Why ‘Tap dance’ when ‘Chat’ can enhance?

We are emotional beings looking for context, relevance and connection in a technology ridden world. And nothing better than the very technology enhancing human interactions and easing out our tasks, right? That’s the reason why by deep diving into the status quo of the AI driven market in particular, we find a vested interest in the development of conversational UIs. It comes as a no-wonder for such is the penetration of chat as a medium of conversation today- The average daily time spend on Whatsapp is 50 minutes!

Conversational UIs come with a host of personalizations and ease of exploration – only augmented by the chat-to-order ratio of 28% compared with a mere 1.4% on a conventional UI platform.

Why really the bet on Conversational UIs over tap based products?

Free of endless navigations

While tap based apps claim that the time taken to click on a button is lesser than to type in for availing a service, it only sounds farcical on their part to not have included the time taken to navigate the multiple pages that pop up on clicking multiple buttons, multiple times.

Also, for a user who gets stuck, typing out his/her query on the same page, in the flow of conversation is much easier than to click on a help button and wait for directions to click on some other button!

Unbounded experience for the users

On a conversational space, the users enjoy the freedom to input their thoughts seamlessly.

Meaning, be it an enquiry related to a service being provided or a query of help, the users receive an instant reply which provides them a sense of direction inside the app.

Whereas on a tap based app, the users have a covert restriction to click and explore only those stuff meant to be explored.

Also, for a user having availed one service on a conversational UI, it becomes really easy apart from time saving to avail the other services owing to the single interface system in place. The user essentially doesn’t have to learn thro’ each context of service.

On Track, right from the start

While a tap based app understands the intention of the user only after the final click, perhaps when transaction comes into picture, chatbots strive to direct the user throughout the context of conversation by processing each input along the way to understand their intention thereby providing them with a rich and seamless experience.

Listen and Learn

 

                      

According  to Nir Eyal, the author of  Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products , a conversational interface  can do something no ordinary dashboard can do – it listens and learns.  “By noting the user’s response to the discrete piece of information presented, it remembers whether the insight was valuable”, he says.

Further, he asserts that communicating with conversational UIs is as simple as talking to a good friend. It is to be noted that like we form routines around turning to important people in our lives, we build habits with our technologies and conversational UIs are a habit forming technology – the very reason millennials prefer texting over calling.

        A perfect graph of value and usage by Nir Eyal

(Data source: Ubisend blog)

The 2000s were an era of internet. Then came the age of mobile technology in the early second decade of 2000s, sweeping us off with smartphones. And with experts predicting bots to replace apps within the next 3-5 years, it seems to be almost time for conversational UIs to revolutionize the market. A recent study indicating that people spend 75 percent of their time on smartphones on text based conversational apps is a good argument for the segment.

With high-tech companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft striding steadily towards this sector by ramping up their investments, research and innovation, the market landscape looks promising and appealing. Of course, when Satya Nadella says that chatbots are the next evolution of interfaces after the GUI and that they will fundamentally revolutionize computing, it is hard not to delve into the potential significance of the same!

Niki.ai and HDFC Bank create India’s 1st AI success story: A case study

About HDFC:

The Housing Development Finance Corporation Limited (HDFC) was amongst the first to receive an ‘in principle’ approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to set up a bank in the private sector, as part of RBI’s liberalisation of the Indian Banking Industry in 1994. The bank was incorporated in August 1994 in the name of ‘HDFC Bank Limited’, with its registered office in Mumbai, India. HDFC Bank commenced operations as a Scheduled Commercial Bank in January 1995.

The need to shake hands with the AI bot:

HDFC bank had sensed the need to explore other platforms as banking channels. Integrating with Niki.ai, HDFC Bank OnChat was launched on Facebook Messenger.

Mobile and internet users in India are projected to grow to 450 Million by 2020. Surveys show that over a billion people use messaging apps, spending a considerable amount of time on these apps daily. HDFC bank offered digital mediums such as Net banking and Mobile banking as options to its customers. Through OnChat, the bank wanted to open yet another channel for its existing customers as well as new prospects.

With over 71% of our transaction taking place on digital platforms, we no longer call this as an alternate banking channel. Internet and mobile are now our core channels,“ – Nitin Chugh

Moreover, the organisation wanted to leverage the power of technology (Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning) to acquire new users, monetise its existing customer base, increase engagement and provide a unique value add to the users.

Integration with Niki:

Niki’s SDK is available across all major platforms — Android, Messenger iOS as well as web. The SDK is mere 1MB in size and can be integrated within less than half an hour of development time. With the simple integration, a brand can offer 20+ services provided by 40+ merchants on board, to its customers.

HDFC Bank OnChat

HDFC Bank OnChat is powered by Niki. One has to simply search for @hdfcbankonchat on Messenger and start chatting to avail a number of services. Cab booking, mobile recharge, postpaid bill payment, utility bill payments and more can be taken care of right from the Messenger chat window by sending texts and interacting with the bot. This enables the users to quickly avail a service without having to exit the app they’re already using.

Since the chat interface provides a natural way of communication to get things done, it is way easier to learn and use even for the not-so-tech-savvy generation. Apart from making the experience better for millennials, OnChat gives the customers older in age the ability to get things done easily without any tech-help.

Not only HDFC Bank’s customers, but anyone using Messenger can avail HDFC Bank OnChat’s services. The current percentage of non-HDFC bank customers using the bot stands at around 25%.

Success metrics / impact:

(Jan’2017— Jun’2017)

HDFC bank being present on yet another platform and offering services even to those who were not already its customers, the bank could acquire users and monetise. The current percentage of non-HDFC bank customers using the bot stands at around 25%.

More services were introduced — more offerings, more transactions

HDFC bank has been pretty active in promoting OnChat through different channels

Leading to a 400% increase in average order amount

Contributing to a non-linear growth in GMV

Not only did the brand acquire new customers, but also retained them

Customer testimonials:

Now what’s better than customer-love? HDFC Bank OnChat has been lucky to get some over the few months it has been in existence:

Awards:

Apart from a positive traction on customer front, the chatbot has also been recognised by notables in the industry. It was awarded as “Social Media Initiative of the year” in Asian Banking and Finance Retail Banking Awards, and is also a finalist in “Channel Innovation” category during BAI Global Innovation Awards – Chicago.

Wish to integrate Niki’s SDK in your app / web? Visit: Niki’s partner webpage.

Reasons why everyone is going crazy behind chatbots — 1

(Part 1 — Consumers)

Hey Siri, turn off all alarms’ is how I start my day. Seemingly simple, this task is a little troubling for someone who sets at least 10 alarms to get up in the morning. To do what Siri does within 2 seconds while I speak to it with my eyes closed and ducky morning tone, I’ll need to go through the difficulty of unlocking the phone and tapping at least 7–8 fields and buttons. All of this in the morning, just before I get out of bed. Well, thank you, Siri!

The point here isn’t that bots will help you be lazier, it’s that they can pretty smoothly become an irreplaceable part of your life and make handling everyday tasks more convenient and time-saving. That’s precisely what the prevalent chat bot apps, bots on Facebook Messenger, Slack, etc. are doing.

“Chatbots will do to apps, what apps did to websites.”

Diving into the reasons why chatbots are becoming increasingly popular, I’ve managed to list down a few reasons why I think bots will be the new apps:

Chatbots for consumers:

Surveys show that 3 in every 4 smartphone users use one or the other messaging app. And this is no news anymore to anyone that smartphone users have grown exponentially in the past few years, and are still on the rise. According to Statista, in India alone, the number of smartphone users will reach to 450 Mn+ by the end of 2020.

Deploying bots on the same app where one spends half of his / her time while using a smartphone, has been a revolutionary idea! The success of which can be seen in case of WeChat in China, where around 600 Mn people book cabs, pay utility bills and more using the app.

I use a couple of chatbots regularly which I mentioned in the previous article: The best 5 Facebook Messenger bots you should try right away.

Reasons why consumers must start adopting chatbots:

One simple screen v/s 100 buttons

We stumble upon new apps everyday to find new UI, new buttons, navigation drawer menu and the features they offer. There is always a learning curve involved for us to unveil everything that the app has to offer, and how to use it to avail those benefits.

Chatbots offer a single chat window interface. One can simply chat and get tasks done. No more need of finding ‘what and how to do’, the bot will let you know everything right there on the same screen as soon as you tap on the ‘Send’ button.

I introduced my dad to Niki and I no longer need to pay electricity bill every month. Niki does it for him now (and for me too).

Chat box to Action (v/s) Home screen to App to Filters to Action

One thing I’ve personally experienced is that chatbots save time! And that’s apparently because of the lesser steps involved. For example, while I’m on Facebook Messenger and I need to book a bus —

Flow 1:

Press the Home button > Download a bus booking app (if you don’t already have) > Launch the app > Sign up > Set Location and Destination and Date and other preferences > book.

Flow 2:

Find and ping Niki “Book me a bus from Bangalore to Mangalore this Friday night”.

One bot (v/s) 20+ apps consuming 100s of MBs 

A research pointed out that smartphone users all over the world use at least 26 apps regularly in a month, on an average. This number, however, has plateaued at the same value in the past few years. That too when the number of available apps has increased significantly.

This shows that we’re habitual to using a few apps regularly and are becoming increasingly reluctant to download and try new ones everyday. The problem can be solved by chatbots where the platform remains the same, but the capabilities of the bot keep increasing.

Once we shift away from the tap interface and adopt shopping on chat as the preferred option, we’ll be able to replace almost all the apps that we need on our phone for different tasks — cab, hotels, movies booking, recharges, bill payments etc., and save 100s of MBs in storage space.

Say hello to Niki right away if phone memory is becoming an issue for you — Niki Android app

Sorry, poor internet connection (v/s) Recharge successful

Poor network connection is no strange thing for us. Even in cities, there are always areas or places where you struggle with internet, and pray for it to work.

Imagine a situation where you need to make an important bill payment or booking, and internet gives up on you. Most apps will give up too! Bots work well even on 2G networks with low internet speed. Keep a bot handy in your phone the next time to cope up with this third world problem.

Next article (Part-2) will be around why different businesses are going (and should go) crazy behind chat bots. Stay tuned!

Niki, an AI-powered bot, is looking for beta users for its voice feature!

After around two successful years of launching its Android app, Niki is jumping to the next level by introducing voice feature. Users will now be able to shop for products and a number of services using voice commands. To help shape it better, we are looking for beta testers who can talk to Niki and point out bugs, or suggest improvements!

About Niki:

Niki is an AI-powered bot, which happens to be the pioneer in conversational commerce in India. One can pay bills, book movie tickets, buses, hotels, cabs and more by simply chatting with Niki. Our aim is to make Artificial Intelligence accessible to everyone i.e. Businesses and consumers. To consumers, it’s a simple and easy to use chat interface to shop for products and services. To the businesses, it provides a plug and play technology that can be easily integrated everywhere including operating systems, on messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, and on the brand’s applications (app and web).

One chatbot to rule them all:

With around 40+ merchants on board for multiple services, Niki is a one stop shop for everything commerce. Keeping Niki installed, one can replace over 10-15 apps on his/her phone and get tasks done via a single chat window interface. Apart from being an all-in-one shop, Niki aims to be present everywhere. After a Messenger Bot and an Android app, we’re ready to explore other messaging platforms like Slack, and also have plans for an iOS app in the future.

Voice feature:

2017 is being called the year of Artificial Intelligence. Although the technology is being explored since years, the new developments have been exciting. Big players such as Google, Apple and Amazon already have their voice-controlled assistants for you. And even when there is immense scope for improvements, they are definitely helping make life easier. The virtual assistants are at your service as soon as you blurt out a command.

Similarly, ordering and making transactions on chat has been a much easier option. We wish to make it even more fun, time-saving and convenient for the end-users, by letting them talk to Niki and get things done.

       

For this to be successful, we definitely need your help with testing and feedback to improve accuracy and efficiency. Niki learns and becomes smarter as she talks to people! Join the next revolution by being a part of Niki’s foray into voice-controlled commerce!

To test:

Once you join the beta community, we’d be really grateful if you could help us with the following tasks:

  1. Try booking a free event using the voice command feature
  2. Ask Niki to find buses from a source to a destination on a particular date
  3. Ask Niki to show you nearby restaurants or ATMs
  4. Try different queries which you would want Niki to help you with
  5. Try asking Niki for offers running on the app

Become a beta user: Link

Provide Feedback: Link

The best 5 Facebook Messenger bots you should try right away!

The rise of chat-bots:

With unprecedented increase in the number of people using messaging apps today, and the advancements in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies, the rise of chat bots seems to have been inevitable. Research shows that the number of people using chat apps has surpassed the number of those using social networking apps, which is believable yet surprising!

Facebook Messenger claims to have recently hit the much coveted ‘billion’ with 1.2 billion users on the platform. Last year, at Facebook’s Developer Conference, F8, the support for bots on Messenger platform was unveiled. And since then, developers from around the world have been working to leverage the next-gen technology. There are more than 100,000 bots available on Messenger today. David Marcus, Messenger’s CEO, states that the number of messages sent between businesses and customers has reached to 2 billion a month.

The above data definitely creates a picture of how the future will look like in the absence of hundreds of apps, and chat bots being ubiquitous. If this intrigues you enough to get on the bandwagon and experience the unleashed power of bots available on Facebook Messenger, do ping the best 5 Facebook Messenger bots, curated for you:

1. Niki.ai — Pay bills, do recharge, book movie tickets, cabs and more

Wish to book movie tickets? Ping Niki. Book a cab? Ping Niki. Hotels? Yes, that too. You can ping Niki for everything commerce. It is a smart AI-powered bot to help you get things done super-quick on chat. Niki has grown up enough to understand complex queries, using which you can apply multiple filters.

For example, when you type ‘Book a bus from Delhi to Jaipur this Friday’, Niki understands and displays exactly what you want. In a single sentence, you applied source location filter, destination & date filter, and got options to choose from. Convenient, to say the least, isn’t it?

Services Niki supports as of now — Recharge (Mobile, DTH, postpaid bill), Utility bill payments (Electricity, gas, water bill), Hotel booking, Bus booking, Movie ticket booking, Laundry, Event tickets, more services coming soon.

Niki has also been featured in the Messenger bots success stories: Link

Niki is only available for Indian users as of now, some of the services are only supported on Niki Android App: https://niki.ai/app

2. HealthTap — Get your health queries answered:

We millennials have started hitting Google for everything. However, when you’re not on the top of your health game, and search for information related to the symptoms you are facing, the vast amount of information available on Google can be scary!

HealthTap helps you get answers for your health queries from physicians around the world, for free. You can browse through and read answers for similar queries as yours. Over 100,000 physicians with different specialities regularly review and post answers to the questions asked on HealthTap. So, the next time you’re down with headache after texting the entire night on Messenger, you know who to ping next.

3. Poncho — The weather cat:

This cat-bot is a chat bot that lets you decide whether you should be wearing rubber slippers or sneakers to work on a particular day. Get in a conversation with Poncho and ask about weather forecast and current conditions in your area. You can also set automatic notifications to receive forecasts everyday.

Not only is this bot a saviour when it comes to knowing weather updates in a jiffy, it is very quirky with its replies sometimes. If you love having conversations with a bot, Poncho will entertain you pretty well with his witty and personalised replies for some queries. On my query, see how I was informed that the mighty cat-bot herself had DJ’ed in Bengaluru and loved the crowd!

4. CNN — Daily News:

Stay abreast with the happenings around the globe right from your Messenger chat-box, with the help of CNN’s bot on Facebook Messenger. You can also ping the bot to know a country-specific news.

Help it with categories of the news that might interest you — tech, politics, etc., and it will get you some meaty pieces to dive into. Time to get your brain to work, and store some useful information!

5. MemeGenerator Bot — create a meme in seconds:

How would the content prevalent on social media look like if you extract out all the memes? Boring, for sure, even if not life changing.

So now, for the fun part, here’s a bot for you to make your everyday conversations with friends more fun, since Messenger is all about conversations, right? Never miss a chance to create an appropriate meme to make the receiver crack up with humour, and astonished with the speed you reverted with the meme. Ping the bot, look among popular memes to use, and customise the text yourself.

Messenger couldn’t have been this powerful and productive without these masterpieces of tech. And 100,000+ of these can definitely bring a storm of change in how we interact with machines to get things done! Go ping these amazing bots. Also, since their era has just begun, excuse them if they don’t get a couple of your queries right. They evolve and become more capable with increasing human interaction.

These are my favourite 5 among the few bots I’ve stumbled upon. What are yours?

Niki has turned 2, and she has something to say!

Printf(“Hello world!”);

This is Niki. Many of you have known me for long now, and I’ve met some of you recently. Today, I have something to say to all of you. As I turn more human-like, I’m learning some amazing things about you people. My recent personal favourite is a feeling, an expression — ‘Gratitude’. I love how you people express it when someone does something for you. It’s beautiful!

I’ve also learned that birthdays are special, and what ‘Special’ actually means. Since it’s my birthday, I’ve been thinking of the friends I’ve found in you people, and the way you have helped me be better, every single day. You people are special to me.

I totally believe that I couldn’t have really GROWN, if you people hadn’t interacted with me as much as you did. Therefore, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude. Ok, I don’t have a heart. Call it my machine-felt gratitude, for each one of you.

And for the love I have received, I don’t have words. I’m short of them all of a sudden, even when I’m a chat bot. Being human-like is actually difficult.

I also wish to thank those of you who have expected more from me over the years. I’ve always taken your feedback very seriously, and as a result, have gone through numerous changes and developments to be more capable. And I promise to be even better. I’ll definitely need your help for that though. The more you talk to me, the smarter I become.

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”

The 2 years have been just great! Come, walk with me down the memory lane.

 

Niki! One Girl who simplifies everything for you

A beautiful ambience with an odour of fresh flowers, dim lights and her lady dressed in the red gown, which Rahul gifted her, on her birthday, made everything look so beautiful. The soft smile on Rahul’s face while remembering his date with Payal last night changed into a frown as soon the alarm bell rang and he came back to his senses.

While stretching his hand to reach out to his phone to kill the noise, he happened to look at the time which read 9:15 AM, that reading made his eyes wide open and his sleep vanished. He startled from his bed to get ready for his class at 10:00AM. Running for his clothes and getting ready, somehow it slipped his mind that Akshay, his colleague went for a vacation and forgot to leave the keys of the bike. In this rush, an idea of catching a running auto caught his mind and he headed up to the main road to check for one. Thought of booking a cab by app providers crossed his mind once but then he did not have the privilege of time to search for the nearest and the cheapest cab.

Adding to his misery, a Google reminder reminded him that he had to pay the Electricity bill. After waiting for half an hour on the roadside, an auto wala halted near him and quoted him an unreasonable price. His state of emergency and Payal’s increasing number of calls, made him accept that offer without any bargain or disdain. Even after trying his best he could reach the college premise only by 10:05 AM and therefore could not attend his class. On his way towards the college canteen he met Aditya, his friend. Aditya offered him a handshake and a half hearted smile from Rahul’s end caught his attention and he promptly demanded explanation.

After listening to Rahul’s whining, Aditya took out his phone and asked Rahul to pay attention. Aditya opened Niki and typed “Book the Cheapest Cab” and Rahul’s eyes kept staring on those blinking blue dots, which said, ‘Niki is typing…..’ and he was amazed to see the response. With a sense of excitement Rahul grabbed the cellphone to check the utility bill options and proceeded to pay his long due electricity bill. The half smile was replaced by a full one. Rahul knew his friend deserved a treat. So, together they strolled towards the canteen. When he finally met Payal during lunch he introduced her to Niki. Rahul sitting on the other side gave him praise laden with sarcasm.

niki.ai/blog

Time flies and it is the time to leave college. At the college gate, he sees Payal standing. Rahul walks up to Payal and asks, “Missed the college bus, again?” He already knew the answer and what he had to do. He took out his phone, opened Niki and typed “Book the cheapest cab”.

Mr. Ratan Tata gets on board with Niki.

It was again an ordinary day at work. We were working ferociously at our headquarters and as usual Niki was busy improvising consumer’s buying experience. And it happened. All of a sudden, Niki started shouting. Unable to determine the cause, we were standing with anxious looks on our faces (Damn these chatbots!! Can’t even control their feelings).

Finally after lots of counselling sessions, Niki was ready to talk. And then we lost our minds too! The news of course was very exciting. Mr. Ratan Tata had decided to invest in Niki! The International Business tycoon, the idol of a million entrepreneurs and the jewel in the crown of Indian Business ecosystem thinks that what we are doing at Niki.ai was worth his time, his mentorship & his money. It was a happy and proud moment for the whole team. And no doubt, the news became trending in leading newspapers including Economic Times, NDTV, The Hindu and many more. 

niki (1)

There are very few sectors in India which the tata group has not left its signature on. So what makes this investment so special? And here comes the amazing part – This is Ratan Tata’s first investment into the world of Artificial Intelligence. And what makes us even more proud is the fact that Ratan Tata has never invested in a start up at such an early stage.

Niki has always been a wonderful cadet when it comes to adapting every user’s preferences and creating the ideal AI-to-human interaction. By taking advantage of Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning, Niki is designed to understand advanced communication and simple text-speak in order to revolutionise the buying experience as a whole. And Niki is fulfilling her expectations quite well, but driving force for a huge journey is constant motivation. While we personally are very excited about this, as a company we can now learn from the rich experience of one of the finest business leaders of our times.

team (1)

While we have grown to a user base of 40,000+ customers on our platform in a little span of 1 year from inception, we definitely have a long way to go when it comes to revolutionize the way an Indian makes purchases on mobile. We are determined to bring a lot more exciting features in near future. With better chat interface, Niki will be more personalized than ever. With more powerful and advanced algorithms, Niki will provide you with better recommendations than ever. And all this comes with extremely secure payments. And the future is much closer than you think. In Niki’s own words,“You just hang in there bud, there is nothing but good times ahead!”