Image credit @nickrbolton
1. The advancement of predictive analytics
According to the AI Research and Advisory Company, predictive analytics is “the use of data, statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data”. The main objective of this tool is to provide the best possible assessment of future user activity.
Of course, the growth of this technology goes hand-in-hand with helping the advertising industry make better predictions about the minds of consumers and potential buyers. Digital advertising has, without a doubt, adopted and utilised artificial intelligence more than most other popular applications. In recent years, platforms such as Facebook, Google and Instagram have all deployed AI tools to monitor users’ online activity, allowing them to make predictions about their buying habits and target them with personalised ads.
Pre-COVID reports alleged that the global predictive analytics market would be set to reach US $10.95 billion by 2022. However, given the unprecedented spike in Internet usage in 2020, this number is now expected to increase even further than previously predicted.
Based on the last four global economic downturns, 14% of companies were reportedly able to respond by increasing both sales growth and profit margins. This evidence suggests that companies that are ahead of AI trends will be most likely to thrive in a post-COVID future.
2. Increased workflow automation
COVID-19 has pushed companies to further streamline their operations and look for ways to generate the highest levels of profit during the current economic downturn. AI has proven to be a driving force in improving workflow management, helping businesses to reduce time spent on manual work and increase their overall efficiency. Following the aftershocks of the pandemic, AI’s ability to add new features to already-used processes and improve workflow is bound to expand within the next year.
Today, there are a myriad of tools available that help companies automate menial tasks and therefore increase the productivity of sales and marketing teams. At a rapid rate, artificial intelligence has been learning how to do repetitive tasks that once required human input, while at the same time performing big-data computations that were once dismissed as impossible to achieve.
3. The advancement of conversational AI
Conversational AI (better known as “chatbots”) has become a popular type of AI application that can be found on just about any type of service page today (e-commerce sites, Facebook pages, airlines… you name it). However, you may have noticed that the “conversations” had with these bots are typically not very engaging or human-like.
Following the aftershocks of the pandemic, many companies across various sectors have seen a surge in on-demand messaging from customers. Unprecedented changes have given businesses an increased need to communicate about any operational or logistical changes with their customers — such as mandated closures, reduced hours of operation, news about regulatory requirements or other COVID-based concerns.
Experts predict that following COVID-19, major investments will be made by various companies worldwide to improve their overall customer experience. In 2021, an estimated 47% of organisations are expected to deploy chatbots to provide customer support, with 40% of companies also predicted to adopt virtual assistants.
Programmed to respond to human inquiries as organically as possible, many sophisticated chatbots rely on machine learning to continually advance and become better at mimicking human-generated text. Within the next year, we will likely also see a major advancement in conversational AI bots — with a focus on increasing their ability to carry out more personalised, organic conversations and making them better at predicting customer sentiments.
5. More customer-focused app strategies
According to Google, the average weekly time spent on mobile applications grew by 20% in apps year over year. This suggests that intelligent apps have made a world of difference in how people have coped with the changes and challenges that have been brought on by the pandemic.
In response to this shift in consumer behaviour, Google reports that companies are looking to tailor their app strategies and business models to be more customer-centric within the next year. Some examples of how brands are looking to provide more intuitive apps that will meet market demands include:
- AI-enhanced tracking apps that follow people’s movement during COVID-19 lockdowns
- Andie, an app that uses AI to predict wait times, queues and checkout times to ensure safer retail experiences for customers
Google has also reportedly donated upwards of US $8.5 million to 31 organizations around the world to employ AI and data analytics to aid in COVID-19 response initiatives. In partnership with Google, some of the world’s top participating universities have outlined their plans to fight COVID-19 by developing interactive, public-facing trackers, building digital tools, creating more enhanced digital contact tracing methods and much more.
6. More robots on the ground
In the last few years, we have seen extraordinary progress when it comes to the growth of robot technology across a wide range of worldwide sectors — including healthcare, manufacturing and core technologies. As we have seen changes in our behaviour and spending habits following COVID-19, higher levels of automation in the healthcare and manufacturing sectors seems like an inevitable response to a shift in marketing trends.
As social distancing has become the current norm and companies have sought out the best “contactless” remedies available, industries have already recognized the benefits of employing robots within various different industries. For example, robots have started working alongside healthcare workers to fight the virus, all with zero liability for risk attached to their circuitry. This has led to an increased use in healthcare robotics, where robots and AI have begun taking care of telehealth, lab automation and more.
Advanced robots that have object-recognition capabilities have also been behind a massive growth in the e-commerce sector, as they have provided extra manpower to accommodate the tremendous growth of online sales following the outbreak of COVID-19.
As such, it is certain that we will see the production of more AI-poweredrobots in 2021 and the coming years. A recent study conducted by Accenture suggests that “across 21 industries surveyed, 61% of executives now expect [that] their organizations will use robotics in uncontrolled environments within the next two years”.
When the pandemic finally subsides and economies begin to fully reopen, there is no doubt we will be entering a changed business landscape. In fact, it is predicted that by 2030, AI products will contribute more than US $15.7 trillion to the global economy. As we ready ourselves for a post-COVID-19 world, the capabilities of AI will be highly instrumental in helping us transition into the “next normal”.