The fact that we are discussing chatbot trends is proof that chatbots are now playing an important role across industries. This number below represents the predicted exponential annual growth rate of chatbots over the next three years, at least according to Business Insider.
It might not seem much, but because it is exponential/cumulative, this growth rate would allow the current $2.6 billion value to explode to $9.4 billion by 2024.
Even without this statistic, just knowing how chatbots function in businesses should give a clear indication of how game-changing they have been in the last several years. And as with many burgeoning technological development of the internet era, several important trends dictate its course over the next few years.
1. Chatbots slowly taking over the entire customer service cycle
As chatbots get more sophisticated in interaction and direction, more and more responsibilities can be reliably given to them. In fact, according to a recent study by Intercom, sales has now become the dominant use case of chatbots at 41%. It has effectively overtaken the traditionally more common support-related use cases, which at the time of the study’s publishing, was at 37%, and to bigger extent, marketing, which was at 17%.
To put it another way, industries today are actually poised to drive (economic) growth of chatbots beyond simply redirecting customers to representatives. And even from a feature standpoint, the hint of chatbots being universally functional is becoming quite apparent. For instance, we now have chatbots that directly provide service and purchase suggestions. We also have those that can integrate with vast amounts of customer data for target responses. Better yet, we even have chatbots that provide assistance all the way to the end of the consultation (provided the problem isn’t too complicated).
Extrapolate this within the next few years of continued chatbot refinement/development, and we should be able to witness the birth of highly advanced automation for future chatbots. All except the most specific and most complicated queries will be handled up until the end by bots that can serve people 24/7.
2. Chatbots and human operators will be (even more) indistinguishable
At this point, almost nobody is surprised that chatbots are set to become even more sophisticated and human-like within the next few years. Even as early as 2018, Google gave us a perfect glimpse of how such chatbot trends can be realized, albeit it was voiced, and on the customer’s side.
But from the human operators’ side, this means that routing procedures are going to be less and less apparent. This trend is already getting more prevalent in integrated third-party chat apps. Look a few years ahead, and instead of finding fully-independent AI-powered chatbots, you would more likely witness a convincingly smart chatbot that can seamlessly transfer the next message to a human agent/operator, no matter the situation.
So for simpler interactions, chatbots all the way. For more advanced ones, operators + chatbots still. Any discernible transition or unnatural speech mode shifts will (soon) disappear, as if built to pass a reversed Turing test.
In any case, this also means that we won’t be seeing chatbots completely take over human operators anytime soon.
3. Third party platform-exclusive chatbots on the rise
One of the very common chatbot trends is the commonly recommended trick of choosing a versatile and easy-to-use platform. The reasoning is pretty obvious: why would you not choose a chatbot that is all-purpose?
However, a growing number of chatbot providers have been following a rather different trend: focusing instead on just one single messaging platform, be it a team management platform such as Slack, or a social media outlet, such as Facebook. The logic is surprisingly as simple as how we choose more versatile ones – it’s all in the spirit of specialization. If a platform is deemed universal enough, optimizing your chatbot platform specifically for it allows you to market yourself better to those using that specific platform.
Chatfuel is perhaps one of the best and the most successful examples of this trend. Founded in 2015, the very simple and straightforward chatbot provider has risen the ranks to become one of the foremost conversational AI specialists in Facebook Messenger. Indeed, the company has grown in scope and prestige so much that even big shots like Disney have tried and successfully used their platform for various chatbot purposes.
4. Chatbots and RPA to become more and more integrated by default
Robotic process automation (RPA) is, in a way, designed similarly to chatbots. The mechanism of its operation and its automation options may be different, but both share the goal of streamlining easier surface-level tasks that would otherwise be tedious and ineffective for humans today.
Hence, the idea of combining RPA and chatbots has been considered even as early as the first few burgeoning years of enterprise-level chatbots. In the near future, however, the consideration may no longer be just an option. It would rather become a default necessity, at least for business entities that would find such an idea instantly beneficial. Many ideas have surfaced on the web toying with such a concept, with many focusing on back office simplification.
Of course, designing an effective build for both will be a tough challenge. Even today, chatbots can be difficult to implement for more traditional small businesses, particularly those that never had the chance to embrace similar technologies. But when implemented correctly, it is easy to imagine the huge profit benefits of everything that “RPA chatbots” can optimize for any business.
5. Voiced chatbots should become mainstream
A chatbot’s ease-of-use in deployment and design usually lies within its simplicity as a medium. You type a question on your team collab platform, for instance, and you get a text-based response within the same moment. If the information that you need comes up, it won’t matter too much if it acts convincingly like a human or not.
But things become different when voiced. For example, word choice is suddenly burdened with tone and cadence. Or, that gender tone is introduced, same as with relative age. This added list of criteria is often deemed redundant and unnecessary, especially if you simply want to fetch a small piece of information.
Ultimately, however, as we achieve chatbot trends similar to number two, voiced chatbots should become more and more common. Remember how Star Trek represented computers having universal utility using voiced commands? How about Tony Stark’s witty banters with JARVIS and eventually FRIDAY? That level of sophistication.
Only this time, the main advantage is passive interaction and interoperability. Imagine Google Now or Alexa, but designed instead to interact automatically with visiting customers.
6. Chatbots would further automate purchase transactions
In a long-term customer service study conducted by Treasure Data in 2019, banking ranks as the top third industry with the most established electronic systems (25%), with only about a third of its operations allocated purely to human agents. In another independent study by Chatbot Magazine, it concluded that more than 60% of U.S. millennials prefer to purchase products and services using a chatbot.
For many of us, buying or selling stuff (especially goods and services with standardized price) is even simpler than giving queries. As such, businesses focusing on sales have the most inherently optimized operations for implementing automation systems like chatbots. Instead of clicking through menu after menu, you may simply type some familiar commands in chat, followed by numerical values required for the transaction. Most of its basic security features will ensure that credentials will never be exposed, even when inputted directly on-screen.
MasterCard has long since represented this chatbot trend with its launch of a chatbot designed specifically for handling customer payments. In the next few years, it is expected that more and more business entities will venture using such chatbots, making transactions even more automated than they are already today.
Last but not least: Chatbot trends indicate that chatbots will continue to transform industries
Combined, all of these chatbot trends give us one clear message: the technology is still as revolutionary as it was when first introduced on a large scale. Chatbots will continue to keep opening new ideas while revealing brand new avenues for improvement. In particular, hardware-based processing capabilities still have huge room for growth, hence even the very basic framework of chatbot builders is expected to grow and improve in the next decade.
Perhaps more importantly, its growth in relation to its adoption rate will maintain its expected exponential development. This will continue so long as there are businesses, industries, and organizations that would still require a significant overhaul of their more repetitive human interaction tasks. Hurdles in design and deployment are also included in this, of course.
Moreover, chatbots are expected to simply take a bigger part of our ordinary lives in general. If there is a baseline level of interaction required, there would likely be a way to automate it using chatbots. This is true whether you are streamlining personal tasks, organizing bigger systems such as e-learning sessions, or just doing specific regular chores like updating inventories or home resource management.