Chatbots vs Apps Explained in 7 Points

Sasha Butenko

As of now, chatbots are able to take orders (1-800-Flowers, Pizza Express, TacoBot), book plane tickets (Skyscanner), offer shopping advice (Sephora, H&M) and provide real-time account balance updates (Bank of America).

Chatbots also lead users through purchases (Spring), they enable users to print documents (HP),  even connect them with real doctors (HealthTap).

We have recently talked about chatbots and their meaning for the business. Today we are going to compare chatbots with mobile applications. We hope this data will help you to choose the right product for your business.

With the growing market for chatbots, virtual assistants are continuously improving. They become more reliable and human, so more people are turning to them.

According to VentureBeat’s research, the average chatbot retention rate equals 4%. They also found that a chatbot with 8% engagement rate can be considered successful.

When it comes to mobile apps, Localytics, a market research agency, found that 43% of users are still using apps one month after download.

Chatbots are mostly used as a fast solution to simple, urgent problems like the need for translating a couple of words.

For example, Instant Translator Bot helps users translate from and into 19 languages. It has over 50k daily users on Facebook and Viber, and more than 600k monthly active users.

One of the most known mobile translation apps called iTranslate has 6 million monthly active users.

So, although adults spend about 10 hours per day on messaging apps, it would be naive to expect that chatbots, no matter how great and technologically advanced they are, will replace apps in general.

Apps have their pros that are difficult to argue with.  But chatbots will definitely replace some of the apps. Here are some reasons why.

Users like messenger apps

Messenger app

Facebook Messenger has 1 billion active monthly users. And those are the users who use the Messenger on a regular basis, as a primary communication channel.

Also, those are the users that come to the Messenger not only to talk but to read content, order goods, and services, reach customer support, etc.

Many of them prefer never to receive calls from call center operators. They want to get the information right in the Messenger.

According to Twilio’s survey, 66% of consumers prefer communicating with brand representatives via messaging applications.

Text messages are less invasive than phone calls. The latter usually requires the person to answer right away and memorize the information if there’s no pen and paper close by.

A couple of hours after the phone call, you may quickly forget important details like an exact time or even date of item delivery. However, with text messages, all the essential information remains on the smartphone, and you can reach it at any time.

Thus, there’s no need for remembering everything with texting.

Users are getting tired of apps

mobile apps

There are so many apps out there for every brand, every task and every occasion. Android users alone have a choice of more than 2 billion apps. So do Apple users.

Today’s mobile app market looks like a new gold rush. Over the last decade, millions of new games, as well as shopping, social media, and many other types of apps, have appeared.

Meanwhile, the average person uses only a few apps a day, and the average number of apps has been limited to 27 for the last few years, according to Nielsen.

Apps are complicated because they need to be downloaded and they take smartphone memory.

In addition, they need updates and so on and so forth. It seems that users are getting tired of the apps universe and they want something more straightforward.  Here come the chatbots.

For those who are tired of apps, there are chatbots, which replace several mobile applications.

For instance, Clara – a virtual assistant powered by artificial intelligence (AI), exists solely in user email and is aimed to replace a calendar and event scheduling solution. It as well eliminates the need for communicating with colleagues regarding repetitive issues.

To use the chatbot, you should set your customizable Clara email address in the CC. The virtual assistant can coordinate between recipients to assign a meeting in your calendar.

By automated email responding, Clara can determine the best suitable time for each team member to set up an event correctly.

Chatbots are more human than apps


Well, not like the WestWorld Androids ‘human’ or Bicentennial Man ‘human’ (released in 1999, with Robin Williams playing the robot), but still…

Facebook Messenger chatbots speak human language, and that’s what matters to users. Chatbots are able to respond to requests in human language. In other words, it is like talking to another human being.

For this purpose, chatbots use natural language processing (NLP) technology. In simple words, NLP enables understanding of the context, and not just separate keywords in the text.

NLP-powered chatbots use the understanding of a sentence structure, idioms, and recognition techniques based on machine learning to determine user intent.

In short, NLP-enabled virtual assistants understand what users really need and act upon this knowledge.

When it comes to mobile apps, users have to navigate through a number of menu options to find the one needed. When using a particular app for the first time, users may face some difficulties with navigation.

Instead of making users do the “digging” job, chatbots take away users’ confusion by communicating with them as a human company representative.

Such live Q&A sessions are especially helpful when it comes to personal banking when there are numerous transactions for a long period of time, and a user may need detailed information about some of them.

Chatbots are simpler and faster than apps

virtual assistant

With a chatbot, you don’t have to download anything. ‘Installing’ a chatbot is simple — all you need is find a chatbot and start chatting. Chatbots do not need much of the precious smartphone memory.

The use of chatbots moves us back to the early time of computing. Using a conversational interface of a chatbot looks like using a command line, which used to be a typical practice of working with a computer.

Although, a “command line” of chatbots enables users to “enter commands” in a natural way instead of remembering exact commands that can be worthless if at least one symbol is missed.

Conversational interfaces, which allow using a human language instead of a machine one, are the most straightforward way of interaction between a computer and human. Few things are more natural than talking.

With a chatbot, a user doesn’t have to leave the messenger platform. Chatbots work fast and help users save time. In the 21st century, it is very much appreciated. Complicated interfaces seem to be losing the appeal, and vice versa.

Furthermore, unlike web pages that usually take a few seconds to load, bots load instantly. As long as things remain comparative, a user will definitely prefer tools that help them save time. This is where chatbots have advantages over mobile apps.

Chatbots are cheaper

For companies, chatbots cost less. Building a good mobile app takes time, money and effort. You’ll need at least a few high-skilled chatbot developers as well as UX designers.

Besides, with a considerable number of apps available, there is no guarantee that the app investment will pay off. Chatbots development is much easier as the messaging app is already there.

Since chatbots are basically server-side apps with a simple user interface, they are simpler and faster to develop in comparison with mobile applications.

Over the last few years, various vendors like IBM and Microsoft have represented advanced chatbot development platforms that allow developing virtual assistants at a relatively low cost.

Furthermore, they enable chatbot developers to create sophisticated chatbots powered with artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and speech recognition.

Brands want chatbots

chatbot brands H&M

Smartphone users are not the only target group that likes chatbots. So do brands’ marketing departments. The reason lies in the messenger apps’ popularity.

The customers are already there. What companies need is to create chatbots. For companies, chatbots mean improved customer service, more personalized communication with customers, new sales opportunities, access to the youngest target groups, etc.

Those businesses ensuring high engagement rates can significantly increase the number of sales. This is one of the main benefits of using social media marketing. That’s why most companies have it as an essential part of their promotion strategy.

Moreover, AI-powered chatbots can provide businesses with valuable insights about their target audience.

Artificial intelligence can use data that includes user behavioral details along with their transactions to form a 3D view of the typical customer. This allows companies to make accurate predictions and offer their customers personalized content.

By using insights received from chatbot conversations, organizations can extend their communication with customers to other channels like email, retargeted advertising, and personal offers while customizing content in correspondence with customer needs.

By collecting valuable insights from chatbot conversations, companies can significantly improve their marketing strategy by ensuring a new level of content personalization that can increase brand loyalty.

It seems that everybody wins in b2c chatbot communication.

Chatbots are great

chatbot business

Despite chatbots being a relatively new phenomenon, modern virtual assistants are smart enough to engage a target audience and free up organization representatives from repetitive inquiries that waste company’s precious time and resources.

Researchers show that businesses can cut customer service expenses by 30% due to virtual assistants.

Chatbots are great because they can be efficiently used for different tasks like booking tickets, assigning tasks, or scheduling events.

The other reason why chatbots are great is in the fact that they improve application management within enterprises.

Regardless of the improvement of various technologies, enterprises still use a large number of applications for their business needs. But this creates specific difficulties with managing them all.

This is where chatbots can come in helpful. Virtual assistants can help employees multitask within one messaging interface instead of switching between different applications.

Enterprise chatbots connecting multiple apps eliminate the need for handling signups and password resets on different software that employees use.

With both AI and NLP, businesses can significantly optimize their workflow by deputing routine tasks to virtual assistants and focus on major goals that require human creativity and logic.

As a result, companies can work at a faster speed and reduce their expenses while increasing the number of sales.

Final Thoughts

Chatbots are currently only gaining momentum on the innovative software market, but they have already managed to prove their effectiveness in various tasks like customer support, event scheduling, shopping, and enterprise app management.

However, despite all their advantages over mobile applications, chatbots will hardly be able to replace apps entirely since the latter have become an inherent part of the mobile software ecosystem over the last decade.

Although, the simplicity, affordability, availability, human-alike communication capabilities, and artificial intelligence will allow chatbots to compete with numerous mobile apps as well as replace them in some cases.

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