how much chatbot costs

Chatbots are taking a toll over mobile apps and challenging its existence. With the rapid adoption of chatbots by leading companies, majority of business leaders are thinking of building one. If you are one among them and wondering ‘what’s the exact cost to build a chatbot application?’ you have come to the right place! This blog details all essential parameters involved in chatbot application development and its associated cost to open up all hidden charges.

During the time when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook Messenger will be hosting a number of Chatbots in the coming years, it fuelled an enormous hype in the market. The aim definitely was to help businesses build bots on the chat app where they can hold automated chats with people, eventually leading to more sales, bookings and brand awareness. However, people started to fear that chatbots will start replacing human jobs; a rather pessimistic perspective to a rather optimistic technology.

This is not actually the case. Chatbots are not here to entirely replace human jobs, but rather aid them in their current jobs. These bots take over the task of aiding customers on some of the most common queries and issues just like a FAQ page on a website that answers some of the most commonly asked questions, saving the time and effort which can be utilized elsewhere.

Currently there are a plethora of Chatbots in action for various aspects of people’s lives. Here are some of the prominent examples of what brands are using bots:

  • The Wall Street Journal (news) – it helps stay on top of major news and stock quotes
  • Plum (personal banking/finances) – Cleo the bot helps in saving money and checking on recent transactions
  • HP (printing)- their bot interacts with customers where it helps them send photos and files to their printer
  • Spotify (music) – this Chatbot provides playlist recommendations based on customers’ mood, their favourite songs, time of the day or any genre of music you want
  • Mastercard (personal banking/finances) – the Chatbot helps customers check on their account transaction.
  • Pizza Hut (food) – with their Chatbot, customers can order for delivery or collection from Messenger or Twitter, as well as reorder favourite pizzas, ask questions and see current deals
  • Whole Foods (food) – regardless of your location, be it the store where you are shopping for groceries, you can search for recipes with the assistance of the Whole Foods bot on Facebook Messenger
  • BBC News (news) – this bot provides news updates and weekly roundups

To start with, let’s understand the number of stages involved in chatbot application development.

  • Managing incoming stream of messages with backend development. Sorting and indexing the data in order to create a better response module with relevant cause and effect cycle.
  • Creating modules that seamlessly integrate with each channel avoiding cluster. This results in neat data which can be processed and assessed easily.
  • Integrating Natural Language Processing (NLP) with readymade APIs. At this stage the Chatbots learn what information to provide regarding to certain queries and questions. It learns how to use natural language in order to better interact with humans.
  • Creating natural humanly replies with Conversational Intelligence. Chatbots learn to utilize the words fed to them in the most human-way possible. They are taught to form and reform sentences that do not sound robotic but more human.
  • Aligning chatbot conversations with the commercial and core purpose of development. Once online, the Chatbots keep on learning with the help of data that gets generated from real-time conversations.

Having understood this, let’s move on to know how much time, resources and effort is involved at each stage.

How much does it Cost to Develop a Chatbot Application?

Let’s dig deeper into each stage of chatbot application development and know the justification in terms of time and money for building a commercial chatbot.

Handling Incoming Messages with Backend Development

The first step while building a chatbot is developing a backend that can manage an incoming stream of messages. This backend should be open to receive messages from multiple channels as well as parse these messages in Natural Language Processing (NLP) services of Facebook’s Wit.ai, Api.ai, Watson Conversation and Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS).

With a powerful backend, chatbot can integrate with existing systems and make more intelligent conversations with the user. With the support for both .NET and Node.js server-side SDKs, developers can choose any preferred programing language for building chatbots.

It takes around 4 hours for backend development of chatbot with AWS, Node.js and Microsoft Bot Framework.

Creating Channels and Integrating Modules

With a powerful backend system, developers move on to the next stage of chatbot application development, i.e. creating modules for integration with each channel. Though the integration of every channel is unique in nature, developers can add endpoints to send and receive chat messages as per access tokens authorization.

Chatbot’s UI should integrate quick reply buttons and other visuals essential for smoother conversations with the users. The best example is Facebook Messenger chatbot that uses JavaScript, HTML and CSS for conversational UI by means of WebView.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) Services

The exact problem which surrounds our everyday communication with other humans via text does impact our interactions with Chatbots. A fitting of this is the issue of spelling and grammatical errors and poor language use in general. By using advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities, one can identify spelling and grammatical errors and allow the chatbot to interpret your intended message despite the mistakes.

The main part of chatbot application development is the integration with NLP services that allows bots to engage in natural and humanly conversations with users. Developers do not need to write an altogether new NLP algorithm; they can use from existing APIs of Google, IBM, Microsoft and Facebook.

Integration of NLP service with API is a time-consuming task as it requires training of different entities and intents. Developers are required to map entities to specific objects of the existing system such as names, identifiers or products. In order to authenticate the user's input, developers need to implement business logic and authentication rules for validating the received data. This validation requires developers to code in Node.js and .NET.

Making Conversationally Intelligent Chatbot

This stage of chatbot application development is the most time consuming and requires intense hard work of developers. They need to code the chatbot such that it generates natural replies just like humans and engages in meaningful conversations as per NLP intents and entities. The only way to make a chatbot as humanly as possible is to keep iterating and improving it. As per the need of business and purpose of chatbot application development, developers can either use if-else statements or implement some complex deep learning algorithms for generating replies.

Ensuring Integration of Chatbots with Existing Systems

The end goal of developing a chatbot is to present users with a customer service agent that assists them in each and every stage. Chatbots must serve the commercial purpose of development, i.e. they must be able to assist users in getting the task done, be it booking flight tickets, shopping for the right size apparel, ordering food from a restaurant or anything else as per the nature of the work of business.

Control Panel

Control panel is used to track the conversation history of chatbot, number of users and error logs. Control panel is required to measure bot’s performance. Setting up a database for chatbots may take up to a week’s time, but it’s worth it. Developers are using long code blocks for building control panel using Node.js + Angular 2 and .NET.

Final Notes…

How much chatbot development costs? Its totally depends on complexities of features involved. It also depends on whether developing a chatbot with a framework from scratch or chatbot integration in an app.

Hidden Brains is a reputed chatbot application development company helping business leaders build a chatbot as per their requirements and specifications.


written by for Chatbot, Emerging Technologies section(s).