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Chatbots’ Holy Grail: Payments

Chatbots may have fallen out of favor with the tech world, but one executive startup thinks there’s something that will invigorate chatbots: payments.

According to a report in TechCrunch, Ted Livingston, the chief executive of chatbot company Kik, said the chatbot industry won’t really take off until the companies enable payments.

“If I were looking at [chatbots] from the outside, I’d be saying the same thing,” Livingston said in the interview. “Right now it is in a holding pattern until we get payments, [but] we’ve seen so many killer examples of unlocking the world around you that we know there is magic there.”

Chatbots have become a common way to automate customer service and provide information in a conversational way, but they will become huge when they can pay for things, order from restaurants, and otherwise bring value to the offline world, the executive argued in the report.

“The question is often whether chatbots are app replacements. The answer is no,” Livingston said in the report. “These technologies enable a new type of behavior that wasn’t possible before, interacting with the offline world.”

Kik is getting into the chatbot market but was quiet on details, but it is moving toward scannable codes in general to enable bots that can interact with someone in a way that enables some to connect with their real life. In China, QR codes are prevalent.

“You see a code and scan it — you’ll instantly scan it and get value. We like the simplicity of the scan,” Livingston added. “It’s a very clear signal to a consumer that you can scan and interact with this place.”

Kik is based in Canada and said it has more than 300 million registered users. Thanks to an investment by Tencent, the Chinese company that’s behind Chinese payment company WeChat, has a value of $1 billion, noted the report.

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