AI And Messaging Apps: What Every CIO Needs To Know About Trends In User Experience Design

Ivo van Barneveld

Part 2 in the 5-part “UX Design for CIOs Series

Artificial intelligence (AI) gives systems the ability to understand, learn, predict, adapt, and act autonomously. Recent research by experts from Yale and Oxford University predicts a 50% chance that artificial intelligence will outperform humans in every job in 45 years’ time. Back in in 2014, the Internet documentary Humans Need Not Apply  raised awareness about the rapid pace in which robots are taking over human labor.

While there is ongoing debate about whether robots will ever be smarter and better than humans, AI is already present in many forms today – more than the average user realizes. It has an impact on the user experience of applications like Spotify and Netflix, where it provides recommendations based on previous choices. It learns our behavior and habits, like Nest’s thermostat. It drives cars autonomously through traffic. It recognizes objects in pictures, and it detects emotions when we look at billboards. It makes proactive recommendations when we shop online. It curates content on social media. And so on.

While many people still associate AI with science fiction, the reality is many products and services already use AI to offer a better user experience!

Messaging apps – the new mobile home page

Messaging applications like WeChat, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp have shown strong user growth over the last few years. They have evolved from simple social conversation tools to self-expression platforms by introducing emojis, picture and video sharing, filters, and special effects. And they have an enormous reach: mobile messaging applications have over 3 billion active users globally!

Especially for millennials, messaging-based applications are becoming the second mobile homescreen. And this generation not only uses messaging apps to stay in contact with their friends; messaging is also their preferred way of interacting with businesses, for example, for ordering stuff or making reservations, inquiries, or complaints. Messaging apps make these interactions conversational in nature and organized in threads. They remember the user’s identity, preferences, and context.

Let’s look at Facebook Messenger. More than 2 billion messages are sent every month between people and businesses, both automated and people-initiated. By using bots, Messenger allows business to reach people at scale, but interact with each of them individually. Facebook introduced an API for building chatbots for Messenger in April 2016.

Today, it has over 100,000 monthly active bots, and the number is growing.

Business messengers

Another example is WeChat. WeChat has clearly been leading the trend of business messengers, offering official business accounts since 2012 and WeChat Pay since 2013. It started as a simple chat app, but has grown into a full-blown messenger offering a mixture of messaging, gaming, and social media. Using WeChat, people can order and pay for food, pay their bills, play games, keep in touch with friends, and track deliveries. Its 900+ million active users (mostly Chinese) are using WeChat when they wake up, and when they go to bed – and every moment in between.

Just a few months ago, WhatsApp, the largest messaging platform globally, embraced the potential of business messaging. It introduced a pilot program for verified business accounts, underlining the trend of messaging applications becoming the new mobile homepage.

In my next blog, I’ll look at growth in the use of voice recognition technology and conversational UI.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about conversational UIs and chatbots in general, I recommend subscribing to Chatbots Magazine on Medium. If you’d like to know more about SAP’s digital assistant, you can follow blog posts about SAP CoPilot on Experience.sap.com. You can also follow me on Twitter and reach out to me if you’re interested in co-innovating with us, or joining our next planned customer engagement initiative.

And for more on taking advantage of trends that are more than fads, see How Following UX Design Trends Can Feel Like Surfing.


Ivo van Barneveld

About Ivo van Barneveld

Ivo van Barneveld is a passionate evangelist of innovations in user experience, mobile, and Internet of Things. His work focuses on the intersection of technology and business. He is currently a member of the UX Customer Office team in SAP Global Design, with the remit to drive adoption of SAP’s award-winning user experience, SAP Fiori. Previously, he worked at SAP as a lead consultant, supporting customers with planning and executing digital transformation strategies. Prior to joining SAP in 2012, he held several business development, account manager, and partner manager roles at Nokia and Layar, among others. Ivo holds a Master’s degree in Applied Physics from the Delft University of Technology, and is based in the Netherlands.