Gartner released its Top Strategic Predictions for 2018 and beyond on 29th September. I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw that one of the predictions by my esteemed colleagues read, “By 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%.” It goes on further to predict that “by 2019, half of major commerce companies and retailers with online stores will have redesigned their commerce sites to accommodate voice searches and voice navigation.”
This ties in perfectly with my research note, How to Exploit Conversational AI to Drive Digital Commerce, which I feared was running too far ahead of the digital commerce clients I was voicing out to since early August . Often, the conversations were met with skepticism from business unit leaders who were far too concerned about day-to-day commerce operations. They felt that it was “too early” for conversational AI, which runs the gamut of VPAs, VCAs, chatbots and voice interfaces. Not anymore.
In defining what an ideal conversational artificial intelligence-driven customer experience for digital commerce should look like (see figure below), there are several points to note in deployment. This was a focus for me as the deployment of voice-driven artificial intelligence (still a more complex deployment than text-based chatbots) were few and far between in digital commerce. If you needed more convincing about conversational artificial intelligence and its role in digital commerce, Snap Travel has taken more than $1 million of hotel bookings though their Messenger chatbot. There are over 100,000 chatbots just on Facebook Messenger alone. In March 2017, Microsoft has announced that it’s seen a 350% yearly increase of monthly active users to about 0.7 million users on its Cortana digital assistant. Amazon’s well on track to sell up to 60 million Alexa devices by 2020. Purchases by Amazon Echo owners are also higher in value and more frequent than non-Echo owners on Amazon’s retail platform.
With the exception of Amazon and now, Alibaba and its TMall Genie; the digital commerce world has largely been in a ‘wait and see’ mode. Most were just silent.
We do need to talk about conversational AI in digital commerce.
And that time is now.