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The era of Conversational AI: Transforming the future of B2C

The era of Conversational AI: Transforming the future of B2C

The era of Conversational AI: Transforming the future of B2C
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By CNBCTV18.com Contributor Sept 29, 2020 5:51 PM IST (Published)

Innovation in AI and ML are enabling brands to transform the customer journey into a more personalised and productive experience

Authored by: Mahi de Silva

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Technology is ever-changing and has had a huge impact on our ability to adapt to the ever-changing world around us. As humans, we use technology in almost every aspect of our lives from smartphones to laptops to washing machines—these gadgets have not only become essential, we expect them to do more and more for us over time. The advent of innovation in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are enabling brands to transform the customer journey into a more personalised and productive experience and substantively differentiate themselves from competitors. But unlike buying the latest manufacturing equipment or the newest laptops for their employees, AI and ML technologies deliver compounded value with every interaction, creating layers of insights and improvements, over time. Enterprises that have embarked on this journey will build an insurmountable advantage over their competition that is yet to get started.
Conversational AI—The next big thing
The technology behind the fixed-line telephone started a communication revolution in the 1800s, only to be exponentially improved—transformed by the wireless-smartphone with an app and messaging ecosystem that continues to deliver new and exciting features to over 4 billion consumers around the world on a daily basis. ‘Conversational AI’ will be just as impactful in transforming digital communication (phone, e-mail, SMS, web-chat, messaging apps) as a business function and how it will impact human productivity. At the surface, it enables businesses to simulate real-time human conversations and delivers natural and engaging conversation touchpoints between a business and its audience.
Conversational AI is embodied in a digital assistant that can take many forms, utilising voice, text, camera, and augmented reality (AR). Its omnichannel nature will operate in a text-only medium like SMS, constrained to 160 characters, with modest levels of security and authentication or a rich multimedia AR environment with microphones, stereoscopic vision, and biometric authentication. The high volume uses it will be something in-between, on a web site, in social media, in search, or even embedded inside a digital ad, inviting you to start a conversation at your convenience. It will be always-on, it will remember where you left off, it will be polite and unemotional, it won’t need a coffee, lunch, or dinner break. If it can’t answer a question immediately, it will offer to contact you, unobtrusively when it has a solution, and it will seamlessly hand you off to a human agent when necessary.
As per a report by Research and Markets, in 2018, the conversational artificial intelligence (AI) market is currently at $3.2 billion and is predicted to reach $15.0 billion in 2024, advancing at a 30.2 percent CAGR during 2019-2024. The market is growing due to the rising demand for AI-powered customer support services, positive return on investment (ROI) for companies deploying conversational AI solutions, and an increasing number of solution providers in the market.
The growing needs for online communication
The pandemic has dramatically changed the way we interact with businesses. People are adapting to this ‘new normal’ which forces interaction through digital mediums. It’s been disruptive and frustrating but remote work, video conferencing, online-commerce, it works. But creating human bottlenecks within these processes to coordinate all these activities doesn’t work well at all. Intelligent automation by way of Conversational AI is the solution.
Conversational superpowers
Conversational AI has the power to redefine brand conversations. These personalised and immersive experiences can enrich the brand experience, boost customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty. A total customer experience that leverages conversational superpowers will chart the future of consumer engagement for years to come.
Two-way, interactive and persistent conversations: Email or SMS can inform a customer that the order was received, a shipment made (with a link to a website for tracking information), or to contact an agent via phone. These antiquated channels are reasonably good at informing but not well suited for interaction. Conversational AI systems can utilise rich media, interactive channels like Messenger, Whatsapp, Apple iMessage, Google Messages, and in-app messaging inside a mobile app, to create an always-on, interactive channel of communication that supports seamless updates across the customer journey.
These conversations are purpose-driven and useful. They can be tuned to meet the needs of the consumer; more or less updates, more or fewer promotions and offers, etc. This enables businesses to be more than resource banks and provide always-on, instant, and intelligent solutions.
Personalization: Context and relevance are important to build meaningful conversations. Conversational AI is designed to understand a user’s needs and deliver a seamless experience. Engagement is also driven by customising the conversations to suit local languages, norms, and vernacular, and integrating the system into digital platforms e.g. social media, relevant to the target audience. Together this drives higher engagement and usage.
Analytics and Actionable Insights: Conversations generate important granules of data that can be turned into insights about consumer behavior and consumption patterns. There is a huge opportunity for businesses to use these dialogues with consumers to build deeper user-profiles and a much more effective tool compared to surveys.
Productivity: Conversational AI systems can be integrated into all process workflows inside an organisation to track and measure productivity. Not everything has to be a conversation but the implications of an order received for an out-of-stock item create ripples that affect both the consumer and the business. Conversational AI systems can assist businesses to minimise the impact of these scisms. Forms of intelligent virtual assistants are a growing phenomenon in most workplaces. These innovations are redefining the future of work by facilitating easy mail searches, assigning tasks, accessing knowledge repositories, etc. with zero-touch boosting employee productivity and job satisfaction.
While there has been a gradual increase in the adoption of conversational AI solutions in India, there is still a long way to go. Industry verticals including financial services, automotive, FMCG, media, and government have led the way. As an industry, we need to create more awareness with relevant case studies and impact statements. With smartphone penetration and increasing internet adoption across the country including rural markets, we see more and more opportunities for businesses to unlock the power of conversational AI. India leads the world in the use of interactive messaging platforms like Whatsapp and Messenger, it could very well lead the world in harnessing Conversational AI.
—Mahi de Silva is Co-Founder and CEO, Amplify.ai. The views expressed are personal 
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