After a few months of testing the waters, Kik is still bullish on chatbots and has quite a few reasons to be.
Just last May at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, Kik CEO Ted Livingston divulged that developers had built over 6,000 chatbots on the platform. Fast forward a few months and the popular messaging app has announced today that more than 1.8 billion messages have already been exchanged with the nearly 20,000 registered chatbots on the service.
Developers can apply to have their bots included in Kik’s Bot Shop where any user can pop in and take a bot for a spin, but they have to meet some guidelines first that ensure they’re a good fit for users. To date, 100 chatbots have been approved and are currently available for download in the Bot Shop under three categories: entertainment, lifestyle and gaming.
These bots range from user-created tools to bot experiences built by brands like Sephora, H&M and Vine. One reason some of these companies are rushing to build Kik bots has to do with one of the main distinguishing factors of Kik as a messaging platform: teenagers. The app, which had 300 million registered users as of May, reaches nearly 40 percent of American teens.
Josh Jacobs, the president of Kik Services told me that teens have been especially receptive to using the feature with nearly 60 percent of the 1.8 billion messages exchanged with bots being done so by teenagers in the 13-19 age range.
“Bots are to apps as dating is to marriage, and teens have a lot of time to date,” Jacobs said.
What is perhaps more valuable than the metrics are the insights that have been gained from both Kik and its developers in discovering how bots can serve its users effectively and, well, not suck. It’s taken a lot of experimentation on the part of developers and some curation on Kik’s part.
The team at Kik has had to learn alongside developers what bots are really best used for while simultaneously crafting its bot API in a way that empowers them. A few features Kik has found effective are its “mention” feature which allows bots to be easily called on to participate within conversation threads and a feature called “invites,” which lets Kik users socially share their favorite bots with others.
It’s still early days for bots, and with so much competition emerging from other chat apps, it’s clear platforms need to be ultra-competitive in producing experiences that users actually get something out of. Kik’s very young, very active user base seems to be warming up to bots early, but time will tell how important the service will be to Kik’s messaging future.