The marketing world is abuzz with a new major debate, a split in techniques that will significantly differentiate companies that follow one path or another. Chatbot or App? In the modern world of reaching out to your customers through every available platform, this can seem like a crazy question at first. Of course, you want your business to have a mobile app. After all, people are spending more times surfing the web and using apps on their phones than ever, right? Oddly enough, while mobile usage is continuing to rise, the number of new apps downloaded every month is in serious decline. It may no longer be practical to build a custom app for your business and expect it to thrive. How many people are really going to download the hundred-and-fifth new single-purpose app onto their already overloaded devices?

The App Boom is Over

The simple fact of the matter is that the app boom is over. The ‘shiny new’ feeling of being able to download any new app at any time is wearing off. As phones become an increasingly integral part of our everyday lives, we are also settling into a comfortable groove. We already know which apps are our favorites. Just think about your own app use and you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. How many apps of the millions available do you use in a day? How many new apps do you download in a week?

In a recent study, it’s been found that downloads are declining by more than 20% year on year and over 65% of all mobile users download no new apps within the stretch of a month. In other words, if you made a new app there is now a high likelihood that very few people would download it. These statistics alone are enough to lead many businesses to seek an alternative to investing in a new app, especially if the primary purpose is simply to keep in touch with mobile clients and open channels of communication.

What is a Business Chatbot?

Now let’s look at the flip-side of the new debate. Simply Google ‘Chatbot vs App‘ and you will see headline after headline about how chatbots are replacing apps as the leading mobile technology for the modern business. But what exactly would a business chatbot even look like?

A chatbot for your business and brand is essentially a conversational AI that can handle text communication and possibly even voice chat like today’s smart home personalities. A chatbot can engage with customers, qualify leads, and offer personal customer experiences and unlike human agents, it can be in an infinite number of places at once. You can see chatbots in action through business website live chat, manning business facebook chat accounts, and even holding lively industry discussions on Twitter with a large mobile community. They can text message, handle customer service, and serve as personal shoppers. And they can do it for as many customers care to log in and engage.

When you think about the versatility and customer engagement that becomes possible with a truly well-designed business chatbot and the sheer volume of digital communication flying through our airwaves today, it’s no surprise that many businesses are choosing to develop or commission a chatbot to become the friendly robot voice of their brand instead of investing in a mobile App that will never see the light of day.

But Wait, Don’t Chatbots Need Apps to Function?

Of course, the one question any tech-savvy marketer or business owner will find themselves wondering is how the chatbot is implemented. To reach mobile users, don’t you need an app? The answer is yes, of course. However, with apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and so on that are already popular and downloaded on phones across the country, your chatbot already has all the communication platform it needs. It is also incredibly versatile, as a chatbot can exist on any functioning chat channel whether this is the live chat feature on your website, your social media pages, or the chat apps your customers are already using. The reason businesses are turning to chatbots in favor of apps is because a new app simply isn’t needed. A well-built chatbot can provide all the services a simple app might have, but across as many platforms as your customers choose to access.

Woman looking on social media applications on modern white Apple iPad AirWoman looking on social media applications on modern white Apple iPad Air

Building a Chatbot Instead of an App

As it turns out, the decline in new app adoption is actually a boon for your business. Your chatbot can be loaded onto almost any existing popular platform saving you the time and expense of trying to develop a new communication app or platform just for your business. Instead, you can effectively reach your audience and promote your business simply by loading your brand chatbot, the new digital “voice” of your brand, onto every platform your customers are already using. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, the bot can be on all of them and you don’t have to compete. You can gain all the benefit of the existing huge user bases for these already popular platforms by making a tool that works with them instead of an alternative.

So should you build a chatbot instead of an app? If your goal is just to reach out to your customers to engage and offer online services, absolutely. In the modern market, the only time it is really practical to make an original app is if you have a collection of real interactive features you want to build for your customers that can’t be achieved more easily through a mobile-friendly web application. If you have great app design in mind, by all mean,s build your app. If your goal is to stay connected with your mobile users, then a chatbot is more flexible and is already resulting in greater ROI for companies who adjust their expectations and make the switch.

Once you’ve resolved to build a chatbot to connect with customers through your website, social media, and mobile chat apps, the next step is to find a capable chatbot team and design the personality and services your chatbot will provide. The more interactive and versatile your bot is, the more fun customers will have connecting and ‘getting to know’ your new favorite customer service team member.