The conversational AI renaissance starts now: What comes next?

I’ve been talking to my phone more. Not on my phone but to my phone. Or, rather, the apps on the computer that I call my phone. Don’t knock it, the conversations are getting better. Have you noticed this, too? We’re increasingly using voice features as they become more natural and human. Yes, it’s the way all new technologies catch on, but this one is bigger.

The voice interface is the biggest paradigm shift currently around.

Before you know it, voice assistants will have shifted from digital tools to social peers. Here’s how it’s already playing out.

With more people staying at home, consumer brands are set to see a huge increase in traffic from home devices. Juniper Research anticipates the number of digital voice assistants in use will triple to 8.4 billion by 2024, up from an estimate of 2.5 billion at the end of 2018.

Before you know it, voice assistants will have shifted from digital tools to social peers. Here’s how it’s already playing out.

It seems like only a few years have passed since command-line interfaces gave way to graphical interfaces. Now, touch is the thing making our mobile lifestyles possible. But another shift is happening. The age of touch as the primary user interface is giving way to a new age of conversational commerce assistants.

The design philosophy of conversational commerce is to meet the consumers where they are and work seamlessly across devices (such as smart displays, watches, phones, cars, laptops, TVs and speakers) and understand the context. Engaging conversational commerce assistants can understand what their users are saying to them.

There’s a transformation in how people conceptually communicate with brands.

With a traditional website or mobile phone app, the responsibility for learning is on the user. With conversational commerce platforms, the user becomes the communicator. AI shifts the burden of learning with an incredibly empowering conceptual shift. Through advanced speech and language understanding, we are at the tipping point of more human-like interactions with technology.

The evolution from screen-first to voice-first:

  1. Screen-first interactions start with an app designed primarily for the screen; then voice control is added afterward to enhance the experience.
  2. In voice-only interaction, there is no screen and the interactions are based on the sound from e.g., smart speakers.
  3. In voice-first interaction, it’s a combination of both speakers and screens.

Voice-first is where app design primarily for voice is enhanced through the addition of a screen, which brings me to the paradigm shift. The conversational commerce user interface lets people use their voices to interact directly with the brands they love.

The coffee cart

I’ll use coffee as an example here, proving that love isn’t too strong a word. (You know it’s true.) Today, when I want to order a cup of coffee from a shop around the corner, I need to stop and focus on my mobile. When we use our mobiles, we have a very procedural way of doing things: find the right app, tap the app button, scroll through lots of options and add each item to the cart, then go to checkout.

With conversational commerce, we are moving from a procedural way of doing things to outcome-based computing. We can just say the outcome we want (example: I’d like to have a cup of coffee) and the conversational commerce assistant orchestrates all the service steps needed to make it happen — playing a key role in helping consumers get what they want quickly and naturally.

What are the emerging capabilities with voice application?

Conversational commerce helps end users use voice commands to search for and purchase products online. Instead of using a graphical interface, we are using voice to do the purchase a lot quicker and more efficiently. Increased interaction with voice assistants leads to devices gathering more data on consumer behavior and preferences, which leads to more personalized experiences that increase commerce.

Take it a step further to conversational marketing, where you’re not only creating the assistant but also the ambassador of your brand. This is about giving your brand a voice; or the voice identity of the brand. Connecting it with a sound identity giving the voice its melody. Combining both the voice and sound identities leads to auditive charisma. Transforming a digital assistant into a charismatic ambassador represents the brand well to customers.

This is the paradigm shift from tool to peer

This chart shows the paradigm shift I’m talking about. It starts on the left with voice technology as a tool to find information. In the next phase, technology becomes more of a helper, or a subordinate, completing transactions. On the right, you can see what happens when contextual awareness is added to voice technologies: Your app will ask if you’d like a coffee from your favorite shop around the time you usually get one. Voila, technology is your social peer.

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About Andrew Stephen

Senior Consultant (Atos|Syntel)
Andrew serves the Atos Resources & Services team and applies his knowledge to spend time with companies that are at the forefront of digital disruption, focused on artificial intelligence, automation and privacy.

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