Demand for conversational AI has been growing for several years now, as industries begin to recognise its value. While this growth has been rapid by any objective analysis, it pales in comparison to the growth anticipated over the next few years.
According to Markets & Markets, conversational AI is expected to grow from USD 4.8 billion in 2020 to USD 13.9 billion by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21.9%. The coronavirus pandemic has only catalysed expansion.
Conversational AI has come to complement how we now live, work and socialise. Social distancing, the closure of public spaces, and the increased reliance on working from home are just a few of the shifts we have witnessed over the last six months and are likely to remain firmly in place for the foreseeable future.
Whilst these changes have sometimes manifested as inconveniences for the public, they have uncovered a huge gap in the market for conversational AI solutions. Across various industries, consumers are seeking more touchless and voice-enabled experiences and conversational AI technologies to engage with brands and to eliminate the need for physical contact. At NTT DATA, a number of our clients have already embraced conversational AI to support care journeys and are launching virtual assistants to relieve pressure from their contact centres whilst maintaining fast and efficient customer services.
The Future of Conversational AI
Although the pandemic has catalysed uptake of conversational AI, it’s worth emphasising that demand will persist even after the crisis. Consumer behaviours and employee work patterns have been changed for good, and conversational AI presents an opportunity to capitalise on these changes – improving efficiency, encouraging intelligence, meeting consumer demand, and personalising customer service. Even putting the pandemic aside for a moment, many of the drivers that have contributed to the boom in conversational AI so far – demand for AI-powered customer support services, omnichannel deployment, and reduced chatbot development cost – won’t go away. Conversational AI is here, and it’s here to stay.
The retail industry is an apt example of an area where applications of conversational AI hold significant long-term value through the pandemic and beyond. As my colleague Tom Winstanley mentioned in a recent blog, retail is now moving towards a post-multichannel world, dominated by digital first offerings. According to our research, a quarter of customers expect to be able to speak virtually to a shop assistant to help them with their clothes and product shopping – rising to 1 in 3 in under 35s. Conversational AI facilitates 24/7 accessibility for consumers, enabling retailers to maximise their revenue and customer acquisition and retention capabilities.
The retail banking space is another area where demand for conversational AI will only endure and increase post-pandemic. According to research carried out by Juniper, 90% of bank-related interactions will be automated by 2022. Currently, banks are focusing on intelligent virtual assistants to simplify communications with their customers and to build long-lasting relationships. Looking ahead, conversational AI is set to play an important role in managing fraud detection and money laundering, whilst offering unparalleled efficiency.
In all sectors, conversational AI is set to become more lifelike and intelligent, with the capacity to respond in an increasingly human manner. Over time, these technologies are becoming ever more intelligent and sentiment-driven, with the capacity to respond in an increasingly human manner. Within healthcare, increased demand for mental health support has already led to the adoption of many sentiment-driven bots to alleviate stress and provide emotional support.
This drive towards delivering emotionally intelligent conversational AI has been a focus at NTT DATA for some time. One such robot, SOTA, is able to recognise language and respond to voice commands. Originally designed to support Japan’s ageing population, it’s now being tested in the UK at Great Ormond Street Hospital as a means to support ill children.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalisation processes and conversational AI is a key component of this transformation. However, conversational AI is not simply a passing fad; it’s here for the long-run, and industries will reap enormous benefits if they implement these technologies now. At the start of the pandemic, conversational AI-enabled organisations to manage a fast-moving and unpredictable landscape and will continue to play an important role in navigating and defining our new normal.