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Be Prepared for 2018: The Year of the Bot

It’s 2018. While those who follow the Chinese Zodiac will believe this year to be the Year of the Dog, tech industry insiders actually predict 2018 to be the Year of the Bot. Don’t get me wrong, we love dogs but in order to lead disruption this year, here’s 3 key things to consider as you get the bot…

Basic bots to smart bots

With over 100,000 bots on Facebook Messenger, we’d suggest that nearly 80% are basic bots that are poorly designed or have no AI. For now, these bots only provide information in the form of FAQs and scripted dialogues with links to their website. Although this can be useful and does reduce the load for live agents and call centres, 2018 technology, capability and design will see the new tranche of Chatbots being markedly more useful. Thanks to Moore’s Law (below), we now have accessible huge computing power for a fraction of the imaginable price from only 5 years ago – and it’s only going to get better.

Moore's Law

Technologies such as Natural Language Processing (the ability to reply to natural and free-flowing human dialogue), Machine Learning (the chatbot gets better the more it’s used), and sentiment analysis (detecting human emotions and responding to it) are a vital part of the powerful 2018 chatbot. This year, conversational artificial intelligence will progressively move from these basic functions to something so good that you use it every day because you just can’t go without it. A specific use case you’ll see soon is a virtual assistant that can help you book your next holiday within seconds! Venture Capitalist Chris Hughes says “As I look out to 2018, I think we will look back and see that it was the year chatbots graduated to become full-fledged digital assistants.”.

Airbnb anxiety will go away, leading to mass adoption

When I talk about chatbots and relate a potential use case to purchasing mortgages, I usually get asked: “Mortgages are a huge purchase decision to make, won’t everyone just prefer humans?” My answer is yes but they also prefer convenience. Just like when online shopping first came on the scene, we had the same thoughts and also anxieties of whether our credit card details were safe or whether our product would actually arrive. Now, it’s way more convenient to buy things online than travelling all the way to the increasingly deserted shopping centre.

empty shopping centre

Josh spoke about it and he calls it “Airbnb Anxiety”. Remember when you first booked an Airbnb? Questions probably arose such as “Will my house be there?”, “Is my host an undercover serial killer?”, “Were all those reviews just fake?!” Now, it’s regarded as a trustworthy platform that no one bats an eye at. When chatbots become mainstream, the idea of buying anything or being recommended most things to do in your life (just what I need) by a bot will be commonplace.

Strategy’s role in AI

Currently, there’s a variety of approaches to deploying AI initiatives and the responsibility can sit with the CTO, or the CMO, occasionally the CIO and often the CDO, so no real consistency! However, this is likely to change when AI proves its ability for cost savings, revenue generation, and greater workforce efficiencies. At Ambit, we believe that the next ‘big’ role in business will be the Chief AI Officer. How this will happen is a strategy trickle down, owned by the board and propagated through the business.

Chief AI Officer

Karim Sanjabi, a newly appointed AI officer of an ad agency says, “If agencies don’t make this kind of change right now, and really understand they have to really commit to it, we’re going to have an evolutionary separation.” “We’re going to have two different species of agencies: One that evolved with AI and one that didn’t.” He mentioned snubbing AI would be akin to an agency turning its back on social media 10 years ago. So if you think it’s too soon now, look how quickly social media made it into our lives. Chatbots are a critical business decision in 2018. Like Devin Wenig, the CEO of eBay, says

“If you don’t have an AI strategy, you are going to die in the world that’s coming.”

For those early adopters and innovators, they will reap the rewards of moving early. As we move into 2020 and beyond, disruption will displace those unprepared. Retailers scoffed at Amazon in the early 2000s and are now suffering the consequences, conversational intelligence is being taken seriously today by leading enterprises. You should too.

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