Gettin’ chatty on Kik
While Yahoo may be in the middle of a sell out, they are still attempting to stay on top of the internet game. Yahoo recently announced the launch of three chatbots for the popular messaging platform Kik. Chat bots certainly aren’t a new innovation, but they are new to the Kik platform. Some retailers have already been using chatbots on Facebook’s Messenger platform.
Yahoo’s chatbots are essentially an easier way for Kik enthusiasts to access the same information Yahoo users can access through two of their most popular apps: Yahoo News Digest and Yahoo Weather. To interact with the bots, users only need to search for the ID (@yahoonews and @yahooweather), then select some preferences from the menu and you can begin interacting. I actually had a hard time finding them, when I searched for them; instead, I clicked the “search” icon, then “bot shop” and was able to find them there without issue.
Even though these chatbots possess a certain element of coolness, it is a bit unclear how relevant chatbots will be in the long run; especially given the popularity of live chat, email, and direct messaging.
However, Kik states that over 40% of American teenagers use their platform, spending, on average, upwards of an hour per day on the app.
This is a fairly large audience, so it makes sense that Yahoo wants to optimize their influence, but are chatbots the best way to go?
Kik seems to think it will go well, as similar gaming bots have done extremely well on the platform. Yahoo’s senior director of product, Jon Paris, said Yahoo had chosen to work with Kik on the bots, instead of Facebook Messenger, because Kik allowed bots on their network nearly two years before Facebook. This allowed more time for development and beta testing.
Testing seems to be the primary reason Yahoo has chosen to launch on Kik. Paris stated Yahoo was hoping to learn from the way Kik’s users interacted with the bots and make improvements based on their feedback. It looks like Yahoo maybe using Kik as a launching pad to developing and launching bots on Facebook Messenger.
What can they do?
Chatbots definitely have advantages for things like immediate customer service responses (since Facebook times your responses), engaging your followers, or running special promotions (like games), but I’m not sure how long news and weather bots will remain relevant and engaging. The greater majority of cell phone users, use smartphones; smartphones have apps for news and weather that send notifications to the top of your screen (if enabled).
Apps like The Weather Channel and NPR, already do the things that make Yahoo chatbots unique. Yahoo Weather chatbot allows you to see a real-time photo of the weather in your chosen areas, courtesy of Flickr; The Weather Channel app also uses this information. The same is true of the Yahoo News chatbot. It allows you to receive global headlines and summaries twice a day, right from Kik.
While this is useful if you’re a heavy Kik user, the same information is available through other apps, or a simple Google search.
This is why I’m uncertain about the relevancy of these particular chatbots: do they really do anything unique?
Do they need to? What do you think? When the novelty of the new chatbots wears off, will this put Yahoo ahead of the technology pack, or will it just be another form of temporary entertainment for users?