The popularity and use of chatbots is on the rise, according to Kayak, but more than half of British people still don’t know what they are.
It also found that 10% of those who have used chatbots said they had done so to book a holiday or ask questions about holidays.
The travel deals website released its Mobile Travel Report, which found that just 3% said they used a chatbot regularly a year ago, but that now 8% say they use them regularly or have used them in the past month. In total, 18% of Brits have used a chatbot.
Computer programs that mimic a real person to answer users’ questions and queries over messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, chatbots have grown in all industries and travel firms such as Skyscanner, TripAdvisor, and Kayak, have launched their own.
Kayak says is still a long way to go for the technology to become mainstream, with its report finding that 57% of UK adults have never heard of chatbots. An additional 31% have heard of chatbots, but don’t know what they are, whilst just 12% know exactly what they are.
The study found them more popular within the younger generation, with 30% of those aged 18-34 saying they could describe what a chatbot is compared to just 3% of those over the age of 55.
Among those using chatbots, 49% of respondents told Kayak that they used them for customer service, 28% for online shopping, and 12% for reserving restaurant tables and 10% for booking or asking about holidays.
Despite being unfamiliar with them, many Brits could see the benefits chatbots could offer when they were explained to them – 38% cited ‘no set service hours’ as a potential key benefit, whilst 34% mentioned ‘faster responses to questions’ than they could get by undertaking their own research.
And many Brits appear cautious about using chatbots with three quarters (75%) airing at least one concern, including:
- Data security (34%)
- It would give incorrect answers (33%)
- It wouldn’t understand me (29%)
- Prefer face to face communication (28%)
- Answers could be manipulated (28%)
Kayak suggested that chatbots will take off and cited the rise of online travel bookings compared to make its point. The website’s report found that 18% of Brits have visited a high street travel agent in the past year and 72% ‘prefer’ to make holiday bookings online.
Suzanne Perry, travel expert at Kayak, said: “Chatbots are certainly still in their early stages, but are becoming increasingly sophisticated and getting ever-closer to mimicking a conversation with a real human being. At Kayak, we love to embrace new technology and feel that chatbots will help meet increasing customer expectations and demand for around the clock information.
“We’re exploring ways to bring chatbot technology to our users, both through Facebook Messenger as well as voice-enabled systems such as Amazon’s Alexa. As always, we’re looking at ways to engage our users using the latest emerging technologies. With the decline of high-street travel agents laid bare in the report, it’s important to find new technology to fill the gap for users.”
Kayak’s Mobile Travel Report also investigates differences amongst those who use the travel search engine’s website or app on desktop, Android devices or iOS (iPhone). It found that the most searched-for destination for iOS and desktop users is New York – whilst Bangkok is the favourite destination for those who use Android.
iOS users were found to be most likely to seek out high end hotels – 30% of all searches made on iOS devices were for five star hotels, compared to 29% on Android and just 20% on desktop. Desktop users were also most likely to search for one or two-star hotels (12%) compared to 7% for iOS and 9% for Android users.