2018 Opus Research Conversational Commerce Conference Highlights

“Don’t get mesmerized by the tech, get mesmerized by the business impact,” Dan Miller, founder of Opus Research, advised me over lunch prior to the start of this event. These words stuck with me and incidentally formed the core message at this year’s Conversational Commerce Conference (C3) in San Francisco. AI is a powerful tool, it’s real, but the focus should be on what it does to drive real business impact. The rest is noise.

Opus Event Team Award

Chatbots and AI Technology Are Advancing Rapidly

During the conference as we went through use cases and customer stories of the application of conversational AI technologies to power e-commerce, it became clear that chatbot technology has progressed past the curiosity stage to real applications in big, complex enterprise environments.

Not only are these advanced chatbots real, but for the leaders at the conference, these virtual agents have fundamentally changed their business model.

Access the C3 agenda and presentations.

John Chambers Goes All In On Conversational AI

The C3 event kicked off with John Chambers (former executive chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems), who is now a venture capitalist investing in startups (particularly those focused on conversational AI technologies). John said the industry is at an inflection point and is now moving very fast towards widespread adoption. Conversational AI technology is enabling disruptive innovation that vastly improves the customer experience while improving operational efficiencies. And Mr. Chambers is backing up his rhetoric by investing in several small companies in the AI space.

Chatbot Use Case: Design and Brand Engagement

Several speakers and panelists discussed the importance of proper design for conversational UIs and chatbots. One speaker discussed “relationship design” as an important concept in building chatbot conversations in a bi-directional space. The speaker suggested rich conversations are not happening in contact centers because those conversations are very transactional, whereas humans often talk without meaning.

Looking ahead 10 years from now we were challenged to think about how a brand delivers real value to the customer. We’re living in a digital era, and we are all ingrained with interaction expectations in our daily personal lives that then transfer into our relationships with brands. So how can a brand design a two-way conversational relationship that provides a valued experience?  

Chatbot Branded Experience

The speakers said the future of human-brand relationship will take the form of a more open sourced and co-creation experience. Instead of the contact center’s focus on optimizing cost, we need to shift the focus to relationship building, trust building and acting on what is best for the customer. Relationships, trust, and acting in the customer’s best interest versus optimizing the cost.

Conversational Model Redefines Self-Service

The Opus Research team suggested that a new conversational model is redefining self-service in the contact center. Self-service is transforming into a new experience more engaging than ever before. This means that while conversational AI technology can improve existing workflows and self-service processes, it can also transform automation into an experience that couldn’t have been imagined 10 years ago.

Dan Miller highlighted Dell as one company that has indeed changed their e-commerce business model based on the capabilities and results achieved with their virtual agent.

Dell’s Virtual Chat Agent, Ava

We were fortunate to have our customer, Monica Chartier, Program Manager of Chat & Mobile from Dell, on a panel that discussed e-commerce chatbot use cases and virtual agents. Dell partnered with Verint and launched Ava, their Virtual Chat Agent, in July of 2017. Ava was specifically designed to recommend personal computers, electronics and accessories based on a shopper’s specific needs. Dell designed Ava on the chat agent model and their sales methods to ensure she provides human-like conversational assistance.

Meet Dell’s Virtual Chat Assistant, Ava.

Dell’s Ava has sold more than $40 million in products online over the past 12 months. Based on this capability Dell has restructured their e-commerce business model to achieve a profitability level not possible prior to Ava.

Alight’s IVA Takes Home an Award

Alight Solution’s Director of Product Development and Innovation, Ibrahim Khoury, also presented at C3 on how they are leveraging Verint’s conversational AI technology to help employees enroll and manage HR benefits. Alight has a very compelling story about how their Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) scales across their health and wellness clients, which are typically large enterprises. Lisa, the IVA, has proven to drive real business value for Alight – boosting CX at scale and helping to improve efficiencies. During the busiest time of the year for Alight and its clients, open enrollment of 2017, Lisa handled over 760,000 interactions, marking up to a 67 percent reduction of live chat engagements in the call center over the previous year.

Alight’s use of conversational AI technology and their success story was so impressive that they won the innovation award at the conference. Congrats to Ibrahim and his team!

Learn more about Lisa, Alight’s IVA.

Lisa results over the past 12 months

Conversational Commerce: It’s Real

After a day and a half of great interactions with leading enterprise companies, vendors and analysts who are tackling the e-commerce challenge head-on, I can say this “conversational commerce is real”.

Yes, there are a lot of simple chatbots that assist users in simple ways that are no more than toys.

But attendees to this conference saw the future unfolding before their eyes. A future in which conversational AI technology and virtual agents are not just incrementally improving customer experience and cost efficiencies, but are allowing leading enterprise organizations to change their business model.

This emerging conversational AI business model is already driving strategic differentiation and profitability levels. Dell and Alight are proof points that conversational AI drives real business impact.

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