Working in digital marketing keeps you fairly up to date on many of the top trending topics in the worlds of media and technology. Sometimes, a new topic or buzzword will bubble up and take hold for a while before eventually fizzing out without much of a real-world impact. (Google Glass, anyone?) Other times, a trend will have real staying power. These are the instances that create wholly new industries and transform existing ones.
One trend that figures to have this kind of impact is artificial intelligence (AI). At its core, AI can be defined as the ability of machines to learn in a way that mimics human intelligence. AI has been a major part of the cultural zeitgeist for some time now, appearing repeatedly in serious research and science fiction alike.
Now, that theoretical relevance is almost ready to translate into real world applications. Consumer data firm Forrester recently posited that by 2025, A.I. technology will replace 7% of U.S. jobs. As you can see, these are dramatically powerful technologies. Let’s take a look at a few industries that will be most notably affected.
The customer service industry has been working on some tried-and-true maxims for at least a century. We’ve all heard them.
The customer is always right.
Service is not what you do, but who you are.
These ideas, despite becoming somewhat clichéd over the years, still hold merit. Treating your customers with genuine respect and working hard to resolve their issues will never go out of style. The technologies that facilitate those transactions, however, are in constant flux. As it stands today, the typical phone call to a customer service department still represents a pretty frustrating experience.
In many cases, businesses aren’t able to avoid those frustrating elements because of purely logistical concerns. They can only afford to employ so many service representatives, which in turn leads to wait times and infuriating, “Due to unexpectedly high call volume” messages. If a large percentage of those calls-in-waiting can be handled by an AI-powered chatbot, that would eliminate a great deal of wait time.
Now, it should be noted that the term “AI-powered customer service” won’t be warmly welcomed by many who’ve had bad experience with other automated service procedures. After so much time spent angered by the lack of an available human representative, it may seem counterintuitive for the solution to come in the form of an algorithm.
Nevertheless, that figures to be the case. However, the new age chatbots will make those antiquated phone button menus seem like the distant past. AI may still have a long way to go in terms of emotional intelligence, but its advances in the arena of common sense – perhaps the most important attribute for any human or bot working in customer service – have been dramatic.
This common sense quotient is what will separates the bots of tomorrow from those of yesterday: quickly determine whether a customer’s problem is simple enough for you to fix, and immediately either execute the solution or deliver them to a human representative who can. As soon as that simple order of operations can be established, at scale, we’ll start to see the customer service industry transformed at the (robotic) hands of artificial intelligence.
For many consumers, the most important aspect of the rise of ecommerce has been the convenience. No longer forced to brave long lines at department stores, we can simply sit at home and spend to our hearts’ consent on sites like Amazon and eBay. New developments like one-click shopping and same-day shipping have ramped up the ease and convenience for consumers even further.
For brands and marketers, though, the ecommerce revolution provided new avenues for customer relationship management, data accumulation, and virtual buying assistants. These help businesses learn more about their customer base and what actions they can take to make them come back and buy again.
Artificial intelligence plays a major role in ecommerce because all that data requires immense computing power to get real value out of.
Also, AI-powered assistants can help accelerate the buyer’s journey in exciting new ways. For example, if you are considering purchasing tickets for a flight to San Francisco on a certain date in July, you may have quite the process to go through before actually pulling the trigger. First, you should be constantly checking prices across different airlines.
Plus, minor differences in supply and demand, day of the week (both of purchase and departure), and seating preference can have impact the eventual ticket price. Imagine, now, if a virtual assistant could scan travel sites constantly while you are going about your day. Then, when fares dip below a pre-chosen price point for the days you’d like to travel on, your assistant can immediately send you a notification. Or, if you prefer, it can go ahead and make the purchase right away.
So, going back to the history of ecommerce and its concurrent impacts on brands and consumers, AI will be a catalyst for progress on both sides of the coin. On the one hand, it can help consumers go from the spark of an idea to a convenient purchase in unprecedentedly short time. On the other, it will help brands learn so much more about its audience and how they prefer to buy.
Self driving cars have been a part of the cultural lexicon for some time now.
While there are still definite hurdles for the budding industry to clear before it truly transforms our lives, the signs of change are already visible. The transportation industry is extremely wide-reaching, from public services like trains and buses to private taxi and rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. In all cases, AI-powered self-driving cars will revolutionize the way people get from place to place.
In fact, in recent months it has become clear that those private companies consider AI a vital part of their business models, and have for some time now. Google and Uber, for instance, are in the beginning stages of a court battle over patents and intellectual property.
One of the most important questions facing the next few generations will be energy usage and climate change. Self-driving transportation – for both private vehicles and public transport – could be a major factor in finding a solution. These technologies could help us become far more efficient as a society and streamline many of our daily routines into much more sustainable ones.
In fact, Morgan Stanley has forecasted that self-driving vehicles could save the U.S. $1.3 trillion yearly between 2035 and 2050. A brave new world, indeed.
Ultimately, artificial technology will enter our lives at whatever speed we are ready to receive it. It’s become increasingly clear that the algorithmic capabilities are already approaching, and many important industries (including the three listed above) figure to be dramatically transformed as a result. The hope, as always, is that the new developments will change our lives in smooth, seamless ways, as opposed to jarring ones. Either way, the writing (or, we should say, the algorithm) is on the wall.