Chatbots and AI have been one of the fastest-growing topics of discussion and deployment among businesses over the last five years, with 2019 providing many bellwether moments in adoption and success. Here’s what you missed if your business chatbot journey starts in 2020 to get you up to speed.
All eyes are on the future of chatbots across most verticals and markets, but for any team looking to adopt a bot or AI service, there have been many lessons to learn from across the huge field of adoption and growth.
Early in the year, we saw the rise if figures showing that chatbots were augmenting/replacing more internal business tasks in 2019. As budgets tightened or startups looked for low-cost solutions, small businesses and departments within larger organizations were being asked to do more with less, and bots, AI and robot process automation were demonstrating their value to new markets.
Brands were increasingly getting involved in chatbots in 2019, with fast-moving consumer goods labels looking to engage their audience. But there remains a reticence to go full bore, with many efforts taking place in secondary markets to test the water, like Pepsi running a middle-eastern focused bot to show how their brand looked back when the user was born, highlighting the creative option when it comes to engagement. Legacy brands, among more conservative organizations, are also getting in on the act. That’s an option for global brands, but any business can benefit in their core market now, as the rise in successful customer service bots showed.
While the focus is on bots using text or emoji, the move beyond to voice is growing, “with Google’s Duplex, Voice Assistant or services similar to Apple Siri engaging with all types of customers. The better bots can adapt their tone to soothe or jolly up a customer, while others can seamlessly transfer the chat over to a real human agent if the bot is struggling, or the person seriously requires help. AI bots can also learn from past and current conversations about what approaches work and what doesn’t.”
Not all businesses have vast IT teams or development budgets to help them build a perfect bot, but the past year has shown a rise in build-it-yourself no-code options for bots, apps and other services to help companies build the perfect tool to precisely meet their own needs that they retain full control over, or to help startups get off to a flier with minimal investment or overheads.
2019 saw chatbot grow within the business
2019 also saw a growth in companies using bots for their own internal purposes. This makes sense in a lot of processes, with technical support bots leading the way, “In an era when workers are more likely to ask a colleague or just Google the problem, using a chatbot can help bring more formality to the support function and prevent false or inappropriate solutions being used. That saves on ticket requests, and costly external support requests and time taken on live chats.”
Further routes to office automation include “large companies are also using chatbots for in-house tasks, saving managers time dealing with holiday or absence requests, HR tasks, recruiting and so on. With every step forward helping the company speed up tasks and reduce the drag they have on the business.”
At the smaller scale, 2019 highlighted there are also plenty of ways how businesses and freelancers can make money with chatbots. “Many chatbot monetization strategies and methods leverage existing web technologies in the evolution of well-worn practices. For example, even the simplest bots can be used to serve adverts based on known user preferences. While a smart bot, through information gained during a chat, can show more targeted products, increasing the advert’s relevance and the chance of a sale.”
The stats show the rewards
Leading areas of chatbot growth remained focused on the likes of hotels and the hospitality industry, while banks and customer-service led industries demonstrated fast growth and growing skill when it came to bots. But gaming and boom markets like education continue to show the broad application of bots and AI, helping in new areas.
And, as we move into 2020, there were plenty of figures showing the benefits from 2019’s clutch of chatbots and AI services, with strong predictions for future growth and adoption. ”From Juniper Research’s figure of $112 billion in retail sales by 2023, with growth doubling over the next few years to hit that impressive figure. Chatbots can help increase the volume and value of sales by an average of 67% according to their research, with 26% of all sales starting through a chatbot interaction, even if a human agent completes the deal And, chatbot interactions also will surge to 22 billion by that year from an estimated 2.6 billion in 2019, as they play a bigger role in the retail industry. All of which points to some 80% of businesses expected to have some sort of chatbot function or presence by 2020, according to Outgrow.
Every business is increasingly reliant on data and IT, with chatbots and AI the next step in that evolution. 2019 showed we are well on the way to the goal of widespread adoption that is trusted by customers, users and the business. As big data, and AI analytics become the norm, bots will help at every level and build new bridges between customers, as they move on from helping increase and speed-up automation.
Chris Knight writes about where technology will take us next, from the power of neural networks, artificial intelligence and chatbots, to the endless worlds promised by augmented and virtual reality. From the latest in gadgets and hardware to how digital businesses can use technology to grow, Chris makes the future clear and understandable to all.