As computers grow in processing power, and the software that runs on them grows in sophistication, the march of Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues. It promises to be utterly transformative. eCommerce Chatbots are just one way in which AI is impacting business and eCommerce in particular. In this blog, we’ll look at how it will impact eCommerce – and specifically how ERP and CRM will be affected – before moving to what it will mean for the economy overall.
It’s important to distinguish Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) from Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).
ANI refers to AI whose sphere of competence is limited, that can do one or a few things very well. While IBM’s Watson excelled on gameshow Jeopardy, ask it to drive a car and you’ll be waiting forever to reach your destination.
AGI, in contrast, means AI whose abilities are altogether more wide-ranging. Bristling with advanced learning capability, AGI will become skilled at a potentially unlimited number of tasks.
Given the significant difference between these AI categories – that ANI is more limited than AGI – we expect ANI, a low hanging fruit, to rapidly become pervasive before AGI takes hold. What will this look like? Well, we’re already part of the way there.
eCommerce Chatbots are beginning to gain real traction
First developed over 50 years ago by scientist Joseph Weizenbaum, chatbots have been around for a long time. And whilst they initially responded to queries using an algorithm that incorporated users’ questions in their answers, they’ve since developed to become increasingly life-like, proliferating beyond single websites to find homes in messaging apps and other tools.
This touches on an important trend – whilst smartphone users have become hesitant to download new apps, messaging service use has taken off. Two billion people will be communicating over them by 2018. They may even overtake browsers as the primary way we access information online. So, it’s no surprise that companies are clamouring to harness popular messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger, to take advantage.
How, then, will eCommerce chatbots be deployed?
The most obvious space they’ll occupy are those parts of businesses that face customers. Domino’s Pizza have rolled out a Facebook Messenger bot that allows users to place orders by typing out and confirming them. And this is one of at least 11,000 other bots harnessing Facebook’s messaging architecture. Others have taken the place of traditional telephone support lines, resolving customers’ issues with goods and services, with still more helping customers search for deals and even track deliveries.
ERP software, and its CRM functionality, is ripe for eCommerce chatbot integration. They’ll be just another, seemingly more human, way to access data about stock levels and purchase orders, projected delivery dates and customer credits limits. Any query or task could be directed by conversation with a chatbot. Where many companies’ greatest outlay is their workers’ salaries, augmenting their existing workforce with chatbots, and other customer service AI, will become an attractive option. Surveys have revealed that, regarding helplines, customers tend to prefer chatbots for a speedy resolution over people in any case.
Sceptics have cited an 85% upper ceiling for chatbot accuracy as a reason that they’ll never be either truly authentic or replace humans entirely. But we’re not so sure. In the long run, there’s no reason why that final 15% could not be cracked, given computing resources set to continue their exponential increase and the fact we, as humans, already exist as accurate chatbots of a different type – composed of organic carbon, not inorganic silicon.
But AI’s growing capability won’t just mean chatbots indistinguishable from people
Freed from cyberspace, AI will be powering machines interacting with, and performing tasks in, the real world. We’re all familiar with robots building cars and even vacuuming our floors. These are examples of machines imbued with ANI – they’re great at the limited tasks expected of them. The next generation of robots, on the other hand, will meet or outclass humans in a far wider range of areas. They’ll have AGI.
The implications are massive. A recent report anticipates that 30% of all UK jobs are at risk from automation by the early 2030s, with the transportation, manufacturing and retail sectors identified as particularly vulnerable. We know those are the areas that encompass most of the Khaos Family, so that stat will really hit home. It’s not too much of a stretch to contemplate an entirely automated supply chain and delivery process, with robots mining raw materials, refining and engineering those as products, and selling and delivering them to customers.
Not even marketing, traditionally thought of as a more ‘human’ preserve, will be spared
Algorithms will learn to exploit human psychology, creating supremely persuasive marketing campaigns, continuously learning to make them ever-more compelling.
In this brave new world, ERP software will become the central administrative point for companies’ automated systems – conductors of vast symphonies of production.
There’s clearly a lot of disruption and debate to be had in the decades ahead. But don’t wait for AI’s benefits – increase your business efficiency today with Khaos Control. One system to manage stock, CRM and different sales channels, such as Amazon and eBay. Ditch the spreadsheets and boost resilience with staff trained to harness ERP software so when workers fall ill or move on, others can take their place.
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