2018 was, for most observers, the year of AI. The year when it finally broke out of the laboratories and data science think-tanks and started to become a visible, tangible presence in everyday life (consider, for example, the popularity of Amazon Echo and Google Home, two smart speakers powered by AI).
But it’s not just in the home that AI has made an impact. In the world of commerce, AI has grown to become a useful and vital tool. Over the last 12 months, the application of AI has led to transformations in all areas of business, from customer experience, revenue growth and cost reduction.
Research from the global advisory firm Gartner stated that, in terms of global business value, AI was worth a colossal $1.2 trillion in 2018 - that’s a 70% increase from 2017! This is expected to top $3.9 trillion by 2022.
Here at Cognism, we are experts in the field of AI, to the extent that we were recently granted a patent for our Revenue AI engine. Our lead prospecting and data enrichment solutions are driven by AI and are providing significant benefits for our customers. In writing this article, I’ve talked to our business leaders and data scientists, to see where AI is going in 2019, and what effects it will have on industry.
And so, without further ado, here are our…
Five AI Trends to Watch in 2019
1. Improving Data Quality
When it comes to AI, it all starts with the data. Data is the building block of AI, the food on which it relies to grow stronger and smarter. 2019 will be the year when more and more companies worldwide realise that, if they want to start using AI, first they will have to improve the quality of their data. 60% of decision-makers at companies adopting AI cite data quality as challenging or very challenging - so a lot of businesses have already acknowledged they have a data problem.
Luckily, AI itself will provide the solution. AI platforms are already being used to refresh and enrich business data across a wide range of sectors. Expect this to become a much more widespread practice in 2019.
2. Predictive Customer Experiences
Personalised customer experiences already exist; the next stage will be predictive customer experiences. In 2019, AI will increasingly be used by businesses to analyse customer data and identify long-term trends. Through fast and accurate analysis of big data, AI will enable companies to determine patterns of customer behaviour, with a view to anticipating what they will do next.
This will enable businesses to create predictive experiences for their customers. Sales teams will use sales triggers to pitch to prospects at the times they’re most likely to buy. Marketing teams will use the insights gained from AI to optimise their marketing strategies and pinpoint the best times to launch their campaigns.
If deployed correctly, AI could have a big impact on customer retention, up-selling and cross-selling opportunities.
3. Intelligent Chatbots
It’s not just sales and marketing that will be transformed by AI in 2019. Customer service teams will also see the benefit. The most visible way, for workers and consumers, will be in the field of advanced, intelligent chatbots.
Chatbot technology already exists and is being utilised by industry. But it’s often crude and impersonal. Speech patterns are stilted and inhuman and they lack compelling or engaging personalities. It’s literally like talking to a robot!
All this is set to change in 2019. AI’s natural language processing capability will unlock the power of human speech, allowing chatbots to develop more advanced, human characteristics and interact with customers using natural, conversational language. The technology is likely to become so advanced that a customer won’t be able to tell the difference between talking to a human customer service rep or a machine!
Chatbots will also use data processing to create personalised customer experiences and add value to a customer, e.g., promoting a special offer based on a customer’s buying history or their location.
4. Decision Making
When AI first started to be used by business, it was primarily confined to automating menial, manual tasks (such as data entry, customer support, lead prospecting and the like). In 2019, it’s destined to go up a gear. Over the next 12 months, AI will become much more involved in high-level business decision making.
Through its ability to analyse big data, and integrate into existing software and platforms, AI will be able to evaluate results, predict future trends and suggest profitable courses of action. This new decision-making role for AI will help to improve and streamline all manner of business processes. Some practical applications will include:
HR departments screening and hiring candidates at a much faster pace than before, with greater accuracy.
Sales managers identifying accounts that have the greatest chance of success, meaning that they can refocus energy and resources to those parts of their business.
AI scanning prior instances of customer engagement and using those insights to suggest product design amendments.
5. Transparent AI
All of the above AI advances are impossible without one crucial thing: public trust. Already, there exist many fears and misconceptions about the use of AI. Its potential negative impact on the jobs market, its central role in matters of data privacy, and the sheer pace of the industrial change it’s generating - all are common fears whenever the issue of AI is raised.
Data privacy regulation was a huge topic in 2018, what with the Cambridge Analytica scandal that engulfed the political and online worlds early on in the year, and the introduction of GDPR across Europe in the spring. In contrast, 2019 will be dominated by the issue of AI regulation.
Governments and businesses all over the world will start to consider AI regulation on policy and practical levels. Companies that already use AI will adopt or move towards transparency. Workers can expect to see their management teams share “AI codes of conduct”, which will outline how a company intends to use the technology. More time and resources will be funnelled into employee and customer education about the advantages and pitfalls of AI.
As AI use grows, so too does the need to control it for the better. The concept of transparent AI is designed to prepare companies for this new age of AI regulation.
So many predictions have been made about AI - and not all of them have yet come to pass. But the one thing we can say with certainty is that AI is here to stay.
Our five AI trends to watch in 2019 are very likely to become reality - but others we haven’t anticipated are bound to arise. Be sure to check back on the Cognism website, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, for more insights into AI as 2019 progresses.