Making ‘AI’​ Actionable. Understanding The Hype.

“In the long term, beyond the five-year horizon, natural language question answering will be a major technology force” – Gartner 2011

‘Natural Language Question Answering’ was first tracked in the 2011 Gartner Hype cycle as a technology that would reach mainstream adoption within 5-10 years.

‘Natural Language Question Answering’ encompasses much of what smart speakers and chatbots can do today, but we wanted to see where we were in the cycle, so we dug deeper to understand how the Gartner Hype Cycle classified these technologies, we explore:

  • Where are we on the Hype Cycle right now?

  • What should we be doing now?

  • What’s coming next?

In 2016 Gartner re-classified ‘Natural Language Question Answering’ to a technology likely to hit mainstream adoption within the next 2-5 years.  In 2017 Gartner stopped tracking this altogether, it was out in the wild. We could start to see a number of enabling tools and technologies emerging like Storyline, Pullstring, The Bot Platform etc. that lower the barriers to entry and allow companies and individuals to experiment and build use cases for the adoption of these voice and chat channels.

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Technology Adoption Rates Are Reducing (Photo Credit – William Harvey)

The challenge to conversational design is the open ended nature of the input. Design principles for web and mobile are relatively well known and design leads the user to a number of set interactions, buttons to press etc. With a conversational interface the user can ask anything of a text box and expect a response. The challenge right now is to choose a domain that is very well understood and can be well communicated to a the user. Once the user understands the context and scope of the conversation you can design a very tightly bound and delightful experience. Once that’s in the wild and well received you can iterate, unlike development release processes in web and mobile you can build conversational experiences that improve themselves daily.

There is currently a lot of talk of the nebulous term ‘AI’ and boards are looking at where to land it within their business. We advocate the use of well understood environments to deploy tactical new products and believe our Conversational Advertising product fits this mould very well, using PPC to drive customers to a chat-bot to perform a task e.g. booking a test drive. This allows the brand to create a compelling conversational experience, enrich their CRM and also re-target on a new messaging platform that has exceptional engagement rates, example here.

Conversational interfaces make the ‘AI’ buzzword actionable

There are three steps to building your conversational experience:

  1. Trust

  • Your customers need to trust that they can ask questions on any channel and immediately get back the correct results. This builds trust in the channel.

  1. Personalisation

  • Each engagement allows you to learn a little more about your customer and then deliver ever more tailored responses. Over time you will automatically communicate with each customer uniquely. This increases trust and relevance.

  1. Activation

  • Once you have an engaged customer, communicating with your brand through a trusted, personalised, channel they are more likely to positively respond to outbound offers and and conversion rates will increase.

What’s Next?



Hold tight. The influencer market is a $1bn industry, set to double to $2bn in 2019. Marketeers are not seeing the returns they used to see from traditional channels and the trusted referral has always been the best way to promote your brand. Influencers and influencer marketing specialists are capitalising on this.

So what happens when your influencer is a digital assistant? As the assistants of today become more multi channel, ubiquitous and deeper embedded into your every-day actions they will increasingly play the role of your personal influencer. These shifts will happen subtly over time e.g. Google launched a wireless charging stand for their Pixel phone last week. It keeps the phone upright with the ‘assistant’ ready to help your every command. You will use it like a smart speaker then take it with you and your usage of the assistant will rise.

Gartner have been tracking ‘Virtual Personal Assistants’ on their Hype Cycle since 2015 when they believed the technology would hit mainstream adoption within 5-10 years. In 2018 that has been reclassified to 2-5 years. The major technology companies are investing heavily in their assistants as they understand the power they will wield if they can control the main interface between brand and consumer.

As a brand you will need to understand how to influence the new wave of digital influencers and build your own conversational channels to reach them. Our advice is to start small but start now.

For more on this subject see the SlideShare here:

Feel free to contact Charles Cadbury directly for any further information, insight or to engage Say It Now to build your conversational assistants.