Compass 2022: the future of AI and automation

You might think artificial intelligence is only accessible for those with big budgets, but every company stands to benefit. We'll devote more time to uncovering the latest trends and discovering how AI is likely to impact small businesses.
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AI and automation is one of 10 themes Courier wants to focus on in 2022 – our compass for content, if you will. Some stories and topics get us going a bit more than others, and while they might not include the fastest growing industries or the most talked-about trends, they're the ones we think deserve more attention over the coming 12 months. Click here to see all 10 themes.

So, you run a small, independent corner store, with three employees, that sells magazines and snacks in downtown Kuala Lumpur. You probably don't need to keep up to date with the latest trends and innovations in artificial intelligence, right? Wrong. 

Everything, and we mean everything, will be impacted by AI and automation in the years to come – if it hasn't already. From delivery costs and stock management to marketing and customer service, it's all open to disruption. And, even if some parts of the supply chain don't seem to affect you directly – such as the price of transporting chocolate bars from the factory to a wholesaler – the knock-on impact could be huge. For example, the potential adoption of driverless vehicles and delivery drones could change how products arrive at your store and the price you'll be paying in the not-too-distant future.

Striking up a conversation

Another area where AI can have a big impact on small businesses is customer service, specifically through something called conversational commerce – communicating and selling directly to customers through chatbots and voice assistants. While they've been around for the best part of a decade already, advances in machine-learning and voice recognition mean that barriers to entry have fallen drastically over recent years.

A report from analyst house Juniper Research puts spending via conversational commerce at $290 billion in 2025, from $41 billion in 2021. By that time, half of all spend is expected to come from chatbots alone.

Giving customers access to immediate, personalized responses has been found to boost customer engagement, loyalty and sales. And, according to research company Gartner, 70% of customer service interactions will be made through chatbots, virtual assistants and robots by 2022, compared with just 15% in 2018. 

Jonathan Trimble, CEO and co-founder of creative ventures firm And Rising, says that public acceptance of communication via a human-like chatbot is a ‘surprising but understandable’ phenomenon: ‘We feel oddly safer in the hands of something designed and optimized to meet our needs, no matter how quirky [we] are about having to be exposed to the synchronicity, variability and even judgments of real-life human interaction.’

This article was first published in Courier issue 44, December 2021/January 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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