With the app boom over, bots have been touted as the next big digital trend. It's good to note that bots are nothing new: the technology has existed for decades and bots have been used to automate simple tasks, like placing orders or scheduling meetings, for years. However, as artificial intelligence evolves, bots will be able to take on more complex tasks that have traditionally depended on humans. Voice-activated digital assistants like Amazon Echo’s Alexa give some indication of what’s coming: dumb bots are becoming a lot smarter.
Brands need to create experiences that set them apart from their competitors. The rise of conversational interfaces means that visual design skills are no longer enough to achieve that goal. When the bot lives on existing platforms like Facebook Messenger, WeChat or Slack, differentiation depends on what is said, who says it and how they say it. To stay relevant, brands will need to develop a better understanding of how to influence and motivate people through conversation.
Saying the right things is critical because intentional vocabulary and style choices can help a brand connect with its audience. Words that communicate empathy and personality can breathe life into the brand experience. To maintain a consistent voice, it may even make sense to paint a picture of who’s talking by developing bot personalities. Unfortunately, existing brand guidance is generally not detailed and practical enough to support conversational interface design.
Some brands do champion creative writing. MailChimp’s Content Style Guide demonstrates how to spark emotion with concrete examples. They also talk about the difference between voice and tone. Essentially, the voice should always stay consistent, while tone should be adjusted to fit the reader’s emotional state. This type of an approach would carry well into conversational bots and is something for others to learn from.