Project highlight: Shakira bot

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This week we spoke to Shai Alon, CTO of Chat Leap, the creators of the Viber Shakira El Dorado World Tour Bot. This bot accompanies Shakira’s tour from pre-registration tickets (now closed) to trending media and Shakira exclusives venue by venue. Now to Shai.


Hello! Who are you?

I’m Shai Alon - Entrepreneur, R&D leader and architect, husband, father and football lover.

What is Chat Leap?

Our marketing automation platform is built for the modern day - leveraging instant messaging for communication, rather than exhausted channels like email. Our CEO and ex-googler Yoav Rimon and I founded Chat Leap almost a year ago.

Why a chatbot platform?

We saw that over the next few years, bots on Viber and the other major messaging platforms will become the new medium of communication between companies and their followers. We figured that these companies will need a full stack marketing solution for crafting, measuring, and scaling this experience, and with that vision in mind, we started building and iterating.

Who’s using Chat Leap?

Our self service solution is flexible enough to support various companies and bot use cases. Amongst our customers are Saas companies like Payoneer and Dapulse, Gaming companies like Mytopia and Gamepix, content publishers, and most recently - one very famous artist by the name of Shakira 😀

How does Chat Leap work?

At the core of our bot engine is a middleware we call “The API Bridge”. Similar to how frameworks like React and Angular.js make web application development easier by solving the common pitfalls of such as routing and user interface updates, our API bridge lets us build complex bot flows with (relative) ease. It also means that we can can deliver a perfect experience to multiple messaging platforms while still leveraging the uniqueness in each one.

Our Realtime BI engine tracks every event in the system and orchestrates marketing activities to achieve optimal results.

Chat Leap users (the bot admins) use our high end Web CMS to control the experience that end-users see, and get valuable analytics.

The tech stack consists of Node.js, Elasticsearch, Redis, MongoDB, React, Redux, and several other best-of-breed technologies.

Is Chat Leap a paid product? How much does it cost?

Chat Leap is a full stack solution that takes care of the entire operational cost. We have a free trial, and pricing for the self-service model starts at $400/month, scaling as usage volume increases. We also do some custom bots when a brand needs something truly unique (like Shakira with the pre-registration campaign). Our customer success team helps customers succeed with their instant messaging activities. From brainstorming text creatives to network-effect growth tactics, we make sure our customers get an exceptional return on their investment.

What are your favorite things about Viber’s API?

I could write a whole post on how Viber’s API is uniquely awesome, but my personal favourites are:

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What were some of the challenges you faced when developing the Shakira bot?

Having already built the Fashion Daily and Tech Talk Viber bots, we were already familiar with the API. However, the schedule for delivering the project was super tight - and during my family vacation in Holland. We ran a “War Room” Viber group - consisting of our R&D team and Viber’s product team, working from morning till 2am to pull this off. The launch got a tremendous amount of visitors into the bot, coming in very unpredictable traffic surges (the top surge was 50K new sessions in a few minutes). We had to scale up pretty much every piece of our architecture to support the operation - servers, databases, analytics index, CDNs, but it was worth it, getting a great turnaround and a really exciting day!

Any Viber API tips that might be useful to other developers?

I could write a whole post on on this topic aswell, but my top tips would be:

  1. Build “Viber first”: Trying to adapt bots from other platforms, may cause you to miss out on creating a great experience with the unique features Viber provides.
  2. Learn from what is already working: Before starting development for Viber, I looked at other trending bots like Foxsy and Swelly to learn how they leverage the platform’s special features and took away a few good ideas.
  3. Use images for the Keyboard: It makes a world of difference in the look and feel. We use Cloudinary for image transformations. This practice was invaluable, allowing us to adapt to the complexities of working with different image formats and resizing aspect ratios.

What’s coming next?

We already have a few amazing experiences for Viber that are built but not yet released, and we’ll definitely be doubling down on our efforts for Viber. We’re particularly interested in building bots for people / subjects that people have a natural affinity for, such as musicians, athletes, sports teams, etc. We’re also trying to craft strong network effects into our experiences - for example in our fashion bot, users can ask their friends what they think about items, and get votes back in the bot:

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Altogether, we’re very excited about the road ahead - launching new exciting bots, while also growing with the Shakira bot and adding more functionality.

Follow @chatleap on Twitter for updates.

Need help or found a bug? Contact us.