I wrote recently about disruption – and its impending escalation.
Not that the idea is that new, it’s just come into hyper-focus. You could make a case that the recent divisive election in the U.S. was as much a result based 0n disruption as it was on politics.
People have been displaced, and few things they know are coming back. We can choose to kick the sand and curse the sky, or we can look for opportunity.
One of the biggest potential disrupters is the area of bots armed with AI or artificial intelligence. If this topic is completely foreign to you, this might be a great read – The $200 Billion Dollar Chatbot Disruption
This is a big topic, worthy of any Ph.D. dissertation, and it’s certainly one that people have been talking about for many years, but now it’s here and showing up in some very simple, yet recognizable ways. (Remember how long we talked about the mobile revolution before it showed up as an everyday reality?)
Anyone who has used a Siri enabled device or the like has interacted with AI. Theoretically, Siri gets smarter based on its (her?) ability to access your data and your requests over time. By tapping public and private databases, Siri can find things for you based on your previously displayed likes and dislikes. In other words, Siri is a machine that can learn.
Bots in daily use
Chatbots are the most obvious new use. A chatbot allows you to have a quasi-conversation with a computer. Thanks to AI, it can interpret your requests, and based on some rules outlined in the programming, direct you or answer your requests.
Chatbots are generally built on top of already existing messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
CNN produces thousands of new stories every single day. As a reader using the CNN chatbot you can tell CNN I only want to stories about certain topics or you can let the CNN bot pay attention to what you seem to read most, engage with, follow, and share and have content served to you based on what they believe you want to see.
Package tracking is an age old service relied upon by shippers and recipients everywhere. Expect bots to start tracking your packages and delivering status reports for everything you order via Facebook Messenger by the end of 2017.
Chatbots can put a company right where the action is – in chat and messenger apps like Facebook Messenger or Slack. That way customers and prospects can get the information and experience they seek where it’s potentially most convenient for them.
In fact, bots may threaten many 3rd party apps altogether. Consumers prefer seamless integrations and may begin to choose bot communication over clicking to open an app.
Companies like Kik, Octane.ai, and ChatFuel are trying to bring bot making to the masses. Publications such as Chatbots Magazine and private Facebook Groups such as Bots are leading the charge to create an educational platform for the fledgling industry.
Facebook is certainly pushing the creation of chatbots built on top of Messenger.
Bot creation is one the fastest growing areas of interest already in this very young year.
Deconstruct everything you do
Mark my words, AI bots will displace receptionists, telemarketers, customer service agents, social media marketers, content producers, consultants and perhaps even sales personnel – to name a few – just as physical robots have replaced assembly workers, warehouse workers, and laborers.
So, ask yourself a few very important questions.
- What aspects of my business could be automated by AI in the hands of an increasingly sophisticated application that can learn?
- What experience could be automated in a way that added value, even if it meant fewer or different individuals were needed to create and operate it?
- What aspects of any business or industry could I disrupt using AI technology?
- What website or information portal could be made infinitely more useful if it could learn?
I’m not simply suggesting that you need to pay attention to some new trend, I’m suggesting that many businesses need to realize that the light at the end of the tunnel just might be something other than what you think.
AI is not another platform like social media: it’s the tip of a violent shift in the way your customers will get information and interact with companies, products and services.
Right now, AI and bots are still somewhat leading edge, but by the end of 2017 interaction with AI devices and bots and the potential smarter and more personalized experiences they promise will become an expectation.
How to embrace bots for marketing
Below are a few obvious ways that I believe small businesses could start to think about using chatbot technology to innovate and serve.
Guide prospects to right content
Your.MD gives medical advice based on the symptoms you describe
In many cases, when you’re unwell you just need the right information. If you can’t get to a doctor, Your.MD gives you the answers you need. Make better health decisions. Any time. Any place. For free.
Any business that produces content and gives advice could mimic this use case.
Help people shop
Need inspiration picking an outfit?
Chat to H&M on Kik for instant outfit inspiration! Tell us a piece of clothing, and we’ll build an outfit around it for you. Anything from joggers and jeans to tops and shirts… we’ve got you covered! We’ll be your personal stylist for your lazy days or for your night outs.
Again, pretty simple to see lots of applications for anyone selling products.
Want to pick your perfect bra? The VSPINK bot from Victoria Secret lets you talk it through
“Find your perfect bra by chatting to VSPINK on Kik! Answer a few questions about how your current bra fits and we’ll give you your perfect size, or tell us about your day and we’ll recommend the perfect Wear Everywhere Bra for you. We have a bra for every occasion, ever!”
Bots like those being built by Talla integrate with Slack and Office 365 allowing workers to automate many of the processes they may need to operate. Organizations are using Talla to onboard and train employees in more engaging ways.
I think we are clearly in that window where learning about this technology is a must. It will be one of the most talked about shifts in online business this year I suspect and getting in while it’s a young field just might be the innovation that makes sense for your business.
Like all evolving spaces, keep an eye on what’s going on before you commit too many resources as bots could vaporize as quickly as they materialized!
Here’s some good further reading: