How The Development Of AI Has Advanced The Technology Available For Chatbots

Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbot platforms are taking the world by storm and revolutionizing diverse industries, but before AI was commonplace in chatbots, they were powered by different technologies that were not necessarily intelligent. Chatbots existed as early as the 1960s, and they have rapidly evolved since the development of AI. Today, chatbots are capable of performing incredible feats that come very close to human thinking and thought-processes.


This mimicry of the human thought-process comes from a chatbot’s ability to set goals and pursue them autonomously without any specific instructions — an ability referred to as a chatbot’s agency. This ability (AI) is the reason why chatbots are making a splash in areas such as customer service and sales today.

Chatbots Revolutionizing Customer Service And Sales

I think chatbots are the future, especially in customer service and sales. Here’s why:

1. Intelligent Chatbots Can Provide Preemptive Customer Service

Feeding on thousands of chats and their data, smart chatbots can be trained to recognize important patterns that indicate distress, frustration and annoyance and respond to issues before they escalate.

2. Smart Chatbots Can Reduce Training And Operation Costs 

While human customer service agents need to be trained from time to time, based on new products and emerging customer behavior trends, intelligent chatbots need to be trained only once. They are self-learning and update knowledge autonomously.


3. Autonomous Chatbots Can Handle Customer Service 24/7 

With human customer service agents, you have to hire in shifts to enable 24/7 customer service, which can double your operations and training costs. Autonomous chatbots can enable the same quality of service at no extra cost.

4. Intelligent Chatbots Can Scale The Volume Of Customers Served

From a logistics perspective, human customer support agents can face bottlenecks with support queries. Chatbots, on the other hand, can attend to customers simultaneously without deteriorating the quality of service provided.

5. Smart Chatbots Can Personalize Support With High Accuracy 

Sales managers may fear adoption of chatbot technology because they assume that bots take away the human touch and lack personalization. The opposite is actually true. Intelligent chatbots have the potential to greatly personalize conversations, based on their vast stores of highly-organized data that humans can’t compete with.

Stages Of AI, And How They Can Be Applied In Chatbots Of Different Kinds

Over the years, bots have evolved in their intelligence and abilities, shedding old avatars for newer and more advanced ones. To understand what AI technology’s development has done for chatbots, you have to be exposed to the stages of AI’s evolution and what each stage had to offer in terms of abilities.

Stage One: Cue Readers

Chatbots in stage one have no real ability to understand what you’re saying and simply pick up phrases from your speech that they then match to an internal database before spouting scripted answers. However, such chatbots have the interesting ability to insert amusing fillers in conversations to prevent their lack of knowledge from betraying their limited capabilities. That’s why developers don’t fully ignore stage one and give it some importance, as the later stages pay little attention to emotion and personality in conversations.

Stage Two: Form Fillers

Chatbots in stage two are designed to perform very specific tasks such as making a restaurant reservation or ordering food for delivery. These chatbots have built-in forms that specify all the information that they need to receive from customers and continue making conversation with people until they have filled all the blank spaces. Such chatbots not only go by important phrases but also follow certain rules written by their programmers.

Stage Three: Intent Readers

Chatbots in stage three are akin to talking encyclopedias and are trained to run search queries for the information they need to converse. Such chatbots are constantly indexing information in massive databases from which they pull facts when needed. These bots can do much more than just state facts — they can also identify the part of speech being used by customers and accordingly generate answers to satisfy those queries.

Stage Four: Connection Makers

Chatbots in stages one, two and three are inept at holding long-running conversations with customers. This is because they typically read each sentence of a conversation separately without making interconnections between sentences. Bots in stage four, however, store histories of conversations and can draw from them to make highly coherent and relevant answers. Such bots are even capable of learning based on previous conversations and can constantly improve their ability to have conversations.

Stage Five: Problem Solvers

Chatbots in stage five understand the core problem that a customer is trying to solve. While you could program bots in stages one to four to search for solutions based on certain phrases, bots in stage five can solve such problems more efficiently. For instance, if a customer wants to catch a bus to a destination at a certain time, bots in stages one through four can check if such a bus is available and relay the information, but bots in stage five can suggest alternatives if such a bus is not available.

Stage Six: Companions

Chatbots in stage six are what developers dream of and sci-fi authors write about. Built somewhat like the robot Sophia, chatbots in stage six should have the ability to maintain dynamic and broad conversations that are not limited by subject or depth of any sort. Such bots can replace humans completely in most situations that require autonomous-thinking.

Autonomous chatbots are changing the world every day, and I think a future where such bots run most business tasks is not far away, considering the continuing development of AI and the technology that supports chatbots.


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Can AI and Chatbots really transform customer support?

Chatbots are changing the way companies and customers interact: two billion-plus customer-company conversations in Facebook messenger can’t be wrong. Join this FB Live event to find out how to create engaging human-to-AI agent experiences, and leave with actionable ideas on implementing AI-powered customer support.

Here’s a wild, off-the-cuff guess: You might have heard that AI is ride-or-die for companies that want to stay competitive (possibly also somewhere on this very site). You might have also have heard that it’s expensive, complicated, too difficult to implement or too hard to control.

But for consumers, there’s a growing interest in chat interactions with companies — look at both the two billion conversations companies conduct with their customers over Facebook Messenger every month; look at the study that found 49 percent of customers would prefer to interact with companies via automated methods than any other medium. And companies like Marriot, Sephora, Coca-Cola and 1–800 Flowers are starting to see returns.

Credit the growing sophistication of AI-powered tools and machine-learning bells and whistles that support an engaging, civilized chatbot-customer interaction. Add to this the number of popular consumer platforms that support business chatbots, from Facebook Messenger again to WhatsApp, WeChat, Slack, and more. But building your own sophisticated in-house solution is also easier than ever.

With chatbots, you can answer basic customer queries in minutes ( reports that most issues are handled in five minutes or less, via their chat agents). Just think about the 80/20 rule which often applies in customer service: the same questions are asked 80 percent of the time. Integrating chat into this equation can bring not just significant ROI, it also means your human customer service agents are engaged in handling the more important, business-critical issues that arise (and happier doing more complex, meaningful work, too.).

Chatbots never sleep, so someone with insomnia and a pressing question, or global customers across a spectrum of time zones, will always be able to contact your company and get their basic queries and requests handled.

And chatbots armed with AI-enabled personality can even help uphold your company image.

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Survey Clearly Shows That AI Can Greatly Improve Revenue

Image result for aiAI, although fundamental for customer insight, cannot function effectively if it can’t harness the correct data across the business.

But companies have challenges when implementing new marketing techniques — especially in light of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which comes into force on May 25.

San Francisco, Calif.-based AI marketing company Blueshift has released a report detailing the current use of AI and future plans for its use across businesses.

It worked with SurveyMonkey company TechValidate in February 2018 to survey 200 business-to consumer companies about use of AI, access, and use of customer data.

It wanted to see the types of AI techniques being used, challenges encountered with customer data, and the major obstacles to AI adoption across industries. Its study shows that 64 percent of brands want to increase their use of AI in the next 12 months.

Companies are working out that the ‘right data’ to use is first-party data, gathered from their own customers acquired with the customer’s consent and trust. This is in contrast to third-party data that has been packaged and resold.

This data is usually acquired in the course of doing business with a customer, who has provided explicit consent to its use by the brand, as long as it is not sold or used by others.

This seismic shift toward first-party consent has ramifications across the industry, as brands pivot their businesses to ensure they capture relevant data — direct from the customer.

The study showed that 64 percent of businesses have started to use AI to expand their audience base, and for product recommendations and campaigns. Most brands anticipate increased usage of AI in the near future.

However, only 6 percent of brands reported using advanced AI and predictive capabilities to its fullest extent.

Almost all respondents (92 percent), said that one or more of three factors — analysis, access or unification — was a major challenge that prevented them from making better use of customer data.

Over half (54 percent) saw analysis as a top challenge, followed by access at 46 percent and unification at 41 percent.

Yet, activating more customer data, and using real-time data to frequently segment customers, was reported to have a significant impact on revenue performance

Survey shows that three quarters of businesses improve revenue with AI ZDNet
(Image: Blueshift)

Respondents reported a 1.4-times uplift in revenue goals when using 75 percent or more of customer data compared to companies that used 75 percent or less.

Activating more customer data for AI-powered outreach is important for enterprises. Putting your customer data to work using AI will give you real-time behavioral data that your customers generate.

You can then use your engagement and transaction data across multiple touch points and channels to ensure the maximum possible conversions for your brand.

AI and machine learning can produce background checks on people and companies in minutes instead of days.

IT pros are not confident their organizations have the skills to take advantage of AI

Although enterprises want to implement chatbots in the workplace, privacy concerns are an issue for some.

Qordoba adds AI emotion scoring to product content to improve user experiences

The ability to gauge emotion in product content helps brands measure that the brand is on message across all products.

This article was originally posted on zdnet –

AI In Marketing – 2019 Predictions

There’s no denying that artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly moving from fiction to reality.

In marketing especially, interest in AI has intensified as marketers have realized the potential that intelligently harnessing the ever-growing streams of customer data has on transforming customer experiences.

More importantly, studies show that three-quarters of businesses improve revenue with AI-driven marketing. Netflix has projected that its AI-powered personalized recommendations save it $1 billion in revenue annually by avoiding canceled subscriptions via engaging customers with relevant content.

Fueling AI’s adoption has been marketers demanding to see — and receiving — proof that AI delivers what it promises. Early adopters have shown how AI in marketing makes them more efficient, productive and effective by simplifying, accelerating and scaling marketing initiatives while removing many complexities inherent in marketing today.

Similarly, our company’s recent benchmark analysis of 3.8 billion marketing interactions across channels and verticals found that AI-powered marketing campaigns increase customer engagement by seven times and revenue by three times by helping marketers be more targeted, more relevant in their content and more effective with how they engage each individual customer.

Now, as we step into 2019, here are five predictions for what the year holds for AI in marketing:

1. AI Will Intelligently Orchestrate The Full Customer Journey

Marketers’ first venture into AI was at the top of the funnel for audience expansion and audience targeting. Moving forward, AI will increasingly power the full customer lifecycle, from customer acquisition to engagement to retention. Forrester (via Forbes) recently predicted that “more than 20% of marketing platforms will use AI to optimize midcycle engagement” for business-to-business (B2B) marketing.

That number will be far greater for business-to-consumer (B2C). Furthermore, AI will move from influencing just the edges of the customer experience, such as dynamic content insertion, to orchestrating its core.

2. CMOs Will Challenge Their Teams To Scale, And It Will Happen Through AI

As marketing organizations’ demands and revenue targets continue to grow, CMOs will place increasing emphasis on leveraging technology to meet those demands. CMOs will challenge their teams to run more campaigns, add more personalization and diversify their strategies by being smarter with their resources. Marketing organizations will quickly realize that AI can effectively help them streamline and scale how they work.

3. Marketers Will Get Creative With How They Use AI

As marketers begin to understand how AI can augment and amplify their efforts, we’ll see them leverage AI in innovative ways and start breaking status quo marketing practices. After the initial AI learning curve and period of laying the groundwork with strategy, processes and people, marketers will start pushing the boundaries of their programs and experimenting with new strategies, taking a bigger leap every time.

What this means for marketers: Beyond offloading mundane marketing tasks to AI, marketers can embrace the opportunity to reimagine their customer engagement strategies. With AI, new campaign ideas can go live in no time without significant resources and be readily optimized and pivoted.

4. Marketers Will Fully Embrace AI Because It Stops Being A Black Box

Marketers want control of their marketing programs and need to be able to explain their marketing investments. But the first generation of AI marketing asked marketers to take a leap of faith. That’s why the recent Business Insider Intelligencereport found that “when asked to choose which trending technology they felt most unprepared for, 34% of global marketing executives chose AI.” The growth in AI in 2019 and beyond will be fueled by “explainable AI” in which marketers can see what factors influence predictions and can control the parameters that guide AI.

5. Marketing AI Companies Providing Real Return On Investment Will Emerge From The Noise

Last year, Gartner analysts predicted that “by 2020, AI technologies will be virtually pervasive in almost every new software product and service.” We’re already seeing this prediction play out with a proliferation of marketing software providers — emerging and incumbent — adding AI to their product strategies and pivoting their messaging to claim AI capabilities. Yet not all marketing AI is created equal. This year, we’ll see more emphasis on separating real AI marketing solutions from fringe AI solutions. Gartner has already started helping marketers identify noteworthy AI solutions by introducing the first Cool Vendors report on AI for Marketing.

What this means for marketers: As the “AI” label becomes standard, marketers will find it increasingly challenging to identify real AI solutions capable of effectively solving their problems. Marketers will need to be more vigilant with testing vendors’ claims to weed out masked AI solutions.

Lastly, here’s one final prediction to add to the mix: 2019 will be a pivotal year in which marketers finally realize the return on investment of AI. We’ll see AI’s mounting, tangible benefits move it from hype to mainstream. Will 2019 be the year you embrace AI?


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Curious about Chatbots? A Guide to Chatbots

No, they’re not sci-fi robots. They’re computer programs that interact with your customers and earn you sky-high approval ratings.

Over the past two years, chatbots — or technology-fueled virtual assistants — have taken the world by storm.

At first, chatbots were merely a computer-based service that could undertake various customer service tasks. And in that regard, they were a welcome leap forward.

But, in recent years, chatbots, or “bots” for short, have morphed into exceptionally intelligent computer programs able to assist companies with essential tasks ranging from marketing and human resources functions to sales efforts.

However, while these technology assistants have already made their mark in the business world, many people still don’t fully understand their capabilities, limitations and many functionalities. That’s the reason behind this basic guide: to highlight the different types of chatbots, how they work and how you can create your own artificial intelligence (AI)-powered virtual assistant.

So, without further ado, let’s learn about … chatbots.

The basics

What are chatbots? Chatbots are computer programs capable of conducting conversations by text and auditory communication. Programs simulate how a human conversation would proceed. Chatbots can include text — the response you received to your customer service inquiry — as well as audio and video.

Though chatbots are also robots, there’s no three-dimensional physical presence equivalent to the sci-fi variety or to factory or police robots. Instead, chatbots’ power stems from either set scripts (a technology known as “rules”), or artificial intelligence.

Regardless of their power source, bots can perform a wide variety of tasks without human help. Siri and Alexa are well-known examples of virtual bots; but you’ve also likely encountered customer-service chatbots in a pop-up chat window on your favorite ecommerce site. (See those three dots and the appearance of someone typing? That’s probably a bot.)

Where do you obtain a chatbot? A chatbot can be easily created through various means, whether you build the bot yourself using your coding knowledge or hire someone to build it for you. Today, it’s easier than ever to add a bot to your website, and many companies out there are ready to build you an excellent bot for less cost than you might  think.

The most important factor here is that chatbots can simulate human-like conversations (text or audio) with your customers. Thanks to the technology that powers them, virtual assistants can communicate in natural language and even speak multiple languages, sometimes without the recipient even realizing it. Because of their versatility, chatbots have been integrated into a variety of business models, allowing them to address many business pain points.

A brief history of chatbots

Chatbots aren’t new. In fact, they first appeared as far back as 1966, at the debut of Joseph Weizenbaum’s ELIZA — a robot able to mimic human conversation by matching user prompts to scripted responses. In 1972, PARRY was created by Stanford’s Kenneth Colby, followed by Jabberwacky in 1988, by Britain’s Rollo Carpenter. Finally, there was ALICE in 1995.

ALICE, which stands for Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity, was the first natural language-processing (NLP) chatbot. Richard Wallace’s ALICE bot was so strong that it went on to win the Loebner Prize.

The two main forms chatbots take

While customer service is the widest use of these intelligent machines, today’s versions come in two forms:

Rule-based chatbots. Rule-based or “scripted” chatbots are still out there, but they’re losing popularity because of their AI-powered counterparts. Rule-based bots can answer questions based on a specific script with which they’ve been programmed to communicate. These scripts can be very complex or extremely simple, but the choice is up to the creator.

Artificial intelligence-powered chatbots. Chatbots powered by AI, natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning, on the other hand, have the ability to learn as they communicate. This means that every interaction they have makes them progressively more intelligent.

Not only are they empowered by conversations with humans, but chatbots that use AI to communicate are integrated with analytical platforms and application programming interfaces (APIs) which talk to the chatbot’s technology; that in turn provides the end user with the answers to his or her questions.

Why chatbots are important

You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal with chatbots?” The answer is that consumers today are using social media messaging applications like Facebook Messenger more than they are social networks. Companies that want to stay ahead of the curve should take note, as those messaging applications are now the preferred communication method instead of phone calls, text messages and emails.

In short, you need to focus your marketing efforts on those areas of the digital realm where your audiences are most likely to be — inside messaging apps.

Their “virtually” unlimited functionalities

Chatbots have a virtually limitless number of functionalities. You’ve probably already encountered bots as an intermediary for purchases or a means for answering a company’s FAQs. But bots can offer so much more to the end-userSpecifically, as the technology that powers them continues to grow, these AI-powered machines can:

Tell you the news. Forecast the weather. Create, edit and send emails for you. Schedule and cancel meetings based on your calendar. Place orders online. Tell you about promotions from your favorite brands. Educate you on your personal finances.

In addition, chatbots can:

Give companies the gift of extra time. The business world has become so fast-paced that keeping up is challenging for even the largest, most established organizations in the world. Chatbots can help: They can perform customer support and marketing, HR, IT and various other functions more quickly, and often more accurately, than humans.

Aside from decreasing the time it takes a company to communicate with each online customer, chatbots make a company available to its audience 24/7. As a result, this new technology saves you, the business owner, time and money on human resources.

Give an added level of personalization. In addition to acting as personal agents across the entirety of a company, chatbots have the ability to offer a level of personalization that until recently only a human could offer. Specifically, organizations now have the ability to tailor chatbots to their specific business needs, in order to:

Send texts in various languages. Speak in multiple languages. Use different accents based on the users location. Send personalized offers based on the users shopping history. Update specific agents in real time, allowing them to further customize their efforts.

What else chatbots can do

Another thing chatbots can do is take on various roles within an organization:

Become your virtual assistant. From helping you with shopping to acting as your personal secretary, a chatbot is the perfect virtual assistant. Bots can undertake a variety of tasks by syncing with users’ mobile and computer applications to:

Answer questions and give information on virtually any topic. Help you book flights, hotels, restaurant meals, train travel and other services. Buy products for you online. Create, edit and cancel meetings. Send emails. Sync with a home appliances so you don't have to lift a finger.

Act as your marketing or sales executive. Not only can chatbots help you cut down on email exchanges, unnecessary meetings and various online searches, they can actually act as your marketing executive.

This means the ability to undertake major marketing tasks like pushing personalized offers to social media users on demand, and taking orders directly from social media platforms and websites. Bots can also help you market your product or service more aggressively, cross-selling and upselling products based on your users’ shopping histories. And they can push customers through the sales funnel.

Chatbots can give you …

A far greater reach for your marketing communications and customer service. In the customer-service realm, chatbots make your company available to a wider range of customers across the globe than humans alone could reach. And, obviously, they’re available to your audience members all day, every day, whatever their time zone.

What’s more, adding a chatbot to your website and social media platforms means customer inquiries can be handled neatly and quickly. They can be answered, by chatbots, in multiple languages.

Assistance with internal communications. A lesser-known feature of chatbots is their ability to help with internal communications between teams. Instead of having to struggle with back-and-forth emails and unnecessary meetings, teams from HR, IT and other departments can hand tasks over to their friendly chatbot.

Gone are the days when employees had to shadow HR personnel for information about their paychecks and holiday leave. Instead, companies can now institute a chatbot — like Slack — to act as an internal communication channel, to enable staffers to find out how many holiday days they have left this year. Employees can use this same service to book days off, find out about their company’s bonuses, obtain information regarding an IT problem and much more.

The ability to act as idea-generation tools. Data is leading the digital economy today. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to fully understand our customers’ needs and pain points. However, in addition to gathering this data, we need to be able to transform it into something of value. And chatbots can make that happen.

Because AI-powered chatbots can learn — and grow — from every interaction they have and the data they gather, they offer companies cognitive solutions to a huge variety of problems. Empowered by this data, bots can adapt when market trends change, as well as improve a company’s performance, as data continues to flood in.

Data analysis capability. Thanks to the growth of intelligent algorithms and the automation of data collection, chatbots have the ability to perform data analysis, then share the results in the form of comprehensive reports specific to a company’s departments.

Such analysis allows a company to determine the profitability of various business paths and improve upon them over time.

How Facebook Messenger Made Chatbots a Whole Lot Easier to Use for Your Business Facebook first began talking about opening its Messenger platform to developers for business communications after acquiring WhatsApp in 2015. A year later, ManyChat and Chatfuel the platforms that enable those communications followed.

“Messenger is interactive and engaging; that’s why we consider it an ‘adventure,'” Johnson explained in an interview. By marrying Messenger and chatbots, she said, customer service has taken a giant leap beyond the bad old days of email marketing. The reason, she said, is that “Messenger is interactive, whereas email is passive.

“[The customer] can read the email and maybe click on a link,” Johnson said of the email way of doing customer service.”But you [the business] don’t get to react to what the person is saying.” That’s where those interactive adventures — and chatbots — enter the picture.

“The reason Messenger is unique,” Johnson continued, “is that there are programs that deliver these [marketing messages], so I don’t have to go in and actually code the chatbot myself; you need a technologist to code it. There are companies that have developed platforms, like a Mailchimp or a Fusionsoft specifically for Facebook Messenger.

“That’s the whole reason this is a crazy-amazing thing right now. I can show you statistic after statistic of my clients’ results. I have over 30 clients, currently, with open rates of 80 to 100 percent.”

Contrast that, Johnson said, with an email list you first have to buy — a list which might produce, according to industry sources, at best a 30 percent open rate and a 5 percent click-through rate.

Johnson said she also appreciates how Messenger users have to opt in to receive messages. “I can’t just send them to you without your permission,” she pointed out. What’s more, bots can do more than just help create sales. A client of Johnson’s, for instance, a plastic surgeon, uses a bot merely to chat with people making initial inquiries.

“We’re not selling anything through the bot,” Johnson explained. “We just want to get the person comfortable enough to share a phone number or email to take this relationship further.” That’s why bots can be viewed as “nurturing” tools as well as selling ones, she said.

A typical transaction with Messenger Funnels? Johnson explained that her Folsom, Calif.-based company uses chatbots tied to her clients’ Facebook Business pages. To communicate with the client, she uses Trello and folders shared via Google Drive.

Another client of Johnson’s, named Alison J. Prince, illustrates how bots can help. Prince markets what she calls her “0-100K” online webinar (educating entrepreneurs on how to get started in ecommerce); she’s also selling a fullscale online course. Each week, Prince reaches out to prospective customers via a new Facebook Live, offering helpful tips on how to start a business, with titles like “The 15 biggest business mistakes I’ve made so far.”

Some viewers will likely want to respond. Prince solicits those responses by offering pdfs — about business mistakes or another topic — in return for their comments. Once a viewer comments, he or she has officially opted in to Messenger. Once the viewer shows continued interest in Prince’s advice … the chatbots take over.

Operating via ManyChat and Chatfuel software, the bots schmooze with those customers, hopefully drawing them in to signing up for a webinar, then maintaining the connection by reminding buyers of the webinar date and time  (“Hey! Your webinar starts in 10 minutes!” “Hey! Can’t wait to see you!”)

“It’s as if we’re communicating with them in Messenger,” Johnson pointed out. But, she rejected the notion that she might be fooling the customer: “We very clearly tell them, ‘This is the Alison bot,'” she said.

In the end, Johnson said, chatbots work far better than email — so much so that Alison Prince has seen her subscriber base in Messenger jump from 500 on January 1 (this year, 2018), to 3,400 subscribers just three months later. Most impressively, Johnson said, Prince has a 97 percent “open” rate for her messages and a 30 percent click-through rate to her webinar. Twenty percent of her Messenger subscribers who have watched that webinar have purchased the online course.

In contrast, less than 5 percent of email subscribers who have watched the webinar have bought it.

Johnson, meanwhile, who’s been a serial entrepreneur since 2003 when she started out with an online maternity store called MommyLove (still in business), says she’s really found her “passion” with chatbots — and with forging those marketing communication “adventures” for clients.

“This Messenger business, as you can imagine, is all young males,” added this entrepreneur, who is obviously female, and 65. She laughed. “They’ve given me the nickname ‘Chat Mom,'” she said.

“So I had to go get that domain.”

Chatbots’ limitations

While chatbots have made their mark as indispensable tools for a litany of reasons, they’re still moderately new to the business world, and come with their own set of limitations — most of which are expected to be overcome in the near future.

One of the key reasons these machines are not yet perfect is the technological restraints of AI and machine learning. The technology is still evolving, setting limits on how much these robots can really accomplish. But, the development of chatbot technology is on a continuum, meaning that the need for human supervision of bots has steadily diminished.

Another reason bots fail is that some businesses try to make chatbots with too much personality. Take the (infamous) example of “Tay,” described by The Verge in a March 2016 article titled “Twitter taught Microsoft’s AI chatbot to be a racist a–hole in less than a day” (the “a–hole” being my addition).

The chatbot that turned rude and racist, with Nazi tendences, to boot In March 2016, Micosoft unveiled its AI robot Tay as an experiment in conversational understanding, meaning that the more people out on the internet who chatted with Tay, the smarter the robot would become -- or, as in Tays case, the dumber As The Verge reported, People started tweeting the bot with all sorts of misogynistic, racist and Donald Trumpist remarks. And Tay being essentially a robot parrot with an internet connection started repeating these sentiments. Those sentiments ranged from We're going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it to hateful, Naziesque venom about Hitler and the Jews.

Ninety-six thousand tweets later, Microsoft dove in to delete the worst of Tay’s comments.

Yet, despite the ha-ha moment generated by the notion of a software service reduced to Nazi statements, there was a serious question that Tay raised. As The Verge wrote of the bot’s downfall: “It’s a joke, obviously, but there are serious questions to answer, like, how are we going to teach AI using public data without incorporating the worst traits of humanity?”

No one so far has had an answer.

While technological issues remain to be solved, chatbots overall have changed, for the better, the way consumers and businesses interact. They allow companies to be interconnected with their audiences 24 hours a day, seven days a week, opening up new opportunities for the ecommerce world.

And that bodes well for entrepreneurs, who, being only human, sometimes need (and deserve) a break.

This article was originally posted on Entrepreneur –


The Top 10 Most Transformative Techs For Marketing

3% of marketing executives see AI or a technology dependent on AI as critical to the future of marketing.

20% think that bots, chatbots, or smart assistants are core.

And 63.5% believe that big data will (finally) be transformative for marketers.

“AI and machine learning will have the most profound impact on marketing because it will fundamentally make ‘marketing’ more human,” Altimeter principal analyst Brian Solis told me. “Which is ironic in and of itself.”

AI, big data, and automation are key themes in the top technologies for 2018PIXABAY

I surveyed, spoke to, and questioned 350 marketing leaders, CMOs, influencers, and experts to hear their predictions for the top ten tranformative technologies in marketing in 2018. That includes top executives from Salesforce, SAP, Dun & Bradstreet, and Microsoft.

Most think that technology will enable better brand-customer communication.

“As artificial intelligence and machine learning continues to make their way into marketing automation in 2018, individualization will become the new personalization,” says Michelle Huff, CMO of Act-On Software.

Here are the top 10 technologies the 350 experts I surved said would be most transformative in the coming year:

  1. Artificial intelligence
  2. Big data(especially when used for personalization)
  3. Augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality(some are now referring to this as XR: extended reality)
  4. Bots, chatbots, and messaging
  5. Mobile(especially when using geolocation technologies)
  6. Voice-first computing(voice search, smart assistants, voice-based commerce, voice-first interfaces)
  7. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies
  8. Messaging and brand(in other words, no technology at all)
  9. Performance marketing(data-driven, ROI-focused marketing)
  10. Customer databases(data management platforms or data lakes)

Clearly, AI is the big winner.

AI + data = 2018 marketing success

Bots and chatbots, for instance, require AI to be more than a structured set of if/then statements, and to do more than answer the basics that they’re pre-programmed with. Voice-first computing requires AI for its very existence: almost all natural-language processing (NLP) gains in the past decade have been due to smart systems that learn languages thanks to massive data sets of text and speech.

And big data — especially when used for personalization — gets a lot more usable, not to mention smarter, with the application of machine learning and/or deep learning.

“AI enables brands to differentiate by delighting customers in a more personalized and timely manner as it bolsters existing marketing automation capabilities at scale,” Mika Yamamoto, chief digital marketing officer at SAP, told me.

“The nexus of big data analytics and the various forms of AI, including predictive analytics, machine learning and deep learning, underpin well-informed and efficient customer interactions that benefit both customers and businesses,” echoes Wilson Raj, the global director of customer intelligence for SAS.

Data plus intelligence enables hyper-personalization, says former Microsoft CMO Thom Gruhler (currently CEO of Fjuri). And that means a frictionless, contextualized, and personalized customer experience.

Add it up, and marketers smell dollars.

Bots + assistants + AI = new means of commerce

Marketers see bots and assistants as transformative technologies that could either connect brands and customers closer, in real time, or — in some cases — actually completely disintermediate the companies who make products from the people who consume them.

Jeremiah Owyang, principal analyst at Kaleido Insights, sees marketers finding ways to use these technologies to connect with customers.

“Smart voice systems [will] enable marketers to connect to customers from anywhere: Car, kitchen, the bedroom, and on the go,” Owyang says. “Interfaces aren’t as relevant as we can now interact with audio.”

“Post-app technologies will disintermediate marketers,” Wester told me. “What happens to CPG marketing when we’re ordering detergent by merely saying, “Alexa, get me more laundry soap?”

Terry Jones, who founded Travelocity and, and currently leads WayBlazer, has a different take.

“Text and voice driven bots will be used by brands on websites, apps, and social platforms to deliver highly relevant, 24/7 assistance for FAQs as well as shopping decisions,” he said.

There is a point of differentiation there, of course.

Voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana are fundamentally different than bots and chatbots employed by brands for customer service via Facebook Messenger, SMS, Viber, or another messaging platform.

Alexa has the potential to encapsulate huge amounts of commerce into the Amazon ecosystem — especially as Amazon sells huge numbers of Echo devices. With Google Assistant and Siri, voice-based and commerce-enabled assistants have the potential to mediate most of the $57 trillion of consumer spend in the US alone.

But bots don’t come between brands and their customers. Bots actually enable tighter connections.

“Consumers want to chat with businesses on their phones and are becoming more and more open to live chat systems and messaging bots,” says Allie Tretreault, a content strategist for Toast.

This might even be a stealth advantage for small businesses.

“It might not be the sexiest tech when AI and VR flood the media, but small businesses are flocking to mobile messaging in droves,” says Kenneth Burke, marketing director for TextRequest. “They’re texting and messaging to gain leads, follow up on sales, promote events, share info, get reviews, provide better customer service, and even chat with customers the same way friends do.”

AI is the engine, but data is the fuel

Artificial intelligence is great, but it’s artificial. In other words, it needs to be constructed … and big data fuels that process.

It’s about time for big data to prove its worth, says Adnan Mahmud of LiveStories. We’ve barely scratched the surface of its potential impact, but AI will help unlock its true value.

The same is true for the majority of the sexy new technologies marketers continue to drool over, says Ray Walia, CEO of Launch Academy.

“AI, Blockchain, and AR are all tools to achieve desired outcomes but require data to do so,” he said. “You are going to see more marketing teams start to dive in to data and start making data driven decisions on what their customers and users want just like Amazon and Netflix do.”

Extended realities: AR, VR, and MR

Marketers will get very high-tech in 2018, many believe. But it won’t all be helpful.

Retail will be most affected, according to some.

In 2018, we’ll see tech that will allow for complete and seamless retail fulfillment via mobile augmented reality, says Irena Cronin, who leads research at Transformation Group.

One of the key reseaons? Silicon Valley, of course.

“I believe it’s not the technology but the brands/companies pushing the markets into certain directions and at this point companies like Facebook and Apple are pushing people more into AR,” says Sherif Kozman, CEO of ExtremeSolution. “This can have a lot of impact on brands and marketing in general, especially with empowering platforms such as the iPhone with native AR, and Facebook with AR studio and the Camera platform.”

Naturally, a post on top technologies for 2018 would not be complete without the breakout stories of tech in 2017: blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Many believe blockchain will change everything … or at least advertising.

“Advertising is full of waste, fraud and other externalities. One externality is that people’s privacy is being stolen and money is made selling that to advertisers,” says Miko Matsumura, the founder of Evercoin. “By introducing blockchain technologies, users can control their data, while advertisers can get a more reliable product.”

Hermione Way, a Silicon Valley icon, influencer, and advisor, says blockchain is the future. Joel Comm, another uber-influencer in the marketing and sales spaces, echoes the sentiment.

Julie Albright, an academic at USC who frequently consults with top-level Silicon Valley and global tech leaders, has a slightly different take:

“I think the important emerging technology for marketing in 2018 will be the blockchain browsers – which are still in their early stage, like Metamask,” she told me. “These will form a bridge from the Internet to the blockchain, enabling an entirely new market ecosystem to be accessed by consumers.”

And some see cryptocurrencies coming into their own in 2018.

While today it’s challenging to buy anything with Bitcoin thanks to rapid price fluctuation — is the price $37 or $32 or $45 — and high transaction costs, some tech leaders see these challenges being solved in the near future.

“With Bitcoin going mainstream, e-commerce sites will want to quickly jump on board,” says Adryenn Ashley, CEO of Loly. “Instead of spending years coding their own solution, I predict they will adopt Wampum Register to be able to take bitcoin transactions in person and online. It’s a game changer for any business that wants to cut their credit card transaction fees and move boldly into the future of crypto.”

Sometimes it’s not the big things

Many marketers, however, point away from the hot technologies of the moment. Instead, they point to brand story, or marketing team organization and structure.

“Instead of a single technology, marketing will focus on evolving team capabilities and redesigning processes and organizational structures to take advantage of the rapid evolution of technology and data in marketing,” says Rishi Dave, the CMO of Dun & Bradstreet.

Anna Winterstein, CMO of the Europe-based Smarter Time, thinks the story, the brand, and the messages marketers craft are key, especially in an era with an increase emphasis on privacy.

“In the current context where individual privacy concerns are coming back with a vengeance (see GDPR, private browsers, etc), there will be a technology shift whereby personal data becomes more protected, and its uses less mercenary,” Winterstein told me. “Marketing might have to learn to do without that crutch. We have been so sure in the knowledge that our campaigns would fall on interested ears – we’ll have to go back to the basics and make sure the marketing messages we craft are actually in the general interest of the public.”

Most marketers believe that technology is central to marketing in 2018.

But not all agree.

“I fundamentally believe the constant chase for the latest tech trend gets in the way of building a strong brand,” Gartner senior analyst Augie Ray told me. “I think smart brands will be doing a better job of using their Voice-of Customer and customer insight to understand what drives customers’ satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. I don’t know that many brands will do this, but I think it’s the thing that can drive the best strategies toward long-term brand health.”

It’s hard to argue with that philosophy.

But it’s also hard to argue that marketers aren’t achieving incredible results with the smart, judicious, and measured application of the right technologies.

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