Top Chatbot Trends For Business in 2018

In November we posted on our blog an article covering “The benefits of Adopting Chatbots For Your Business”.

We are continuing our coverage on chatbots for business with a feature-length article on Top Chatbot Trends For Business in 2018.

We are days away from entering 2018, which has been a strong year for growth in conversational user interfaces “Chatbots” across multiple industries.

Chatbots are already playing various roles in user experience, engagement, customer services, sales and more. The landscape will change and evolve for businesses and users.

Some of the big areas of use for chatbots have been across, personal online banking, insurance and claims tracking, travel, accommodation and flight bookings, medical service support and health care.

But the stats overwhelmingly evidence that what’s on the horizon for 2018 is laying the groundwork for the new online experience.

The year will be a foray into how the landscape is set to dramatically change within the next 3 to 5 years.

  • Chatbots are expected to increase cost-savings in billions of dollars a year in ecommerce, banking and healthcare.
  • Efficient, correct chatbot interaction is expected to increase from just 20% in 2017 to 93% in 2022.
  • Businesses are increasing their interactivity with other businesses within a chatbot experience to provide the ultimate experience.

The premise that chatbots will replace native apps is becoming a reality and will continue to see that realized in 2018.

You no longer will have to hop to the site, hop to an application, it will all flow to you, according to your preferences and needs.

Omni-Channel Shift to Convergence

We are now doing things differently, and chatbots, AI and messaging all point toward the new digital experience known as convergence.

But what does that mean? It’s a hyper-optimized focus on customer experience and customer journey. The good news for marketers and businesses is that it means over time, a multi-channel focus will evolve to an interconnectedness that customers access from one central point.

Interconnectedness will converge within the messaging space, via chatbots and advancement in NLP and AI.

Some business may have already started to integrate an omni-channel approach to their sales funnel and marketing reach, but that’s ok as this is just the next step to that process.

Content and optimization will still be integral, but instead of catering to multiple platform attributes and user-behaviours therein (and finding ways to interconnect for a great experience for your customers and brand) convergence will create a more customer-cantered focus by ease of access from all points––to one point of access in the messaging space.

Talking the Chat: 2018- The Year of the Voicebot for Automation and Retail

In 2018, it’s estimated that 30% of interactions with tech will be conversation-based and 2018 is shoring up to be the “year of the voicebot.”

From Amazon’s Alexa to the Echo Dot, flying off the company’s warehouse shelves, large retailers are creating voice assisted bots for making purchases, checking orders, providing product suggestions or extending the brand experience with services like style or recipe suggestions. In 2017, brands have increasingly partnered with established Amazon, Google Home.

In 2018, we’ll see more brands adopting a voice-assisted bot that’s original and built for their brand: 31% of businesses plan on offering a “virtual closet” in the next few years.

More people than ever will have a chatty little friend in their kitchen or living room by 2018.

It won’t take much of a leap to see the humble text-based chatbots converted to talking form, with the likes of Pullstring an early leader in vocal “customer success management.” But while this could be a guilty pleasure in the secret of customers’ own homes, it feels like a technology that will sit alongside, rather than replace chatbots, which can be used anywhere on any device.

When talking chatbots do become mainstream, they could play a great part in mixed reality, with chatbots providing a natural interface to support augmented or virtual reality experiences. A growing number of mobile bots will also be appearing in homes. People will expect to chat with the likes of Kuri and many more, plus elder care bots like ElliQ will need to offer companionship and interaction at new levels to fulfil their purpose.

Evolving MMS Functionality for Businesses

As well, carriers will continue to expand their MMS functionality in offering enhanced communication services. Instead of service providers partnering with others within service structures, there will be an increase in cloud-based structures to avoid deeper structural complexities.

The underlying architecture will allow for increased conversational commerce and conversational experience created for the space.

Rich Communication Services (RCS) Will Grow

First, MMS is not going anywhere anytime soon or in 2018. Particularly as 86% of businesses use MMS in marketing.

You also need look no further than WhatsApp to connect the dots that RCS is not the only headliner: WhatsApp, is the largest messaging app in the world with over 1 billion users, where, incidentally, half of users open the app at least 10 times a day and vies as the main alternative to RCS-based service.

However, we will see increasing momentum in Google’s Android adoption rates across carriers.

Likewise, expect RCS to grow in parallel to SMS/MMS, again, particularly among Android users. Essentially, it’s an “SMS/MMS 2.0,” an update on rich media offerings in size allowance, access of other tools on our device and programs while using it.

But how does this relate to chatbot growth? It’s a connectivity path toward that future in chatbots I addressed earlier: convergence.

The service connects via your number and carrier, but the make-up, largely cloud-based, means you can create and provide conversational layers without the multi-step friction that currently happens for users–download Facebook Messenger, install an app, etc.

Users, whether on mobile or on desktop, can access this all in one space and do so while performing other functions.

If this sounds confusing, it’s because it’s a system that we haven’t quite yet experienced. But moreso, it’s the way organizations are still thinking about chatbots. Chatbots are the beginning-marker for when and how the new online experience is evolving.

Messaging as a Platform (MaaP) Will Become Mainstream

What is Messaging as a Platform?

Messaging as a Platform (Maap) is the space where interaction, commerce and online activity will increase and, ultimately, mostly occur.

MaaP provides brands with the opportunity to increase their engagement with customers by making use of business, Application–to-Person (A2P) messaging using chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI).

User adoption is simple and straightforward. There is no longer a need to download multiple apps; instead, users gain direct access to a range of brands and services from within the messaging app itself, allowing them to engage with virtual assistants to book flights, buy clothes, make restaurant reservations and more.

Your chatbot is a first step in that space. Building out a conversational layer within any channel, like Facebook Messenger, is effectively the same as building an app.

But now, the app exists all within messaging, and messaging is the architecture for that app. Messaging will become Messaging as an Application (MaaA).

Gartner predicts that by 2020 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human.

If you’re supremely confused, think about this like a traditional market:

  • First, goods and services were available according to region, supply and demand.
  • Regional trade increased variety and increased demand for new goods and services.
  • Increased supply created a need for enticing customers with value and quality.
  • The interconnectedness in trade resulted in a very noisy broad market and the need for segmentation of markets.
  • But it’s come full-circle, virtually; the ease of shopping in a centralized location, where vendors approach you, with what you want, based on personalized metrics, ultimately underpins the concept of MaaP.

Chatbots, with advancements in AI and natural language processing, will continue to bring this experience to more users.

An increasingly intelligent virtual guide from banking to healthcare and travel will result, down the road, in a personalized service experience with deep understanding and deep learning based on your interactions across industries.

Increased Development of Conversation APIs

Businesses will continue to use REST APIs, but development in conversation APIs will increase. Conversation APIs work similarly to REST-based but can interact, machine-to-human, with natural language response.

Conversation APIs support queries in real, or natural language instead of programming language as REST APIs currently do. To be clear, too, free-form speech is mostly done using some type of REST structure behind the scenes.

Though they’re still in the beginning phase of integration, developers and businesses can apply it internally to assist in software and programming updates.

For customer-facing applications, conversational APIs will be increasingly used in banking, health insurance inquiries or remote devices, such as drones or cameras may emerge.

WhatsApp Will Open Their API to Third-Parties

To date, third party developers do not have access to the WhatsApp platform. Make no mistake, this is a huge trough in reach and a din to organizations that want to capitalize on it.

But in 2017, WhatsApp updated their terms agreements. And, the biggest tell is that WhatsApp will allow software on the platform.

It will be wise for your organization to start planning its chatbot strategic communication footprint here and now.

Twitter Ups Its Bot Interactions

Some have said that twitter is on a decline, however with 330 Million active monthly users, it’s still an important social communication tool for many users and business. So how does this impact chatbots?

Late breaking news for 2017 comes from Twitter updating its API to make chatbots a greater part of the tweeting equation for enterprises. It already offers some direct message features via DM cards for brand interactions to try and compete with Facebook’s Messenger, but from January 15 2018, new elements will enable developers to create improved conversations.

By adding a more natural language feel to them for direct messages, it allows bots to take over the DM chat and for users to feel like they are part of a conversation. With the Twitter company being swamped by Facebook when it comes to interaction, this is a late, if much-needed move, and one that could help nudge the social chatbot landscape along.

Chatbots Make Tech Friends

Perhaps the most positive leap chatbots will make in 2018 is linking up with other technologies to provide a unified experience. There has already been much talk about linking with blockchain technology to produce an evidence trail for key chatbots where conversations may have a legal or regulatory standing.

As mentioned above, mixed reality is an area where a chatbot could make a great impression, from service-focused roles like augmented repair, upgrade or similar roles to on-the-go tourism while wandering the streets of a new city, looking for what’s cool to do. Being able to talk to a bot on the go would be more natural than stumbling around glued to a guidebook.

Increased Chatbot Usage on Websites

Users are sometimes still befuddled by live chat and Chatbots. Aren’t chatbots only on messaging? Isn’t live chat usually for sites? Until now, this has been the normative user experience.

However, more and more organizations will be providing a chatbot experience embedded within their site. It will align with popular user channels and lead directly back to their site. This is an excellent lead conversion source and allows more control over an organization’s marketing and user experience strategy.

Companies are energized to integrate conversational commerce, and interfaces into their strategy.

2018 Chatbot trends point to how the digital experience will morph in the coming years. As AI continues to catch up to demand for better contextual conversations and user experiences, expect that 2018 will set the stage for the new internet experience in the next 5 to 10 years.

Outside the American tech giants, Indian and Asian firms are adopting chatbots for banks, airports and other businesses at a great rate to deal with their huge customer numbers. If innovation comes from anywhere it might not come from a traditional player.

Want to learn more about how a conversational layer can create increased customer satisfaction and better brand experience? Get in touch with Clare.AI for a customized solution for your business.

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