man with cell phone

How many times have you thought, "I wish I could use a single bot on multiple platforms"? OK, perhaps it's never crossed your mind. 

But it has drawn the attention of Inmoji, which just rolled out platform agnostic Brand Bots — eliminating the need for businesses to create separate bots for separate platforms.

Interactive Emojis

Screenshot of Inmoji bot

Inmoji, a startup with offices in Boston and San Francisco, creates branded, interactive emojis for integration into consumer messaging. It currently works with messaging applications like Tango, Kik and MeetMe and brands including iTunes and Starbucks, the company reports.

Bots, software used to automate tasks, work within messaging apps to provide location-based services, like helping people find a nearby restaurant, or handle mobile payments when purchasing within an app. It’s becoming an integral part of the customer experience, and a lot of times bots greet consumers even before humans do.

Smarter Bots

Earlier this month, chat app Kik released a Bot Shop, inviting developers to create bots for the messaging service popular with teenagers. Facebook Messenger just this week launch its own bot store too, serving up news stories and local weather in partnership with CNN and Poncho. Messaging isn’t just about talking now — it’s about getting things done.

The tech is imperfect, but as with most things, the technology will get better with the capability to better predict our needs and wants. Bots might anticipate what movie you will want to see or recommend a restaurant for dinner after work when you leave the office.

Inmogi CEO
“As [artificial intelligence] gets better and better, we’re able to dictate a little more which way things go in the decision tree. In the end, the user still feels like they’re having a conversation,” said Michael Africk, co-founder and CEO of Inmoji.

Brand Bot is still in private beta and will be announced with general availability in the third quarter this year, Africk said.

Will Bots Replace Apps?

Bots keep finding more ways to enter into our daily conversations, whether we’re seeking customer service or shopping around online. Some see bots one day replacing apps. Imagine requesting Uber right from your conversation instead of having to leave a chat app and then open the Uber app.

According to Flurry Analytics (now part of the Yahoo Mobile Developer Suite) people opened messaging apps on average nine times a day between 2014 and 2015. And eMarketer claims people send six billion emojis or stickers each day on mobile messaging apps. 

But as far as trends and numbers on bots, it’s still to early to put any specifics on usage and user information.

“I wish I could give you some numbers … but it’s too early,” Africk said.

Tapping Contextual Relevance

In most cases, bots’ understanding is limited because of context — something humans are still better at, at least for now. This is where Inmoji hopes to separate itself from the crowd of bots in the marketplace.

“Contextual relevance is paramount. We find our bots to be relevant. Ours pops up while it’s relevant,” Africk said.

“We feel like it’s all about the conversation.”

If people are chatting about Starbucks on Facebook, a bot enters the stream when it’s most important to you, he said. It might suggest a nearby location or tell you about a deal.

Consumer Acceptance of Bots

Consumers are already becoming more comfortable with these technologies, from listening technology on Amazon’s Echo to predictive text technology that activates virtual assistant tools. And for those turned off by bots, Africk says they develop the technology with user privacy in mind.

“You don’t have to become friends with that bot. When I choose to go into Starbucks, I go in. It’s like everything else.”

Inmoji also plans to introduce a standalone Inmoji messaging app for organizations in coming weeks. Africk hinted at potential email integrations.

Title image by Lesly Juarez