WhatsApp has recently finally rolled out its long-awaited end-to-end encryption. However, its competitors have been busy. SnapChat has released its huge 2.0 update, essentially becoming a competitor to WhatsApp overnight. Other chat apps like Telegram are growing exponentially as well.
Facebook has just presented a number of great additions to its platform, but also to Facebook Messenger. Among them, the much anticipated bot store. After a number of other chat apps have given developers the possibility to create chat bots, Facebook Messenger now allows for chat bots as well. In fact, Facebook is taking the chat bot trend so seriously, that it released a bot engine as well, in order for chat bots to become even more sophisticated.
As you know, Facebook has bought WhatsApp a while ago. One would assume that after Facebook Messenger has opened itself up for chat bots, WhatsApp will follow suit. There already have been attempts of third party companies to create bots for WhatsApp (e.g. WhatsBot), but so far no information has been released to the public on a possible move to chat bots.
Should WhatsApp go for chat bots too though? There are multiple reasons to support the case.
Staying ahead of competition – even if the bot movement were temporary (which doesn’t seem to be the case), WhatsApp needs to stay ahead of its competition. And since the competition is opening up to bots, WhatsApp will need to move into the same direction as well, in order not to lose users.
Affiliate Revenue – chat bots can potentially be a great source of revenue for WhatsApp. If WhatsApp creates chat integrations for food delivery or travel booking, it may take a cut when money changes hands through its App.
Other Revenue – users are on WhatsApp all the time. The company must use this to its advantage. One possibility could be customer service. By allowing companies on the messenger platform, companies and users can more easily interact with each other. Whoever has chatted with customer service on their browsers knows how annoying it can be – constantly changing back to the chat window to see if the customer service has answered is tedious.
Existing Synergies – since WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, WhatsApp has access to a lot of information on how to set up a bot store and what features are necessary. In fact, it is likely that Facebook Messenger will run for a while to gather data on user interaction. WhatsApp can then learn from the data to create a bot store more adapted to what users really want and need.
Improving KPIs – having chatbots will undoubtedly increase engagement. Instead of checking other apps that provide similar services (e.g. finding the cheapest flight), users can now send their requests directly via WhatsApp, which is much more convenient.
The problem is, that this premise is also true for all other messaging platforms using chat bots, so it will remain to be seen whether the quality of bot and user interaction will be better at WhatsApp than at other messaging apps.
Pressure from stockholders – since Facebook is a listed company, there is considerable pressure to perform well. And since WhatsApp is a part for Facebook, WhatsApp must deliver good results as well. That includes showing the stockholders that WhatsApp is constantly improving and looking for new markets. Moving toward chat bots is then almost inevitable, as from a stockholder perspective all other messaging platforms are heading that direction and everyone is talking about the potential of bots.
Summing up, there is a low chance that WhatsApp will refrain from jumping on the bot bandwagon. The timing is the only factor which can be debated. Waiting for Facebook Messenger to deliver valuable statistics on bots is probably the best idea, but WhatsApp should begin (and probably has already begun) to develop its strategy regarding chat bots.