April 29th, 2016 by Leonard Klie

The overwhelming majority of customers (89 percent) would prefer to engage with artificial intelligence-driven virtual assistants to speed up how they find information from companies, according to new research.

The findings, from Opus Research and Nuance Communications, indicate that consumers expect a conversational interaction when it comes to customer service. Granted, Nuance is a vendor that offers a conversational virtual assistant platform named Nina, so the research might not be totally unbiased, but the numbers are just too high to ignore:

  • 89 percent of consumers want to engage in conversation with virtual assistants to quickly find information instead of searching through Web pages or mobile apps on their own. This is the same for the phone channel, where the majority of consumers would prefer to engage with systems that let them speak naturally when calling businesses.
  • 73 percent of consumers want their conversations with customer service to be personalized.
  • 64 percent of consumers want customer service to be proactive, with suggestions and reminders.
  • Consumers want conversational, personalized, and proactive interaction throughout their entire service experiences, including authentication, with 83 percent of respondents seeking an alternative to passwords and PINs and the majority eager to use voice biometrics as the method to identify themselves.

That’s all well and good, but when it comes to actual usage, the numbers  here tell a different story.

MindMeld, another intelligent voice assistant vendor, in its latest quarterly user adoption survey, found that only 61 percent of smartphone users have adopted intelligent voice assistants in the past 12 months. The firm is claiming this as a huge victory, pronouncing 2015 as the tipping point for voice assistants. That might be a bit of a stretch, but the scale is definitely tipping toward more mainstream adoption. Heck, even I joined the smartphone revolution (or is that, evolution) just last year, and use Cortana on occasion, but apparently still much less than most people.

According to MindMeld’s research, 55 percent of voice assistant users turn to them regularly (daily or weekly). This is a substantial gain from the previous quarter, when 49 percent reported regular voice assistant use.

So where are all these voice assistants going? By and large, they’re staying home. MindMeld found that people most commonly use voice assistants in the home (43 percent), with the car coming in second at 36 percent.

Beyond that, they want voice capabilities on different apps.  Music apps rank the highest, with 50 percent of users wanting voice enablement. Other apps where voice would come in handy include shopping, travel, video, and local services apps.

Not surprisingly, given all the advances in the technology recently, overall satisfaction with the voice experience is generally high: 48 percent of users report being satisfied with their voice assistants, despite sometimes recognizing areas for improvement. Only 13 percent of users expressed dissatisfaction.

I guess they’ve never used the voice interface in my car, which is still very frustrating. I’m just hoping that with machine learning, the voice recognition will get better.


April 28th, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

Google, Uber, Lyft, Ford, and Volvo recently announced a new coalition with the goal of speeding self-driving cars to market. Known as the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, the group plans to push for federal action regarding fully autonomous motor vehicles.

One of the Coalition’s main messages is that self-driving cars will be safer than human-operated ones, due to a lack of human error. In a recent statement, the coalition noted that in 2014, there were 32,675 fatalities and 2.3 million injured in 6.1 million crashes in the U.S., and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that about 94 percent of all crashes are the result of human error.

If self-driving cars become a reality, a rise in demand for automotive sensors and the incorporation of smartphone features such as calling and music and video streaming will likely follow. All of these features would increase the interconnectivity of the Internet of Things, and be a tremendous source of customer data for companies.

The Coalition has appointed David Strickland, the former top official of the NHTSA, as its counsel and spokesman. Strickland said in an interview that “What people are looking for is clear rules of the road of what needs to be done for [fully autonomous] vehicles to be on the road,” and that “Nobody wants to take a shortcut on this.” He also described the Coalition as “a full policy and messaging campaign and movement.”

April 25th, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

The digital commerce market is expected to soar, growing from a recorded $4.9 trillion in 2015 to more than $8 trillion by 2020, according to new data from Juniper Research. To put this in perspective, the firm points out that Japan’s gross domestic product (GDP) was approximately $4.6 trillion in 2014, and that country has the third largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP.

According to the report, titled “Digital Commerce: Key Trends, Sectors & Forecasts 2016-2020,” contributing to the growth are transactions from three major commerce sectors. These are: digital banking, remote digital goods, and remote physical goods.

According to Lauren Foye, author of the report, the digital market is seeing an ongoing movement towards an “omni-channel approach.” “This extends to eCommerce where the mobile and tablet platform is seeing increased use towards the purchasing of physical goods, either for delivery or collection,” Foye said in a statement. She added that “global online banking users as a proportion of banked individuals are forecast to cross the 50% mark in 2016.”

Dedicated online retail events such as “Cyber Monday“ are largely responsible for the boost. Last year, on China’s “Singles’ Day” (the nation’s equivalent to Black Friday), the e-commerce platform Alibaba processed $14.3 billion in goods. Another factor in the growth of digital transaction volumes, the firm finds, is the ongoing popularity of streamed subscription services.

The firm also finds that by 2020, near field communication (NFC) mobile payments at the point of sale (POS) will increase by 400%. Additionally, by the end of the year, total volume of mobile and online money transfers is expected to surpass the amount tallied from the remote purchase of physical goods.

April 15th, 2016 by Leonard Klie

It’s long been said that it costs a lot more to get new customers than it does to keep existing ones, and the topic has been debated back and forth for years. Through it all, I’ve yet to see an actual dollar amount to support this (no one, to my knowledge, has said exactly what each one costs). If such numbers do exist, I’d love to see them.

A related topic, and one that is also hotly debated, is what’s the right balance of new vs. existing customers.

Marketing software provider Optimove recently published interesting data that answers that very question.

Optimove looked at data from millions of online customers and more than 180 brands to help companies understand if their ratio of new-to-existing customers indicates a state of growth, stagnation, or decline.

chasingSome of its findings include the following:

  • Online retailers with a ratio of 90:10 new-to-existing are unhealthy, with a five-year CAGR lower than 2 percent and customer churn rates 100 percent higher than average;
  • Online retailers with a new-to-existing customer ratio between 70:30 and 40:60 are typically early-stage companies (less than seven years old) and are growing very fast, with a five-year CAGR of more than 100 percent and churn rates 50 percent lower than the average;
  • Businesses with new-to-existing ratios between 40:60 and 20:80 can be considered “healthy grown-ups,” as they’re typically more than seven years old and have a five-year CAGR between 20 percent and 60 percent, with the lowest churn rates of any companies in the study; and
  • Businesses with ratios of 10:90 or worse are practically dying, showing declining revenues over the last three to five years.

So there you have it. That should lay the topic to rest. I hope, instead, that it just starts the debate. Feel free to chime in with your own stats.

April 14th, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

The Internet of Things market will be worth $661.74 billion by 2021, according to a new report by market research firm MarketsandMarkets. The report estimates the current value of the IoT market at $157.05 billion, and assumes a 33.3% compound annual growth rate.

According to the report, the development of cheaper and smarter sensors, the evolution of high speed networking technologies, and the rising adoption of cloud platforms are all major forces in the IoT market. The report also notes that predictive maintenance, security, and analytics are increasing in usage for connected devices—a trend that the report expects to continue.

The report expects software solutions to play a significant role in the IoT market. In particular, data management solutions will be essential to manage the massive amounts of data generated by IoT devices. Security solutions are also expected to see high growth rates, due to the challenge of keeping the various elements of the IoT secure.

From a geographic perspective, the report says that North America will hold the largest share of the IoT market in 2016. However, the IoT market in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is expected to grow at the highest compound annual growth rate between 2016 and 2021—a process driven by increasing technological adoption in India, China, and Japan.


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