Why conversational UI is godsent for all brands
With the progress – and recent surge – in Voice search and Chatbots, conversational UI has garnered a lot of attention in the digital world. But, while most articles around focus on the tech and design, there are precious few talking about the elephant in the room – the actual conversation and its impact. That’s what I’m here to talk about. Oh, and if you’ve never heard of conversational UI’s, don’t worry, we’ll go over the essentials in a sec.
What is Conversational User Interface?
User interface (UI) is, basically, anything a user may interact with to use a digital product or service. Everything from screens and touchscreens, keyboards, sounds, and even lights. Conversational UI, then, is when digital products simulate conversations in their engagement with the user. We’ve been used to interacting with digital products by clicking or entering syntax-specific commands, but with conversational UI interactions can take a more natural and social approach. We can tell the digital product what to do in our natural language, whether by voice or text, and the whole process relies much more on human interaction.
Conversational, as in an actual conversation
Conversational UI centres on the conversation, as the term suggests. Conversation-based interactions are two-way and allow for a much more personalized and engaging experience for a user. Think retail. In physical stores we’re used to conversations with the staff of a store, helping us find what we need. By doing that, we engage in a conversation, and it’s that level of communication that Conversational UI opens up for.
Let me give you an example
Say you want a new dress for a wedding, but you are not exactly sure how it should look. Sure, you could go to a webshop like usual and fiddle around with some filters till you find something meaningful. With a conversational UI you could ask for something, just like in a store, and then have the salesperson or in this case, the user interface, show you something based on your feedback. It’s no longer just you searching but rather, a teamwork between you and the webshop, where you get personalized help to figure out what the perfect dress would be. With a conversational user interface with enough intelligence, it might not be harder than to just ask for it.
Why text is so dang important
Conversational UI takes two forms – voice assistant that allows you to talk and chatbots that allow you to type. Within these two, we usually differentiate between free interaction (AI-based), and predefined interaction, which essentially means a less ‘intelligent’ setup, that relies on predefined options for the user to choose from. That means, either way, that Conversational UI is heavily reliant on language, and that means text. But that shouldn’t be a surprise – it’s communication, whether it’s via an AI, a script or something else, it needs language to exist. But for it to actually work, it needs elements of natural conversation.
Enabling natural conversation
But how? It’s not just a question of knowing what you want to say to the users. With Conversational UI it’s a combination of things: knowing who’s going to be interacting with your product, what you actually want to say, going deep into how you want to say it, and then actually being able to create that conversational flow. These, combined, can enable a much more natural conversation between you and your user via your product. It comes down to user experience, and the more natural and on-point the conversation, the better the experience. And that’s why Conversational UI is something all the digital big boys are investing in.
Intelligently engaging your users with Conversational UI
Conversational interfaces are about more than ‘just’ that they recognize voices, or understand humane commands. It’s about what they enable. Because here, intelligence isn’t what’s showed, but what it lets us do. It’s a combination of voice tech, AI reasoning, and contextual awareness that allows us to make interactions simpler, and more natural - we’re basically eliminating obstacles between the user and the product. Again, how? Well, let’s take a look at one of the possibilities that have opened up through conversational UI.
‘Conversational commerce’ is about moving the focus away from the storefront-like experience (e.g. building or designing a physical storefront or webshop), and towards a simple chat interface, like WeChat, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger, or even a standalone app. By moving onto a chat interface you create a one-on-one communication channel with the customer, where they can get personal shopping assistance, just like in a physical shop - the difference is, the person on the other side doesn’t have to be human; it can be a bot. And in contrast to a human, the bot is always available, never in a grumpy mood, and can help as many users as needed at a time.
Let’s take another example
Imagine that you’re buying a jacket. Instead of going onto a traditional webshop, you go to Facebook Messenger and start a conversation. The chatbot acts as a shop assistant, giving you personal assistance, and not just with text, but with photos or even videos - basically giving you a much more real experience than a traditional web shop ever did. Once again, the experience is key. And again, the conversation itself is key - bad conversation=bad experience, just like any real conversation you have. A good conversation on the other hand, in a simple and natural language and flow, is something that’ll create returning customers.
So, so many possibilities
Of course, there are a LOT of other things that conversational UI opens up for, and the list is constantly growing longer, as people see new ways of doing things: Onboarding first-time users, simplifying routine tasks, Advanced voice assistants and assisting with complex interactions with brands. Conversational UI can even be considered one of the main advances for digital accessibility, potentially helping to change the lives of a lot of people with disabilities. It’s exciting! and we’ll definitely be exploring where this is going with our clients in the future.
Want to hear more about Conversational UI and what it can do for your business? Please do not hesitate to contact me.