The Future of Branded Interactions
The way we communicate has changed radically in recent decades. Today, we can interact with brands via voice in the same way we do with friends and family. Text-based chatbots and voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant have greatly improved thanks to artificial intelligence, speech recognition and synthesis, and are becoming increasingly interesting for companies.
These interfaces particularly simplify standard processes, such as booking tickets, selling products, answering support requests, or providing new services. However, a conversational user interface (CUI) is only valuable if it really helps users. Brands must therefore ask themselves whether they want to develop their own voice assistants or use an existing platform provider (for example, Amazon with Alexa) for their voice-based services.
Are Branded Conversations Right for My Brand?
Conversational user interfaces are generally useful in situations where they advise, support, or encourage the user. Text- or speech-based chatbots are particularly suitable for frequently asked questions, in medical anamnesis and customer advice, because they inform or guide the user step by step via dialog.
Especially in situations where users are driving, cooking, or typing while needing information, setting an alarm, or listening to the weather forecast, CUIs are invaluable. This is why voice assistants have become increasingly important, because these voice interfaces can often be better embedded in everyday life than graphical interfaces.
Match the Personality of Your Chatbot to Your Brand
Conversational user interfaces allow a considerable amount of scope for shaping the brand personality. A consistent brand presence relies on aligning the behavior of the chatbot or voice assistant with the brand behavior and remaining authentic at all touch points. Therefore, for a strong distinct bot personality, it is essential that you also extend the design principles and UX strategy to respond appropriately to the context and users.
Chatbots and voice assistants are more interactive than other means of communication, and therefore seem personal and accessible. More than in any other medium, the brand personality corresponds to the user experience here.
How do we perceive a particular brand’s chatbot? As a friend? As an assistant? As a challenger? As a coach?
At think moto, we usually derive the personality of a chatbot or voice assistant from the archetypal role of a brand in the market. While the virtual assistants should echo this role, they don’t have to be identical to the overall brand personality.
In 2017, we developed our first messaging chatbot as a concept and prototype for the e-travel startup flyiin. We focused on the contextual guidance of dialogs according to previously-defined personality traits.
Dialog Scripting and Prototyping
For Audi, we developed the personality of its voice assistant and a conversational design fiction. In four stakeholder workshops, we worked with a team of business and brand strategists, UX and UI designers, as well as service and interior designers to analyze the requirements and needs from a business, customer and brand perspective, define the assistant’s skill set and create various user stories.
Based on the empathy and learning ability of the voice assistant, we also defined a corridor in the personality profile that allows the assistant to adapt to each user. Finally, together with a screenwriter and professional voice actors, we developed and recorded prototypical dialogs. This resulted in a design fiction for the brand’s conversational design—a hypothetical vision of possible human-machine interactions in the next five years.
Learn more about the Audi case here.
5 Steps to Your First Branded Conversation
- Discover: Understand your users and their requirements. Prioritize the use cases. Determine your business goals and whether they can be achieved with a conversational interface.
- Define: Develop a personality for your conversational interface that aligns with the brand. Apply it to voice, language style, actions, sounds, and visualization. Also define knowledge domains and skills, as well as the touch points for the chatbot or voice assistant to be accessible. Performance KPIs will help you measure success later.
- Design: Define actions and create sample dialog flows as well as sounds, visualization, and voice(s) of a voice assistant, if applicable. Test the interactions with users and refine them accordingly.
- Deliver: Implement your dialogs with tools like Google Dialogflow, LivePerson LiveEngage, Cognigy.AI, or IBM Watson and integrate them on the relevant platforms.
- Distribute: Continuous testing, measuring, and optimizing is as much a part of chatbots and voice assistants as any other digital project. Although AI-based systems are constantly learning, you should still be actively expanding their capabilities. Guidelines help ensure the quality of responses.
Find out more about our conversational strategy and design process here.
Conversational UIs Change the Brand Experience
Conversational design is far more than a short-term hype. The supporting technologies are constantly improving and already enable applications that offer real added value for the user. While classic e-commerce or online customer service is reaching its limits, conversational experiences will permeate further business areas.
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