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2021 Trends in Conversational AI

December 8, 2020

This post is part of G2's 2021 digital trends series. Read more about G2’s perspective on digital transformation trends in an introduction from Michael Fauscette, G2's chief research officer and Tom Pringle, VP, market research, and additional coverage on trends identified by G2’s analysts.

Conversational interfaces get more intelligent

As I discussed at REACH 2020 along with a few of my fellow G2 research analysts, conversational artificial intelligence (AI) has transformed operational workflows across industries like healthcare and financial services. Conversational AI has also made its way into new departments within businesses, such as human resources. Speaking to one’s software allows business professionals to easily access data, as well as quickly input data into backend systems in a conversational, natural manner. 

Within the broader space of conversational intelligence software, the breadth of opportunities to implement conversational AI are growing and are likely to grow further in 2021. It comes to how they craft their own conversational solutions, whether they be internally or externally facing—a business can choose to build, buy, or do something in between. 

When building conversational AI, developing a robust data science practice and in-house development team can take more time and energy but results in higher customization. Thus, companies can build a conversational agent from scratch using tools such as natural language understanding software. The customization with this type of solution cannot be understated, for example, they can build custom models, which recognize and react to industry-specific terms.

Another option, bot platforms, package functionality together as well as offer similar levels of customization based on the strategy the business wants to enhance, be it marketing or sales. Off-the-shelf bot platforms offer varying levels of customizability and intelligence.

Finally, businesses that are looking to get a project off the ground quickly can leverage chatbots software, which provides users with off-the-shelf solutions that can conduct fairly scripted conversations with interlocutors. Although this solution can be implemented quickly, a tradeoff must be made as customization will be severely limited, as well as the number of intents and use cases that the bot can handle.

To intelligence and beyond

A significant challenge that companies face when building or buying a conversational solution is intelligence. An intelligent agent will have the ability to maintain a human-like conversation with those it is speaking with. In addition, it can intelligently understand multiple ways in which the same information is being phrased.

Conversations conducted with these systems are natural, and buyers are looking for agents that can:
  • Understand a conversational request by using natural language processing (NLP) or speech recognition
  • Give users the ability to edit conversational flows
  • Provide tools to analyze conversations via dashboards or reports
  • Have the ability to route conversations to a human
  • Allow for human-in-loop capabilities to ensure accuracy and viability of intelligent virtual assistants (IVA)

chatbot interface

We’ve all been there. We’ve successfully found a company’s conversational interface and attempted to communicate with it, whether that be via our keyboard or our voice. Too often, it just does not understand our questions and concerns. As a result, we express our frustration and attempt to be routed to a human. The above image aptly displays this consternation.

This frustration with scripted chatbots has led businesses to adopt and sellers to sell solutions that are powered by machine learning and packed with intelligence. G2 saw this trend in action (as can be seen below in which the IVA category saw a spike in growth from July 2020, as compared to the dip in traffic for the Chatbots category) and predicts that the popularity of IVAs will increase in the future.

traffic growth for IVA and chatbots categories on G2

The future of intelligence

With IVAs, businesses can provide an always-on intelligent solution, both inside and outside the company. Whether they are looking to provide employees with employment-related information or engage with potential customers, businesses can leverage this software to achieve success.

Our analysts reveal what's big right now in their 2021 Digital Trends reports.     See our predictions here →

We expect to see these agents get even more intelligent, becoming more human-like and natural.  IVAs, as they stand, are far from perfect. Sometimes, beneath the surface, one can detect their robotic nature. Although fluency is part and parcel of their very being, they do not always live up to the expectations. Therefore, IVA vendors are consciously working on trying to improve this, through tweaking their natural language algorithms and allowing for human-in-the-loop correction of the agents. This helps with properly training the agents to answer appropriately and correctly to queries and concerns.

With the rise in interest in this sort of conversational technology, we also think this type of intelligence will trickle down into other software areas, such as analytics platforms. Although some provide some degree of natural language search, we think that 2021 will be a year in which business users will engage in an even more conversational manner with these platforms. Open your mouth wide, or extend your fingers, and get ready to speak to your software.

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