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By Susan Etlinger, Analyst
Altimeter, a Prophet Company
June 27, 2017
THE
CONVERSATIONAL
BUSINESS
HOW CHATBOTS WILL
RESHAPE DIGITAL
EXPERIENCES
| www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 1
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
IDC forecasts that in 2017 spending on cognitive and artificial intelligence (AI) systems will
reach $12.5 billion.1
Some of these systems will be delivered in the form of “conversational
interfaces”; what we think of more generally as chatbots or virtual assistants. In fact, Gartner
predicts that by 2019, virtual personal assistants “will have changed the way users interact
with devices and become universally accepted as part of everyday life.”2
For this report, Altimeter interviewed 24 enterprise companies, technology innovators, and
other experts to gauge the potential risks and opportunities of conversational interfaces.
We interviewed industry leaders to identify use cases, design principles, and strategic
implications for customer experience, business models, brand strategy, and innovation.
Our goal, and a focus of this report, is to help business leaders better understand the
implications of conversational interfaces so they can make informed decisions about how to
leverage this technology. More important, however, is for businesses to look ahead at the
real opportunity: to develop from transactional to conversational relationships, express their
brand voice, and become a trusted, indispensable ally to customers.
Executive Summary	 1
A Brief History of Bots	 2
Conversational Interfaces Will Reshape Digital Experiences	 4
Business and Organizational Applications for Enterprise	 6
Six Rules for Building a Better Bot	 11
Risks and Opportunities	 16
The Future is Conversational	 22
End Notes	 24
Glossary of Terms	 26
Methodology	27
Acknowledgements	28
About Us	 29
TABLE OF CONTENTS
| www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 2
A BRIEF HISTORY OF BOTS
Just over a year ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage at F8, the
company’s developer conference, and announced the availability of Messenger Platform,
which would enable organizations to build “chatbots” that can interact with people to
request information, order products, or handle customer service issues. “Now,” he said, “in
order to order flowers from 1-800-FLOWERS, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.”
Zuckerberg’s claim tapped into real consumer frustrations:
•	 Call centers are aggravating for customers and expensive for organizations;
•	 While social customer care on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook is less costly to
manage than in call centers, it still requires headcount;
•	 Online communities are useful for some needs and users, less so for others3
; and
•	 Interactive Voice-Response (IVR) systems are so unpopular that entire research studies
have been written on the subject.4
Bots, Zuckerberg said, are a more immediate and personal way for organizations and
individuals to communicate with each other. They would take the friction out of digital
interactions. They would let organizations provide consistent levels of service at scale.
“Bot, find me the best price on that
CD, get flowers for my mom, keep
me posted on the latest
developments in Mozambique.”
— Andrew Leonard, WIRED, April 1996
| www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 3
Most importantly, wouldn’t life be better if we could communicate the way we want to rather
than the way companies want us to?
This wasn’t the first time technologists would claim to bring human intelligence and
conversation to digital interactions, however. Scientists have been experimenting with AI for
nearly 70 years and building bots for more than 50 (Figure 1).
FIGURE 1: FIFTY YEARS OF BOT HISTORY
Following the introduction of Facebook Messenger bots in 2016, the news cycle quickly
turned from “Bots are the next big thing!” to “Bots are terrible and overhyped!” In 2017,
messenger bots barely rated at F8, replaced by a focus on virtual and augmented reality.
Meanwhile, Google DeepMind, Microsoft Cortana, and IBM Watson have announced
innovations in speech recognition, text-to-speech translation, machine learning, computer
vision, and a host of other technologies that, taken together, claim to invest digital
interactions with more naturalistic and intelligent interaction capability. Slack continued
to add bots to its App Directory that can do anything from schedule meetings to solicit
performance feedback to set up coffee dates with new coworkers. Amazon inked
partnerships with chipmakers; device manufacturers; and the likes of Ford, Harman Kardon,
and Starbucks to push Alexa into more and more devices and experiences.5
1950 – Alan Turing publishes
his seminal paper, "Computing
machinery and intelligence,"
asking "Can machines think?"
1956 – “Artificial
intelligence” is coined
by John McCarthy at
Dartmouth College.
1966 – ELIZA, generally recog-
nized as the prototype of today’s
chatbot, is introduced by MIT
Professor Joseph Weizenbaum.
1995 – A.L.I.C.E, aka
Artificial Linguistic
Internet Computer
Entity, is implemented.
1996 – Andrew
Leonard declares
"bots are hot.”
2011 – Apple introduces
Siri. "Of course, none of
this is new,” writes John
Dvorak in PC Magazine.
2014 – Inspired by
Star Trek, Jeff Bezos intro-
duces Alexa, Amazon’s
“connected speaker.”
2016 –
Facebook
introduces
Messenger bots.
1987 –
Second
AI winter
begins
1974 – The first
AI winter; fund-
ing and interest
evaporate
| www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 4
CONVERSATIONAL INTERFACES WILL
RESHAPE DIGITAL EXPERIENCES
Are chatbots overhyped? Or are they the next big thing? And should enterprise
pay attention?
The answer, according to technology watchers, users, and experts is yes — to all. Chatbots
are still nascent. They are dependent on a host of interconnected and emerging technologies,
many of which rely on machine learning and require massive amounts of data. Their value
is just beginning to be tested. Experiments such as Microsoft’s Tay have been seen as both
public failures and teachable moments.6
But Gartner predicts that by 2019 20 percent of
user interactions with smartphones will take place using virtual personal assistants.7
The ability to deliver a more naturalistic relationship between human and machine
is transformative. Shifting the way we interact with technology from commands to
conversations will reshape digital experiences. It will enable organizations to reduce
operational costs and identify new revenue opportunities and business models. But this
won’t be quick or easy. Implementing bots requires the right technology, the right data, the
right use case, the right design, and the right cultural mindset.
“The secret to really good
voice interfaces is that
people already know
how to talk. It's not
a user interface;
it's talking.”
— Jesse Robbins,
CEO, Orion Labs
| www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 5
The question becomes not whether but when and how to invest in this technology, what
value it can provide, how and where to use it, and how to prepare for the inevitable risks
and opportunities it brings.
FOCUS OF THIS REPORT
This report focuses on services that are powered by AI and delivered via conversational
interfaces, meaning they communicate with the user via speech or text and can learn from
these interactions over time. Additionally, there is a wealth of innovation happening both
in the world of intelligent agents, such as Alexa, Siri, and Cortana, as well as in discrete
enterprise bots, such as those available independently or through platforms such as Slack.
This report, however, will focus primarily on the strategic opportunities for conversational
interfaces in enterprise organizations in finance, transportation, retail, media, healthcare,
and other industries.
| www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 6
BUSINESS AND ORGANIZATIONAL
APPLICATIONS FOR ENTERPRISE
The idea that conversational interfaces could offer the potential to reshape digital
experiences from a form-based to a conversation-based model is liberating. Consumers
have been conditioned to interact with businesses in ways that are often unnatural and
inconvenient: typing in boxes within rigid interfaces that may or may not accomplish their
objective. What experience wouldn’t be better if it were more natural and more attuned
to the way people really communicate—by writing, talking—even gesturing?
Enterprise organizations are piloting chatbots in some very focused ways, but with an
eye toward broadening their utility and access over time (Figure 2).
“Even if it had been a
failure, it still would
have been a success.”
— David Boyle, BBC
http://bit.ly/altimeter-chatbots
This preview version of
“The Conversational Business”
contains only the first seven
pages of the report.
To download the entire
report, free of charge, please
visit the link below:

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The Conversational Business [REPORT PREVIEW]

  • 1. By Susan Etlinger, Analyst Altimeter, a Prophet Company June 27, 2017 THE CONVERSATIONAL BUSINESS HOW CHATBOTS WILL RESHAPE DIGITAL EXPERIENCES
  • 2. | www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY IDC forecasts that in 2017 spending on cognitive and artificial intelligence (AI) systems will reach $12.5 billion.1 Some of these systems will be delivered in the form of “conversational interfaces”; what we think of more generally as chatbots or virtual assistants. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2019, virtual personal assistants “will have changed the way users interact with devices and become universally accepted as part of everyday life.”2 For this report, Altimeter interviewed 24 enterprise companies, technology innovators, and other experts to gauge the potential risks and opportunities of conversational interfaces. We interviewed industry leaders to identify use cases, design principles, and strategic implications for customer experience, business models, brand strategy, and innovation. Our goal, and a focus of this report, is to help business leaders better understand the implications of conversational interfaces so they can make informed decisions about how to leverage this technology. More important, however, is for businesses to look ahead at the real opportunity: to develop from transactional to conversational relationships, express their brand voice, and become a trusted, indispensable ally to customers. Executive Summary 1 A Brief History of Bots 2 Conversational Interfaces Will Reshape Digital Experiences 4 Business and Organizational Applications for Enterprise 6 Six Rules for Building a Better Bot 11 Risks and Opportunities 16 The Future is Conversational 22 End Notes 24 Glossary of Terms 26 Methodology 27 Acknowledgements 28 About Us 29 TABLE OF CONTENTS
  • 3. | www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 2 A BRIEF HISTORY OF BOTS Just over a year ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage at F8, the company’s developer conference, and announced the availability of Messenger Platform, which would enable organizations to build “chatbots” that can interact with people to request information, order products, or handle customer service issues. “Now,” he said, “in order to order flowers from 1-800-FLOWERS, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.” Zuckerberg’s claim tapped into real consumer frustrations: • Call centers are aggravating for customers and expensive for organizations; • While social customer care on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook is less costly to manage than in call centers, it still requires headcount; • Online communities are useful for some needs and users, less so for others3 ; and • Interactive Voice-Response (IVR) systems are so unpopular that entire research studies have been written on the subject.4 Bots, Zuckerberg said, are a more immediate and personal way for organizations and individuals to communicate with each other. They would take the friction out of digital interactions. They would let organizations provide consistent levels of service at scale. “Bot, find me the best price on that CD, get flowers for my mom, keep me posted on the latest developments in Mozambique.” — Andrew Leonard, WIRED, April 1996
  • 4. | www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 3 Most importantly, wouldn’t life be better if we could communicate the way we want to rather than the way companies want us to? This wasn’t the first time technologists would claim to bring human intelligence and conversation to digital interactions, however. Scientists have been experimenting with AI for nearly 70 years and building bots for more than 50 (Figure 1). FIGURE 1: FIFTY YEARS OF BOT HISTORY Following the introduction of Facebook Messenger bots in 2016, the news cycle quickly turned from “Bots are the next big thing!” to “Bots are terrible and overhyped!” In 2017, messenger bots barely rated at F8, replaced by a focus on virtual and augmented reality. Meanwhile, Google DeepMind, Microsoft Cortana, and IBM Watson have announced innovations in speech recognition, text-to-speech translation, machine learning, computer vision, and a host of other technologies that, taken together, claim to invest digital interactions with more naturalistic and intelligent interaction capability. Slack continued to add bots to its App Directory that can do anything from schedule meetings to solicit performance feedback to set up coffee dates with new coworkers. Amazon inked partnerships with chipmakers; device manufacturers; and the likes of Ford, Harman Kardon, and Starbucks to push Alexa into more and more devices and experiences.5 1950 – Alan Turing publishes his seminal paper, "Computing machinery and intelligence," asking "Can machines think?" 1956 – “Artificial intelligence” is coined by John McCarthy at Dartmouth College. 1966 – ELIZA, generally recog- nized as the prototype of today’s chatbot, is introduced by MIT Professor Joseph Weizenbaum. 1995 – A.L.I.C.E, aka Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity, is implemented. 1996 – Andrew Leonard declares "bots are hot.” 2011 – Apple introduces Siri. "Of course, none of this is new,” writes John Dvorak in PC Magazine. 2014 – Inspired by Star Trek, Jeff Bezos intro- duces Alexa, Amazon’s “connected speaker.” 2016 – Facebook introduces Messenger bots. 1987 – Second AI winter begins 1974 – The first AI winter; fund- ing and interest evaporate
  • 5. | www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 4 CONVERSATIONAL INTERFACES WILL RESHAPE DIGITAL EXPERIENCES Are chatbots overhyped? Or are they the next big thing? And should enterprise pay attention? The answer, according to technology watchers, users, and experts is yes — to all. Chatbots are still nascent. They are dependent on a host of interconnected and emerging technologies, many of which rely on machine learning and require massive amounts of data. Their value is just beginning to be tested. Experiments such as Microsoft’s Tay have been seen as both public failures and teachable moments.6 But Gartner predicts that by 2019 20 percent of user interactions with smartphones will take place using virtual personal assistants.7 The ability to deliver a more naturalistic relationship between human and machine is transformative. Shifting the way we interact with technology from commands to conversations will reshape digital experiences. It will enable organizations to reduce operational costs and identify new revenue opportunities and business models. But this won’t be quick or easy. Implementing bots requires the right technology, the right data, the right use case, the right design, and the right cultural mindset. “The secret to really good voice interfaces is that people already know how to talk. It's not a user interface; it's talking.” — Jesse Robbins, CEO, Orion Labs
  • 6. | www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 5 The question becomes not whether but when and how to invest in this technology, what value it can provide, how and where to use it, and how to prepare for the inevitable risks and opportunities it brings. FOCUS OF THIS REPORT This report focuses on services that are powered by AI and delivered via conversational interfaces, meaning they communicate with the user via speech or text and can learn from these interactions over time. Additionally, there is a wealth of innovation happening both in the world of intelligent agents, such as Alexa, Siri, and Cortana, as well as in discrete enterprise bots, such as those available independently or through platforms such as Slack. This report, however, will focus primarily on the strategic opportunities for conversational interfaces in enterprise organizations in finance, transportation, retail, media, healthcare, and other industries.
  • 7. | www.altimetergroup.com | @setlinger | susan@altimetergroup.com | 6 BUSINESS AND ORGANIZATIONAL APPLICATIONS FOR ENTERPRISE The idea that conversational interfaces could offer the potential to reshape digital experiences from a form-based to a conversation-based model is liberating. Consumers have been conditioned to interact with businesses in ways that are often unnatural and inconvenient: typing in boxes within rigid interfaces that may or may not accomplish their objective. What experience wouldn’t be better if it were more natural and more attuned to the way people really communicate—by writing, talking—even gesturing? Enterprise organizations are piloting chatbots in some very focused ways, but with an eye toward broadening their utility and access over time (Figure 2). “Even if it had been a failure, it still would have been a success.” — David Boyle, BBC
  • 8. http://bit.ly/altimeter-chatbots This preview version of “The Conversational Business” contains only the first seven pages of the report. To download the entire report, free of charge, please visit the link below: