Over the last couple of years, the chatbot market has been expanding rapidly - to the point in which 40% of large businesses are estimated to implement their usage by the end of next year.

So what does this mean for chatbot trends in 2019?

If you’ve dealt with customer services online recently, there’s a high-percent chance you might've been talking to a chatbot. Chatbots are everywhere, and they’ve also come a long way since the days of SmarterChild, ALICE, and even iGod. The technology from all of which was far beyond its time and smart enough to respond intelligently, which makes you wonder about the capabilities of chatbots in the future.

What can they do? Where are they taking us? Can they order me a pizza?

In fact, when you think about it, SmarterChild was the precursor to a lot of the bot technology around these days. It was using natural language programming (NLP) before natural language programming was even a thing. Granted, not as well, but who of us that used AOL hasn’t grown since 2003?

The point is, it was a start.

And without that start, we’d have a long way to go from Sat Nav and Alexa to the point in which Apple themselves are using chatbots.

Furthermore, on a recent trip to London, I was also greeted by a self-checkout machine that spoke like Elvis. While disconcerting, I would also be lying if I didn’t say the technology of it gave me a real buzz. It’s impossible to escape the idea that we’re heading closer to a world that’s operated, in part, by AI.

Although unlike how a lot of movies have warned us of, utilizing technology such as chatbots is actually an excellent way for us to get back to basics.

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Chatbot 411: The Downlow

A chatbot's primary function is to provide instant information at the drop of a hat. On the whole, they're programmed to deal with predictable inquiries and tasks as well as frequently asked questions. Through continued interaction, algorithms are built in order for them to learn from past results, which in turn makes the entire customer service process faster.

It's also much more of a pull to consumers these days. When compared to being caught inside of an endless web made up of customer service hot desks and queues on premium numbers, chatting to someone via a bot or website feels much more organic. It's also more affordable for both the customers and the companies that are using these technologies. Workers are allotted more time to do the human part of their jobs while the chatbots do the rest of it.

With virtual working environments such as Slack also on the up-and-up, more and more chatbots are being created to function as virtual personal assistants. For instance, in Slack, there are bots that can do almost anything. These bots can monitor your team's conversations and then provide relevant facts, statistics, and advice, and also handle the nitty-gritty of manually adding things to your to-do list or calendar.

Taking that into account, it’s no real shocker that the global chatbot market has a 24% annual growth rate. Or that it's expected to reach a worth of $1.25 billion by 2025.

Chatbots Are a Very Real Future

Gartner has predicted that, by 2020, more of us will be speaking to chatbots than we will be our own families. As intense as that is to take on board, the same was said around the invention of the television, the internet, and even smartphones.

Now, that’s not to say there isn’t an element of truth to it - but chatbots aren’t going to take human interaction away for good. While there will be a marked increase in companies using them for customer service purposes, actual human interaction will still be down to us.

Over the next 5 years, approximately 80% of communications businesses have with their customers will be done using chatbots, with an estimated 40% by the end of 2019. This is mostly due to an increasing number of people using messenger apps more than they are social media. While most statistics report that Facebook is still the most commonly used form of social media, if you scrape down to its wires, that's very much a generational thing.

While baby boomers are still using Facebook for the majority of their interactions, younger users are turning to its messenger. A mere 50% of those aged between 65-75 use Facebook Messenger as opposed to a whopping 85% and 89% respectively for millennials and Generation Xers. Thinking about it logistically, those same age groups are also the ones who would have used some of the original chatbots (SmarterChild, Cleverbot) back in the day.

That section of the market is, therefore, potentially a massive business opportunity for firms willing to jump headfirst into the chatbot market. Therefore, that's exactly what they are doing. As you’d say in Messenger, FTW.

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After the rise in chatbot usage over the last 24 months, it's only natural to assume that 2019 is going to be an even greater year for them. These trends also most definitely back that up.

Natural language programming

In countless science fiction books and movies over the years, even the most human-like of robots are missing one key thing: A soul. Of course, there are also those robots that have names, human faces, and can deliver a better conversation than some people. However, it’s not exactly the same. Furthermore, when it comes to the Internet - and given that chatbots operate online - even humans don’t always sound as if they have anything to say.

This is where natural language programming comes in. Due to become one of the biggest chatbot trends for 2019, NLP is about to make for more intelligent and humanistic technology. It’s actually kind of scary if you think about it, that developers can program AI to operate like humans just by being around us. Although on the flipside, it’s also pretty cool.

As it happens, a lot of digital trends are going to be shooting for more natural and personal means of marketing. SEO and affiliate marketing techniques, for example, are about to target the individual. In Google's latest announcement, they stressed the critical importance of NLP for the future. And while SEO is anything if not predictable, there are plenty of SEO experts stating that compassion is the way forward.

And, in less technical terms, who wants to speak to a wall? It's an idiom for a reason.

Sentiment analysis

While NLP development is far from being complete, its programmers are working on it all of the time. In a couple of years, what we get from chatbots now will seem primitive in comparison with the sentiment that's predicted to come.

Human communication is like no other. We've all seen animals on the Discovery Channel communicating in their own ways. But even the most intelligent of them cannot communicate the way we can. This goes for the receptive end of the conversation as well as the projective.

Stop and ask yourself how many times you've been able to detect someone's "tone" in a text? Punctuation, word choice, and reply time are all dependent on how the person on the other end of your conversation is feeling.

This is what's called "sentiment analysis". Which is kind of like a psychological study of human nature, but one that can be learned by bots. For bots to be able to pick up on the nuances of the humans they're communicating with, they need to understand these things. As an example, if I say, "I'm fine." it sounds far different to, "I'm fine".

Sentiment - and in 2019, chatbots are going to expand theirs considerably.

Customer service

53% of consumers state that they'd rather use an online chat function before calling a customer service phone line.

Quite possibly the thing that chatbots are already used the most for,  they can be incredibly helpful for customer service. One of the downsides to humans manning customer service lines is that there are generally office hours. Chatbots, on the other hand, can operate 24/7. To put it lightly, they have no Christmases or birthdays. They exist completely on their own.

Additionally, IBM states that close to 80% of customer queries could be answered by a chatbot. Answering these fast, at any hour of the day and any day of the year, while also providing consistent reliability, are all tools that a chatbot has in its arsenal.

Machine Learning

Part of what ties algorithms and natural language programming together, technology is getting smarter by the day. Chatbots have no limit to the amount of data that they can hold or know. There are no margins of error because there are none needed.

Machine learning is based on the idea that machines should be able to learn through experience. It's like data mining and data collection both, but in a really interesting format that once again backs up the idea that to know an individual is the best way to win them over. All the big services such as Amazon and Netflix use browsing data to collect your interests.

What it does is create a valuable ecosystem between the companies and their customers. One based on search results, clicks, and questions. One that says, "I'll show you this thing you might like so you don't have to waste time searching for it. OMG! It's like we're best friends."

Machine learning is also the answer to the questions left over by services like Siri and Alexa. With it, chatbots can curate a more functional and unique experience for everyone.

Multi-linguistics

Back in August, Forbes reported that multilingual chatbots are about to change the business world. The newly advanced generation of chatbots are going to change the world, and with features like this one, they'll also be able to speak to the world. Smaller businesses will now be able to go global, being able to operate their applications through and beyond language barriers.

The big guns are all shooting for global success, but why should it just be them?

Only ten years ago, the majority of chatbots could only speak one language. Now, the possibility of a chatbot being able to speak hundreds of languages is a very real thing. Bot fluency is advancing at lightning speed, and it would do Airbnb and other such platforms like it a world of good.

Also, AI that can speak more than one language is better at learning word context. If that doesn't hark back to NLP, you can take me 'round the back like Old Yeller.

Stricter data regulations

Being that bots need to amass data in order to expand their knowledge base, there has to be a level of data collection to chatbots. However, in 2019, there are regulations coming in the world-over to turn a hammer to uncontrolled data processing and collection.

Regulations such as the European General Data Protection Regulation provide a clarity and transparency that many websites seemingly neglected to remember this year. Therefore, with stricter rules, comes a more trusting safety.

That said, the trick that businesses will need to master is a way to get the data while also complying to these rules.

Summary

As well as these trends, there will no doubt be numerous surprises. Perhaps the biggest of all, from last year, is the fact that chatbots have surpassed their initial hype. Instead, they're proving to be a vital part of the evolving Internet experience.

More and more users are realizing the benefits of chatbots on either side of the interface. From IT professionals to smaller businesses and the self-employed, the implementation of chatbots into the workforce can only make way for an exciting time in the world of technology.

Pretty soon, Alexa and Siri will join the ranks, already able to control heating and lighting as well as numerous appliances. For everything else, there'll be a chatbot.

At the end of the day, people just want to live the simplest way they know how.

I don’t know about you guys, but I'm so excited to see where 2019's chatbots take us.

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