SnatchBot’s Vision For the Best AI Chatbots in 2019
A Happy New Year to all our users and our thanks for joining us on what is a remarkable journey.
The SnatchBot platform went live in July 2017 with a core philosophy that the time had come to make chatbot creation user-friendly. Just as was the pattern in website design and app design, the first use-cases of the new technology were dependent on a relatively small number of experts and were very costly. Then, user-friendly systems were built that meant no coding background was necessary to create perfect websites and apps.
The same pattern is underway in chatbot creation and SnatchBot are leading the way. From the outset, we took a number of strategic decisions that are really paying off.
1. The platform makes no compromise on state-of-the-art features such as NLP, AI and Machine Learning but always, no matter how complex the feature, it can be deployed without any knowledge of computer languages. We’ve done the hard work creating the tools that allow you, the chatbot creator to build fantastic bots in an intuitive fashion.
2. We were determined to be omni-channel. Rather than depend on any one channel, like Facebook Messenger, our backend work has ensured that all our bots are able to launch on a whole range of channels. You just build the one chatbot and then you can pick which channels to put it onto. In other words, it isn’t necessary to create one bot for your website, one for Messenger, one bot for Telegram, another for Viber, etc. The beauty of our system is that it’s easy to place your bot on all these channels. And the wisdom of this approach was shown at the end of March, 2018, when Facebook paused all new chatbot launches for Messsenger.
3. Our platform gave users the option of creating bots for free, always and with no limit. This has proven crucial to our rapid growth. Other monetization models for chatbot platforms had (and continue to have) a kind of hidden cost. With some of them, you can experiment for free, but once the deployed bot begins to do some serious work, a usage charge kicks in. For us, if you want to avail of the free version of our platform, you can do so without ever incurring costs. We want tens, hundreds of thousands, of users to get used to chatbots and the value they bring to your business, community, or organisation. That way, the proportion of you wanting to white label the chatbot (i.e. remove the ‘Powered by SnatchBot’ branding) and have the translation API and the premium customer support - all of which come with the SnatchBot PRO-plan - pay for the business and the overall growth of the SnatchBot community.
The impact of these three decisions has been that 2018 was a tremendous year for us.
SnatchBot’s achievements in 2018
Powerful Chabot Analytics
Throughout the year, we improved our own analytic tools, available to you via the dashboard, making it easier to see your extracted data (like emails and phone numbers) and also to pinpoint live conversations where a human agent can easily take over from a chatbot. Early in 2018, we also agreed a partnership with Chatbase to provide its analytics for our users. Chatbase arose from Google’s internal R&D and it is helpful at looking at the bigger picture of the conversational flow of your chatbots and helping flag the interactions where conversations are breaking down.
Use Powerful Natural Language Processing with your Chatbot
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the name given to software algorithms that attempt to make sense of conversation. The ability of software to successfully identify entities (such as places, people and times) or intents (such as to make a booking) came on in leaps and bounds generally across the world. And here at SnatchBot we harnessed this power to our chatbots in March of 2018.
This has created a whole new dimension of experience for users of our chatbots and an incredibly useful set of tools for a builders. It means that the interactions between the human and the chatbot are more realistic: more conversational than scripted. Our NLP allows people with no interest in technology or desire even to download an app, to interact with software in a way that feels normal to them and in a fashion that they are expert at: through speech. For the builder, NLP means a smart solution to certain situations that previously would have required dozens of branches to the conversation. Now one NLP model serves instead.
Even better, our NLP models can be trained, both in a supervised and Machine Learning (i.e. automatic, based on algorithms) fashion, so that your bot becomes more and more accurate at understanding conversation.
Ensure GDPR compliance with a SnatchBot chatbot
In May 2018, Europe introduced new General Data Protection Regulation. For many organisations this was a major challenge to the way they collected data and used it. We saw the regulations more positively. Thanks to GDPR, users can be a lot more confident about what happens to their email, address, phone, etc. if they provide it in conversation with a chatbot. Greater transparency in this area and greater control for users did much to end the negative association between chatbots and spam, for instance.
Moreover, we built a GDPR template bot for staff training. It’s still there in our bot store and has proven very popular.
The importance of Omni-Channel Chatbots
Related to the importance of GDPR was one of the big news stories of 2018, the New York Times report that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm, obtained access to private data from millions of Facebook users. On 26 March 2018, Facebook brought a halt to the deployment of new chatbots. Far from slowing our increase in registrations, this news increased them. Why? Because of the decision noted above for SnatchBot to be channel agnostic. In other words, if you wanted bots to keep functioning, they had to be able to stand on websites and channels such as Skype and Slack as well as Messenger. Many builders and companies dependent on chatbots hurried in our direction, not least because we promised we would add further channels all the time.
And we delivered on that promise.
Telegram, launched in 2013, is a hugely important messaging channel, that has over 200 million users. In October 2018, SnatchBot added Telegram to its list of channels, with a very simple user-interface for doing so. It can be done in just two minutes. Similarly, in the same month, we made Line users very happy, by integrating our platform with the biggest messaging app in the Japanese market. Soon after, Viber - the 800 million strong messaging application - too became live on our platform, with both Line and Viber being just as simple to connect with. SnatchBot’s chatbots can reach over half the world’s population without them having to leave their favourite channels.
Premium support and white label chatbots
In the first year of our existence, the only option for users was our free service. While the free use of a sophisticated platform like ours is, naturally, a great attraction for anyone wanting a chatbot, many users wanted a version that worked without the ‘Powered by SnatchBot’ branding. Moreover, our own expertise as bot builders as well as in regard to providing immediate and in-depth technical support is much in demand. To facilitate requests for builds and for one-to-one support and mentoring, as well as to monetize the company more generally, we introduced our PRO-plan in May 2018. This starts for as little as $30 a month (for a white label chatbot that exchanges up to 10,000 messages a month), and rises according to the usage levels. We believe our pricing structure has created a win-win situation for PRO-plan users, where the value of deploying the bot far exceeds the cost to you: so both SnatchBot and users are beneficiaries of our amazing technology.
SnatchBot Opens Office in Dublin, Ireland.
With registrations constantly rising (and at an increasing rate), reaching the 20,000 mark in July 2018, we became - as far as data available to us showed - the fastest growing chatbot platform in the world. Ahead of our own roadmap for growth, we decided to open a new office in Dublin to cater for our European clients but also to provide a point of contact for US and other English language users. Ireland is attractive in that it offers English language natives with great tech skills as well as state-of-the-art connectivity and cloud storage. Google and Facebook have their HQs in Dublin and the region in which we have opened our office, the Northwood Business Campus, echoes our home base in Herzilya in hosting a cluster of fast-growing start-ups.
Chatbots Built on the SnatchBot Platform can speak to you!
It seems inevitable that down the line, interactions between humans and their technology will become increasingly hands (and gadget free). The advantages of being able to talk to software are clear and not just for the visually impaired. It is our goal to be a leading part of the technological wave that is surging towards such a future, a wave containing Siri, Alexa and other speaking chatbots. And a huge milestone in our journey was completed in August 2018 with the introduction of a voice option for our chatbots.
Hopefully, if you are using the platform, you’ve already enjoyed this feature. Quite apart from the value of voice for accessibility it is a huge addition to the options available in creating a personality for your bot. Again, we have simplified the process to make it intuitive. Adding the option of listening to the chatbot is a matter of just a few clicks.
SnatchBot’s Prediction for 2019
If 2018 was an amazing year for us, we think 2019 will be even better. There may be clouds gathering around the progress of the world economy, but just as technology continued to advance in previous recessions, it’s obvious that chatbots will be deployed at a rapid rate in 2019, regardless of the strength of world economic growth. From our own metrics, we can see a tipping point seems to have been reached in some verticals. Of course, our platform is vertical agnostic and users are spread fairly evenly over all industries and cultural sectors, but in Education and Banking especially, there is a strong tide in favour of chatbots.
Sufficient use cases are out there that IT departments and HR departments can see the value of chatbots and not just in respect to answering FAQs or providing course information Chatbots are increasingly administering tests, storing the answers on private college databases and giving students feedback. For banks, chatbots are doing everything that the bank’s app does (e.g. check account levels, make transfers, etc.) with this enormous advantage: instead of obliging the customer to download an app to a device, the customer messages the bank on their favourite social media channel. This is an incredible difference and it’s not hard to predict that we are going to see a rush in 2019 to adopt chatbot technology, one that is especially visible in education and banking.
Two other rapid growth areas will be in research and in regard to surveys. With so many of the planet’s population engaged in social media, it is now possible to conduct research among millions of people by chatbot. One of the most impressive use cases of 2018 was Diana Derval’s colour test, that used our chatbots and went viral, obtaining over 10 million responses within the year. Again, the idea of doing a non-interactive survey now seems outdated and surely the survey market is ripe for disruption by chatbots? A chatbot can do everything a website survey can do, but on popular social media channels and in a more lively and engaging fashion. And in an era of survey fatigue, this is crucial. Not to mention it is a far cheaper way of carrying out a survey in comparison to the pricing structures of the current market leaders.
2019: the Year SnatchBot Soars
Our users will be delighted to know that we plan several new features for 2019, all of which are well advanced and we are confident that we will deliver them in the near future. All the time we are adding channels to our platform and the next to come will be WeChat, with its more than 1 billion active users.
Our NLP models are popular, so we are going to provide new pre-made ones, trained against hundreds of thousands of sentence examples, to allow you instant deployment of conversational understanding by your bot that is near-human in accuracy. These new models will be geared towards particular sectors like travel, education, banking, etc.
During 2019, too, SnatchApp, our proprietorial messaging app will be launched. This is a product we’ve been working on for some time and it has two beautiful features. One is that it is designed to work seamlessly with chatbots and the other is that it will allow easy-to-use money transfers. Again, we are looking to the future and as the cashless economy grows, more and more demand will be created for a simple means to send money to a friend, business, cinema, restaurant, etc.
Users have been making great use of our plugins, these are ready-made integrations between SnatchBot and useful software tools like calendars, maps, file storage, etc. To save you hours of time and again, to ensure no coding is necessary, we will do the necessary work to make sure you can deploy all the most popular services like Dropbox, Zendesk, eBay, Office365, Google Search, Shopify, etc..
Translation is a crucial issue that has been raised with us from many users who want to be able to hold conversations between the chatbot and people from all over the world, no matter what the language. We have added Microsoft’s API translation so that PRO-plan users will have the option of a translation type of interaction, that will automatically recognise and translate the user’s input.
The new year is an opportune moment to gather breath, look back at what we’ve achieved and look forward to the year ahead. Doing so makes us deeply appreciative of our user community. It’s you and the imaginative and creative use you make of our chatbots that make this journey such fun and such an exciting one.
The SnatchBot team.