been seeing taking the most advantage of Bots.

Goldy Arora: Kamal, it reminds me of the podcasts that we did where Rajesh said on the similar lines- When it comes to digital transformation, it starts with saying “NO” first and then take a deep  breath and go back to your team and try to see what are your strengths and what are your core objectives and your unique value proposition and then try to figure out which is that function where you should take this initiatives. I do agree with the recommendations that these are the business functions but every time when there is a new technology coming in and everyone gets excited to adopt these technologies and it have been the kind of number one in the market to offer that and be competitive so same case is with Bots gonna be, so based on your experience have you seen some of the industries which are like prominent in adopting Bots and taking benefits from these Bots like some industries are picking up really well  and some are not.

Kamal Puri: So talking about industries, one of the biggest industry I see where the opportunity lies is in Publication industry and we all know publishing has been going through tough time today where revenue models are primarily based on advertising or subscriptions. I have been really working with some of the publishers where they are seeing a lot of struggle in terms of increasing their audience, how to keep people engaged with their content, have them actively return to their sites or app, Bots really solve that problem for them. It is the best platform where majority of users spend their time online and this is the easiest way to consume content . I have seen CNN Bot and the experience have been really fantastic so far, every morning I get top news about the day, I can ask about whatever interesting topic I can talk about, I can ask it latest news about Olympics and it will deliver me that. So it’s really powerful interesting way to deliver content, have a feeling where you’re more in a discussion mode with an assistant who deliver a content to you then rather than just searching about a content on Google, it is a different experience altogether.  

Goldy Arora: Welcome back, you are listening to a Land of Digital Opportunities podcasts by MediaAgility and now back to the conversation with Kamal about Bots for Brands.

Kamal Puri: So I will start with talking about how do you built a Bot? To built a Bot, you really need to think about 3 components :

A- Which platforms do you want the Bot to integrate with like to integrate with Facebook, iMessage, Allo from Google, Amazon Echo and there are many more platforms opening up with so many messenger app opening their platforms.

B- You need to built the Bot app which talks to the user, do the Natural Language Processing and then give the people what they are looking for, to built those apps there are platform like Wit.ai, a company which Facebook acquired last year, Microsoft has a Bot platform which allows you to built application in node.js, telegram also has a platform to built those apps or you can also even built a custom app in any language you want as long as it is supporting the protocols of Bots and it can talk in JSON request response, it pretty much what you need to built.

C- Third is the machine learning component where you learn over a period of time what kind of things customers are asking for, what kind of orders they are placing, what kind of content they are reading, what kind of support they are looking for and then personalise the experience based on that.

Combining these three really gives a very powerful customer experience in a really simple and clean way and that’s what I believe we should be really focussing on.

Goldy Arora: Kamal, you know something just happened when I started this podcasts I had limited understanding of Bots are though I have some understanding after seeing these developer conferences but as we spoke a bit now I am trying to relate things around me and yesterday I was at bank nearby to get the cashier cheque done and I was in a queue for 10 minutes but now I am just trying to relate all this with what we just discuss because when you go at a bank for example what you do exactly, you do the same kind of interaction every time either you are going to deposit some money or get the cashier cheque so I guess if you look at the Bot perspective, it can fit anywhere, where the human interaction is happening and specifically where human interaction is kind of repetitive.

Kamal: Yes, imagine a Bank of America where you want to deposit a cheque, it will ask you sure, click a picture, you click a picture of cheque and that’s it, everything else is done electronically, you don’t have to visit the branch and do anything else. It was a really powerful experience.

Goldy Arora: Around the other hand, what I am thinking is somehow it is like replacing the human side, will we be missing those human interaction elements that we deal with now, when we start doing things with Bots all the time, what do you think about this?

Kamal Puri: i don’t think Bots will replace humans, they will definitely make it simple and easy to do all the rudimentary things and even going beyond just the rudimentary things, delivering a experience which is really personalised to you.

Goldy Arora: Welcome back, you are listening to the Land of Digital Opportunities podcasts by MediaAgility and now back to the conversation with Kamal about Bots for Brands

Kamal, as MediaAgility as a company I understand has been helping the businesses in exploring the possibilities with Bots and you are actively engaged in couple of these projects, so tell us a bit about some of the interesting things you have been doing about with these Bots.

Kamal Puri:  So things that we are helping our customers with majorily fall in 3 buckets – 1st one is e commerce where customers really want to have direct conversation with the large customers they spend majority of their time and make it really simple for them to buy things online, Amazon echo falls in that category and Bots really integrate well with Amazon echo, they really integrate well on the backend with Salesforce, ERP, order management  and that’s really where we are coming into picture and helping companies integrate all system together and delivering powerful experience to user to buy product online, The 2nd area is  for publishers to deliver content and we are helping them integrating Bots platform with their CMS, so that they do not have to go and do an overhead of content and it’s really simple and easy for publishers and editors to publish content on their CMS platform which is automatically pushed to all their users based on their persona, based on their learning style, reading habit in the past and also based on their social graph, the kind of things they are sharing on their social profiles, we can deliver really powerful experience to all these customers and not only that doing a push versus pull where you actually push content to your users everyday based on what their interest categories are. The 3rd major area where we are working with their customers is in support where brands did really like to deliver good customer experience, if let’s say my washing machine has some problem, I should be able to go to the Bot and say hey, my washing machine has a problem, this was my order number and it will automatically understand which model I am talking about, it will ask me rudimentary troubleshooting questions, things like- is the power on? Is the spinner is running? Trying to figure out what the root cause of the problem is and based on whatever I tell in troubleshooting, then give me the next step and if required raise a ticket in zendesk and have a visit to my home to fix my device , So these are some of the major areas where we are working with our customers and we are seeing a lot of traction this year where brand really want to integrate with all these platforms and deliver a wonderful customer experience to the user.

Goldy Arora: Kamal, I am sure today’s podcasts would be helpful to our listeners not only in understanding what Bots are and how coming 5 years will look like but also in figuring out where and how to take their Bot initiatives, once they are ready to go with these. So with that I appreciate your time and thank you for being with us on the Land of Opportunities podcasts.

Kamal Puri: Thank you for having me!