How do you search for information? Google? Bing?

Let’s say you’re looking for a job in finance. Where do you start? Most people will probably begin with a Google search.

So you get your cup of tea, sit down, and type in www.google.com on your computer. Next, you type in “jobs in finance in New York” in the search box. This will bring up, literally, about 24 MILLION results.

An Internet search engine allows anyone to search for practically anything. However, when one wants to delve deeper into a domain, this vessel has its limitations.

Google doesn’t really narrow things down for you. It’s about giving you as many possibilities as possible, not about zeroing in on what you really need.

After you’ve typed in those few words on Google, its job is done. It is now up to you to sift through all those websites that Google has brought up under your search.

You’ll have to click on every website and most likely have to do a few more searches to start getting the information you were after in the first place.

But what if I don’t want to go through all that hassle?

It takes a lot of time and energy to do in-depth web searches. It is even more annoying if you have to search for something that should technically not take too much of your time.

For instance, let’s say you’re looking for a Thai restaurant near where you are, while you’re out and about. You don’t have your computer in front of you and you need this information in a hurry.

So you do a search on Google, then it brings up some names (the top options are most likely to be sponsored ads) and then about 730,000 other results that you have to trawl through.

There is nothing more tedious than having to bring up restaurant websites on your smartphones to get simple information such as locations, opening hours and have a quick look at menus.

Also read: From chatbots to intelligent things: Here are 5 exciting industries startups can focus on this year

Chatbots — the change in search

Enter chatbots, the change in information searching. This might potentially change how you search for information, forever.

Instead of just listing hundreds of thousands of search results, specialised chatbots in different domains do the legwork for you.

And what’s even more spectacular is that the chatbot is built not just to pass information, but to include task execution. And to include task execution, will be the key to the upcoming change.

For example, Stars & Catz offers a music research engine ability where you can search the name of an artist, band, composer, song and the music search engine will generate the results from the content combining YouTube videos with Wikipedia.

A music chatbot knows all the features and functions, and users would be able to always find the music chatbot at the tip of their fingers. On top of that, the chatbot would be able to allow you to execute certain tasks the website is unable to perform. There is no need to download any applications and the whole user experience is cater to mobility.

Chatbots are popping up everywhere. Wanna know what the weather’s like? Ask the weather bot. How about groceries? A grocery bot will help pick out and order groceries for you.

Also read: Can AI, chatbots, and conversations change the web design industry?

How about the news? Sick of having to go online, type in URLs and search for news? Just ask your news bot — CNN has one and so does the Washington Post. Ask the bot to tell you whenever something interesting comes up and it’ll ping you with relevant news stories.

Last but not least, a bot can also be a friend. In China, there’s a bot called Xiaoice (built by Microsoft) and over 40 million people talk to it on a regular basis, as they would a human friend.

A future where bots kill websites and mobile apps isn’t certain, but I believe it is very likely. – Matt Schlicht

Internet searching is evolving  — the age of image and voice

Whether it be shopping or news, it’s all about the imagery nowadays. As they say, pictures tell a thousand words.

Millennials couldn’t imagine life without imagery. Instagram, one of the most popular apps out there, is all about taking pictures to share with family and friends (and strangers, as long as they are “followers”). It is one of the main avenues that millennials use to voice their opinions (which they have an abundance of) with everyone who is willing to listen.

Image search numbers are rising, Google and Yahoo offer image searching via their search engines. However, there is a key aspect which web and mobile image search applications cannot compare to chatbots: the ability to cut across different devices, desktop, laptop and mobile devices.

There are chatbots that are in the business of performing reverse-image searches for you, such as ImageSearch Bot, that allows to to input the image right from your mobile device.

Voice search is where it really makes a difference in our daily lives.

Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are changing the way people search for information in a big way. Instead of having to type in keywords on a computer, all you need to do is speak to it, as you would do a personal assistant.

You can get these devices to search for information, check traffic conditions, order a pizza, or play audio/video files. You could be cooking, doing the dishes or taking a bath — as long as you’re within “earshot” of these gizmos, they will do what you ask.

Chat is where it’s at : Chatbots on chat platforms

Internet searching in the traditional sense is becoming a bit passé — searching via “chat” is gaining major traction in various industries and it is no surprise — we carry our smartphones everywhere and spend an enormous amount of time on chat platforms.

Chat searching is rather different from searching via a keyboard in the traditional sense. By “chatting” with a chatbot, a user is more likely to provide details such as personal information (sizing, age group, etc), preferences and location. And this type of information makes search results more personalised to individuals.

Another awesome feature is that chatbots get smarter the more you use them. They learn, through chat your habits, purchases, interests and more — a win-win for users as well as site/business owners.

Another example, let’s say you’re talking to a retail store bot. First thing the bot would ask is, “What are you looking for?” Then, as you get into the specifics, it will remember details such as your sizes, preferred fit, price range, colour preferences, etc.

The next time you search for a similar item online, the bot will remember those details and make your search simpler, quicker and easier.

If you have a personal finance bot, it will remember (like a private banker) your risk appetite and be able to advise you on how to manage your money better. If new and relevant products come up, it will be able to ping you with suggestions that meet your specific financial needs.

Also read: Automation and machine learning: How robo-advisors are taking the lead as Singapore’s new wealth managers

Chatbots will take the tediousness out of the search process and you don’t even need to download any extra apps or go to any websites.

Research shows that people are now using chat apps more than they are using social networks. Hence, online searching via chatbots on chat platforms is simply a natural progression for information-gathering on the Internet.

And, the more people there are (Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp has about a billion active users, respectively) on these chat platforms, the more information available to users as businesses try to tap their massive marketing potential.

Retail heavyweights such as H&M and Sephora were early adopters and have already jumped on the chatbot bandwagon. Taco Bell, Domino’s and Burger King also have bots that take orders and deliver food, right to your door step.

So next time you want to look for a great restaurant or order a pizza, do yourself a favour and check out chatbots via your favourite chat platform (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik, etc) — you may find it rather hard to go back to “old school” methods!

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I run Chatobook, Gotobot and Agile Labs. Talks to bots when I have nothing better to do. Enjoy reading the article? Do your friends a favor and hit the share button!

This article was first published on chatbotsmagazine.com.

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