There's a 90% chance you've come across a chatbot before – they're everywhere nowadays, from banks to online shopping to tech queries and more. You may even have come across one on our homepage. Chatbots can do just about anything you want them to – although most interactions are designed to help a person in a quick and easy way.
How can chatbots actually help us? Well they help us with navigating websites, getting answers to our FAQs, even making reservations, or just being a virtual friend when we need one. You're now probably wondering, "but how do you get into developing them?" As always, we've got you covered in this post. We'll take you into the world of chatbot development and also show you the best platforms to get started.
Why are chatbots so popular?
Chatbots are great for numerous reasons. Firstly, humans like conversations, and find it much easier to talk to a bot instead of trying to navigate a sophisticated website for answering a simple question. Secondly, there is a demand from consumers to have a 24/7 digital experience and have support outside working hours. Chatbots make it possible to maintain the same service quality, no matter what the circumstances are. And last, but not least, by automating part of the customer support teams’ work, companies will be able to significantly lower costs of human force and reach higher profitability.
Chatbots have applications in areas ranging from marketing, customer services, sales and online banking to healthcare and wellness. The global chatbot market is exponentially growing, especially in retail and marketing. Insider Intelligence predicts that consumer purchases spend via chatbots will grow from $2.8 billion in 2019 to $142 billion in 2024.
How much research has been done around Chatbots?
Chatbots are a hot topic in the research world, too. Two of the main directions for the topic are interaction style and appropriate tasks. Research on interaction style deals with some of the following questions: how we can make the chatbot less dull and less repetitive, how to train them to use alternative phrases in conversation, how to make them build a relationship with the user and offer more meaningful conversations, how to make it trustworthy for humans to interact with a chatbot. Research on appropriate tasks is aiming at spotting the parts of life that the chatbots can be of real help to us, such as routine activities, mental health support and humanitarian work.
And now for the bit you've been waiting for. There's a wide array of platforms that you can use for chatbot development, depending on the type, complexity, language and tasks for the bot. If you want to develop a simple bot or a prototype, you may not need to code and can instead use a simple drag-and-drop solution. For this, you can use platforms such as BotSociety, where you can start for free and build chatbots for WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and many more.
For building a more complex bot, you may need to write code and choose a platform depending on the budget and needs of the project. Some of the most popular platforms for this are Facebook’s Wit.ai, Google’s Dialogflow and the open-source framework Rasa.
Dialogflow lets you build speech and text bots and supports natural language processing in more than 20 languages. It provides a REST API that makes it easy to integrate the bot with your own application and also supports major messaging channels such as Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Viber etc.
Wit.ai is a platform that also supports both text and speech, in more than 100 languages. It's free, even for commercial use, and with comes with a user-friendly interface, which reduces the amount of coding needed. Wit.ai provides SDK in the Node.js, Python and Ruby programming languages and also an HTTP API to connect the platform to your chatbot and other applications.
Rasa is an open-source framework for python. It consists of two components: Rasa NLU and Rasa Core. Rasa NLU is responsible for natural language understanding (NLU), whereas Rasa Core is for building conversational chatbots, and you can use machine learning algorithms to make the dialogue more complex and human-like. The biggest advantage is that Rasa bots can be built in your own server, and in that way all the code and customer data stays in-house. That is why it is widely used in the commercial world.
We hope you find this article useful, and you are ready to say “Hi” to chatbots! We've got some more resources in case you're interested: