Where bots can work well: replacing single use apps

This weekend I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon on the beach in Santa Cruz. As I headed towards the beach, I realized I wasn’t the only one with that idea and spend almost an hour looking for parking. I finally found a spot on the street, in a metered parking spot. Unfortunately I had no quarters but, hey, you can pay with an app, Parkmobile.

Hold on, first you need to agree to the Terms & Conditions, where you may or may not realize that Parkmobile charges an additional fee, but not what it is, add your email, phone number, a credit card, and a password, all this while your family is clamoring to just go. Try to figure out the correct zone and meter to enter to make sure the app knows where you are. Finally, go to the beach and hope you don’t come back to your car and find a ticket.

It’s a bit of a process. If Parkmobile was a parking app that was used across the US, in every city, every county, every park, I’d be their number one fan despite the lengthy onboarding. Sadly it’s limited to tiny number of cities and lotsI’m not criticizing their coverage as I’m sure every municipality puts up their own barriers to easy integration, but it does tend to classify them as a one-time use.

After running through the gamut and going to the beach, I finally realized what Facebook could do with Messenger bots. Given the high adoption of Messenger in the US, it could be a fantastic alternative the “download the app, create an account, and add billing info” paradigm. This is especially true for activities and transactions that are mostly one-time events.

Consider the parking scenario on Messenger. In an ideal world, parking app developers would band together into one “parking” category. The user would only need to type “pay for parking” and, based on the user’s location, Messenger would start up the bot servicing that city. There would be no need for further registration or for entering billing information as the user has already entered all the necessary information into Facebook. Just “pay for parking” and a confirmation that’s something like “would you like to start paying for parking near 314 Riverside Ave in Santa Cruz?” Much simpler and it’s a win for all sides: users get to easily and accurately pay for parking, cities get more parking revenue, and Parkmobile still gets the service fees.

What other similar, rarely used transactions could be a good fit for bots? Many travel-oriented applications fit the bill: paying tolls, non-chain hotel reservations, public transportation, taxis, and airport shuttles, and almost any other one-time location-specific transactions, especially those that could be sped along by skipping registration and billing info. It will be interesting to see what bots take advantage of these shortcuts.

The beach at Santa Cruz: more than worth the hassle

The beach at Santa Cruz: more than worth the parking hassle

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