The Most Important Use Case That Bots Are Missing

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Michael Trapani, Product Market Manager at IBM

In what has become an expectation in the age of Internet technology, Silicon Valley has found its next big thing – bots. I spent a week in the Bay Area attending a conference centered on this emerging market and the many businesses seeking to stake their claim in it.

Bots are semi-intelligent applications that typically live inside messaging platforms and use a conversational interface to accomplish tasks. In the world of apps, if I wanted to find a status on a pair of headphones I ordered through a typical mobile app, I might open the retailer’s app, navigate to My Account, tap on Order Status, select the order in question, and see if my item has shipped. This interaction through a bot, however, would begin with me opening up a chat service and asking the retailer’s bot: “Have my headphones shipped yet?” And the bot would reply with an order status. At least, that’s the goal.

Bots are semi-intelligent applications that typically live inside messaging platforms and use a conversational interface to accomplish tasks. In the world of apps, if I wanted to find a status on a pair of headphones I ordered through a typical mobile app, I might open the retailer’s app, navigate to My Account, tap on Order Status, select the order in question, and see if my item has shipped. This interaction through a bot, however, would begin with me opening up a chat service and asking the retailer’s bot: “Have my headphones shipped yet?” And the bot would reply with an order status. At least, that’s the goal.

Bots have had everyone in the industry talking about their potential – from simpler tasks like food delivery, to advanced use cases like running an entire country’s public transit system. Bots and the machine-learning engines running behind them have the potential to solve a great deal of consumers’ problems.

But what about marketers’ problems?

The market potential for B2B AI is largely overlooked, and it’s no surprise. The applications that are most relatable to the largest audience — consumers — will get the most media buzz and momentum.

Earlier this year, IBM shared its vision of the future of marketing – a conversation between a marketer and Watson that helped her understand her audience and create more effective customer engagement. Rather than sifting through databases, running lengthy reports, and manually translating them into actionable insights, she simply conversed with Watson to get the information and suggestions she needed.

Scaling an emerging technology into a full-blown industry is always a challenge. Yet it’s in this pivotal stage of AI that companies should be looking for business problems to solve. The quickest way to show value in bots is to create one that solves a business need and sell the daylights out of it. Unlike many consumers, businesses are willing to pay top dollar for even marginally increased efficiency.

Is a “marketing database query” bot as buzzworthy as a pizza-ordering bot? Certainly not. But if you want to show investors that AI startups have value, a great way to do that is by getting acquired by a software company looking to add capabilities to its B2B platforms.

Now about that pizza …

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