Venture Radar: Chatbots are programs that mimic conversation with people using artificial intelligence.
CB Insights: Advances in artificial intelligence algorithms have put chatbots and voice assistants in the spotlight, with investor interest in the space increasing in recent months.
At Inbound 2016, HubSpot’s co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah entertained 19,000 attendees with their take on the past and future of marketing. Here’s what I learned from their keynote presentation and a brief interview.
2017 will be the year of the bot. So predicts Halligan, adding “in five years, you will do a lot less navigating through apps and more just asking questions and chatting back and forth with bots… the next thing you know, we like it and it’s easier and more efficient than waiting for the sales rep to call you back.” Shah notes that businesses started building websites in the 1990s so they can answer customer questions 24/7. “Soon,” he says, “they will start building bots. They won’t replace the websites, but they will power them. The shortest time between a customer question and the answer will be a bot. It’s not human vs. bot, it’s human to the bot powered.” (HubSpot’s recent contribution to the bot power movement: Growthbot).
The “marketing conversation” will become a human-machine conversation. That the essence of marketing is a “conversation” between a business (or any “brand”) and its customers and potential customers has been a marketing tenet (and cliché) for a long time. While that conversation has been conducted over the last twenty years increasingly through a computer screen with the help of a keyboard, it is now transforming into human-machine conversation. “The conversational UI,” says Shah, “is going to be an even bigger leap in software than we had with the shift to Web-based software. We are all re-thinking now how to build products.” It’s the most natural way to engage, interact, market and sell: “We will have voice input because it’s much more efficient [than typing] and visual output because it’s more efficient than listening—we can see and read and scan much faster that we can listen. I don’t think screens are going away but the keyboard is likely going to be less and less prevalent.”