Chatbots are extremely helpful for businesses that are looking to create a strong brand image and provide the best possible customer service. Thanks to advances in technology and machine learning, chatbots have become more popular than ever in recent years. As time goes on, chatbots will continue to evolve, become even better, and eventually perform a central role in customer service for all different types of companies.
In this blog, we will discuss the latest chatbot trends to keep an eye on in 2019.
AI isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies anymore. In fact, on the back of a number of innovations in the last few years, small businesses now can leverage AI technology to improve their operations, connect more deeply with their customers and, ultimately, boost their sales.
What is a chatbot exactly?
Chatbots are computer programs able to conduct conversations with human beings through a messaging interface.
Today, some of the more advanced chatbots are powered by AI, helping them to solve problems, send personalized messages and improve their interactions over time. The technology might still be in its infancy, but many people use chatbots on a daily basis without even realizing it.
According to eMarketer research, “more than 35 million American use voice-activated, personal assistants at least once a month”.
Some people initially thought chatbots were nothing more than a novelty, but now they’ve started to really mature. The possibilities for chatbots are only just beginning to be understood and there is still so much room for further growth.
Although they are not going to replace human or apps anytime soon, a number of companies are experimenting with different ways to take chatbots into the mainstream.
The current state of the chatbot market
And just how close are chatbots to hitting the mainstream?
Let’s take a look at some market numbers to find out.
According to a recent Grand View Research report, the Chatbot market is expected to reach roughly $1.2 billion globally in less than ten years. What’s more, experts are predicting that the market will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of more than 24%.
In 2019, chatbots have become more AI-driven, capable of handling complex human interaction with ease and are now taking over traditional conversational services.
Chatbots are capable of working in a variety of areas, including processing, payments, and marketing. However, customer service is where they excel. According to Grand View Research, 45% of end users prefer them as the primary mode of communication for questions regarding customer service.
In just a few years, more and more companies are going to move from awareness into adoption as they feel the pressure to keep up with the technology.
Chatbots had an amazing year in 2017 – the year they were most adopted – helping improve the customer service and brand image of many tech companies. Chatbots have remained a prominent market trend since then, in fact, users are more interested than ever to know how they can fully leverage chatbots for their businesses.
Top 10 chatbot trends for 2019
1. Steady adoption of chatbots
We, as humans, are always looking for ways to adapt and improve. After all, this is how we managed to prosper as a species. Chatbots represent a platform to do this, providing a better way to connect customers to businesses.
According to IBM - 265 billion customer requests are recorded per year and businesses spent nearly $1.3 trillion to address them. Using chatbots could help save up to 30% of this cost.
Oracle surveyed more than 800 marketing professionals on the adoption of chatbots, and found that 80% of brands expect to serve customers through chatbots by 2020.
More than a third of the surveyed marketers – 36% to be exact – said that they are using chatbots to provide customer service. Since the big names have already adopted the technology, it’s just a matter of time before it spreads even further.
2. Chatbots becoming more human-like
Chatbots are starting to take over in a number of business sectors. In addition to native bots – think Apple’s Siri – 3rd-party companies are now helping companies interact with their customers. For instance, you can now order an Uber ride through your Facebook Messenger app.
One issue with chatbots is that they feel too “unnatural” for some consumers. Some people would still rather talk to a real-life sales rep than a machine because they feel it will be unable to answer their questions properly.
But while older consumers still have trouble identifying the true value of chatbots, millennials have fewer concerns about the technology.
“ According to Mobile Marketer research, around 40% of millennials say they chat with Chatbots on a daily basis.”
3. Chatbots are more AI-driven now
AI-powered chatbots are now capable of delivering a personalized experience to clients and customers. One of the best examples, given by chatbot magazine, is Bank of America’s. Their chatbot is capable of handling any customer query. With predictive analytics, the bot can anticipate customers needs and guide them through complex banking procedures – helping customers make payments, check balances, save money, and so on.
Insurance companies also represent some of the earliest adopters of AI-based chatbot services. Insurance companies are employing location-based technology to initiate the claims process automatically, they use chatbots, along with visual tools like live chat, to educate customers about submission, inspections, and documentation claims adjustments, as well as updating them on claims status.
4. Business and chatbots
“80% of business to customer communication is going to be done through bot messengers within the next three to five years. “ – Mikael Yang
In today’s tech-savvy world, chatbots have become a popular tool for companies. Businesses, both big and small, have found ways to use chatbots to provide assistance for their customers. Chatbots saw tremendous growth in 2017, even earning it the title “year of chatbots”. The good news is that this growth is continuing, helping businesses provide the best customer service and grow their business by connecting with consumers in real-time.
More and more companies of all sizes will adopt voice assisted bots for their businesses. According to Gartner, 25% of tech interactions of customer service operations will use virtual assistants by 2020. Retailers in particular are creating voice-assisted bots to help in checking orders and making purchases. It makes total sense, because delivering good products or services to consumers creates a good brand image.
5. Rich customer insights
Chatbots store valuable customer data for analysis. Though there has been steady growth in chatbot adoption across 2018, reports indicate that 80% of businesses will be deploying more customized result-driven chatbots by 2020.
Artificial Intelligence helps to automate data collection. The analysis requires proper attention from a dedicated team, which can then focus on improvement areas, optimizing processes, minimizing errors, and creating success. Advanced chatbots are even able to improve themselves by learning over time.
6. Voice experiences becoming mainstream
According to eMarketer research, more than 111 million Americans use voice-activated personal assistants at least once a month
Recently, industry giants such as Google and Amazon have been pushing the “smart speakers” market and the AI that comes with it. For instance, as The Verge reports, Amazon has already sold 100 million devices with Alexa built in. Furthermore, there are over 20 thousand skills on the Alexa Store at the moment.
Google is taking this further by trying to make voice-activated assistants available on all Android-powered devices, including smartphones, wearables, and even smart TVs, something it seems that will continue into the future.
Now, a number of voice-powered builders, such as PullString, have emerged, helping smaller organizations build their own voice-based chatbots.
While there are still challenges; developers are working hard on bringing voice-based UI to the mainstream.
7. The rise of conversational bots
We need to start learning how to communicate more effectively, especially with our customers. At times, it feels like people aren’t really listening when customers are trying to tell them something really important.
So the area some of us are most excited about is conversational interfaces. Since Natural Language Processing is still not where it needs to be, businesses have started experimenting with interface-based chatbots.
Companies such as Acquire have started to work on “conversational marketing” in order to help small businesses replace frustrating forms with conversations.
8. Natural language understanding
In an effort to get one step ahead of the rest, some companies have started working on Natural Language Processing. One of the main selling points Facebook use to promote their own chatbot is this capability, helping to better understand users’ inquiries. But if you’ve tried interacting with their chatbot, you know that this is far from perfect.
The idea though, is that this technology will allow users and machines to interact more naturally. Therefore, given concerns around chatbots’ inability to understand complex requests, companies are pouring money into its development.
9. Automated call centers with AI technology
As NLP advances, by combining this with AI voice generation and ‘serverless’ technology, fully automated call centers will soon become a reality. They will have deep domain knowledge helping conversation flow smoothly with customers. Available 24/7, they will never get sick, nor will they take any leave.
“Chatbots Will Be Indistinguishable From Humans by 2029” - Ray Kurzweil
10. The sudden and powerful rise in messaging apps
According to statista, “Facebook recorded more than 2 billion monthly active users in the first quarter of 2018”, whilst “Whatsapp acquired 1.3 billion monthly active users”. Messaging apps are very much on the up, surpassing social networks.
As messaging app usage increases, it becomes easier for brands to create long-lasting relationships via meaningful conversations with targeted audiences. Chatbots are entering the messaging mainstream to have one-to-one conversions and provide great customer service.
11. The virtual assistant takes the place of apps
It’s difficult to get users to try new apps these days, with the majority of US users downloading zero apps a month. Users are clearing out the clutter, uninstalling apps they don’t use and keeping only apps of real use to them.
One of the best parts of chatbots is combining multiple apps into one. Chatbots use this ability to automate business tasks and boost customer experience. Chatbots are even helping users interact with the bank or to read the news.
The future of chatbots
In 2019, a lot of major companies – including Starbucks, LinkedIn, and British Airways – have announced their support for the development of chatbots and expressed an interest in implementing them into their operations.
The key players, like Microsoft and Apple, have been investing in this technology for years, and there is no reason to assume that this isn’t going to carry on into the future.
Many of the big players are already on board, but the adoption of this relatively new technology for small businesses depends on several factors:
- Lower costs
- Growing demand
- Improved technology
A decade or so ago, it was almost unthinkable for small businesses to have their own custom applications. However, as larger enterprises started pushing out apps, low-cost app creation services started popping up. These days, an app is a standard part of customer service.
The use of chatbots in business will evolve in the coming years – the design and architecture inevitably improving. So watch this space and keep a close eye on what happens through 2019 if you have designs on having your own chatbot in the near future.