Conversational Interfaces have been around since the 1960s. And starting in the 1980s, technology companies like Apple, Microsoft, and others, presented computer users with a natural language interface as a way of making technology more user-friendly.
In the past few years, we have witnessed a quantum leap in the understanding of speech recognition and how to incorporate digitally created conversations into everyday life. Over time, the Market’s desire for more user-friendly technology has led to the rise of Conversational Artificial Intelligence.
Conversational AI uses a machine learning technique known as Natural Language Processing(NLP) to intelligently respond to a person’s questions and commands. It enables machines to mimic the interaction, language and communication between humans — through voice, and text.
The Big Picture
Conversational AI is poised to become the primary way in which individuals buy physical, consumable products such as groceries, appliances, and fashion, as well to access medical services, and purchase Insurance. Enterprises will embrace Conversational AI across a number of use cases. For example:
- Conversational AI will become useful for bringing to light crucial financial information, such as customer loyalty figures, or corporate tax balances, or to uncover hidden facts and figures in order to drive research and strategy.
- Manufacturers will use Conversational AI to interact with their customers, and gather accurate information about their needs and desires. This customer data will enable new offerings to be designed for their Markets.
- Conversational AI will also inform other business functions including marketing, sales, and customer service.
Beyond being a digital assistant capable of delivering answers to complex queries, Conversational AI will also deliver a thoughtful experience for users through ever increasing levels of engagement. By reducing friction, conversational AI not only enables more efficient interactions, it also empowers businesses to transform their entire customer journey.
How Consumers are Adopting Conversational AI
For their part, Consumers are rapidly adopting Conversational AI as a way to facilitate everyday transactions. People are now comfortable talking to their smartphones on a daily basis, whether they are checking in on their flight from home, making up their grocery list, or searching online using their voice.
We see consumer spend increase each year across brands in food delivery, personal services, restaurants, hotels, retail, personal development, travel, accounts, insurance, and medical services. And many of these companies have automated text or voice-based features built-into their products.
Overall consumption is accelerating, and many areas of the buyer experience are becoming so seamless that customer success only depends on personal interaction at the final point of delivery or consumption.
The paradigm of a happy customer interacting with a merchant or service provider is what conversational artificial intelligence facilitates. It is fast, powerful and scalable enough for all types of businesses.
With many established global providers of a wide range of services, large merchants, and a plethora of small businesses using Conversational AI to deliver new experiences, customers’ expectations of what a great experience should be - is quick evolving.
The Emergence of Chatbots
Chatbots are swiftly emerging as the primary way brands and retailers are implementing Conversational AI. Juniper research predicts that by 2023, Chatbots alone could drive over $112 billion in annual retail sales. (marketingaiinstitute.com). Chatbots provide a new way to create and deliver a quick, efficient, and engaging experience for consumers through various apps and platforms.
By design, a chatbot is the easiest way to facilitate digital interactions of any kind. Consumers don’t need superhuman agency to purchase something new for example. Simply telling a voice or text-based service what they want, what they like, and the specific experience they desire, makes the journey to purchase more immediate, relaxed, and friendly.
Brands that want to reduce customer support time and realize the benefits of simple and effective responses will find Chatbots extremely helpful. There are also operational benefits as well. With a chatbot, you can eliminate protracted support calls while reducing costs, and increasing productivity.
Chatbots enable sales departments to put the emphasis on the bottom line, curate a wide range of products, accommodate service requests for a whole new class of customer, and uncover new ways of serving customers with better data and intelligence. Chatbots can provide product descriptions, cut out the clicks and create simpler re-order options while cost-optimizing service delivery, and channel mix.
How are Businesses Responding?
Chatbots are leading the evolution of brands towards a more personalized service delivery approach. This new way of talking to customers is enabling brands to have closer relationships with their customers to actually achieve real results, instead of being left trying to solve customer issues with a traditional web customer service team or worse, no customer service at all.
Since 2016, we’ve seen an explosion of Chatbots from both new and famous names in business:
- Surveybot- For Customer Surveys
- 1–800-Flowers.com- Easy Sales on Messenger
- Kayak- Travel Information at your Fingertips
- Sephora- Beauty is a two-way conversation
- Louis Vuitton- Conversation is Luxury
To ensure customers connect with brands and stay loyal, marketers should focus on providing a portfolio of customer experiences, one that feels familiar, consistent, and personalized. The key learning for brands and retailers is that customers are in a different place than they were a few years ago.What they want and expect is no longer the same.
What are we seeing in the market?
- Brands are finding new opportunities to transform what was previously a cost center into a ‘profit from the positive’ center by creating a more desirable and personal customer experience through Chatbots
- Customer Service and Online Ordering are the most immediate way for retailers to leverage Chatbots. While for consumer brands, creating games and consumer promotions through Chatbots are the way to go. B2B brands and manufacturers are leveraging chatbots primarily to resolve customer queries or answer product/service questions, both before purchase, and during use(See FAQ Bots)
- Deciding what is good for brands to push through Chatbots and what is good for users is a balancing act. The best guidance always comes from listening to consumers.
What’s on the horizon for Chatbots?
- Inclusive accessibility is a natural next step for Chatbots. Developers are testing chatbots to help people who are visually and hearing impaired. The ability to design conversation interfaces for those with impairments is an important next step to give users new options to interact with businesses.
Marketers are facing a new era of choice. Even just two years ago, any conversation at all was the gold standard for advancement in Marketing. But today, we have a new standard that combines both brands and humans in an intelligent collaboration through Conversational AI.
Bridging the gap between human needs and technology, brands beginning today and all the way to 2022 must embrace this technology and adopt this dialogue format as a permanent and significant part of their brand strategy.
Brands must challenge themselves to elevate emotional connections with people; tell stories, inspire action; and connect with people wherever they are in the customer journey. And there’s no better way to do so than engaging with them on the apps and platforms they use every day.
Key Takeaway: Today’s customers are firmly in control of their time, energy and brand connection. Brands and companies that wish to cater to their expectations, must fight to stay relevant. Thanks to Conversational AI, brands can now drive conversations that engage, inspire, and motivate customers to act on their behalf, in an automated way.