One of the most important technological trends of this year and the following years is expected to be the implementation of intelligent machine customers, called custobots (abbreviation of the ‘customer robots’). Although hardly anyone has heard of them at present, analyst and research company Gartner assumes there will be as many as 15 billion of them by 2028. It is predicted that custobots will generate billions of dollars in revenue within a few years, and their emergence could be more significant than the rise of e-commerce.
What are custobots?
Custobots, or machine customers, are systems capable of negotiating and acquiring goods and services on their own in exchange for a fee. Their capabilities go well beyond traditional chatbots and automation. While custobots may initially base their actions on predetermined rules, ultimately they will not be just passive respondents.
Thanks to machine learning and data analysis, they can actively deepen their knowledge all the time to adapt to behavior, preferences and opinions. In other words, they can use the power of artificial intelligence algorithms to best understand and respond to the individual needs of the people or organizations they represent.
Custobots will be responsible for both business and consumer purchases. Connected to a custobot, the car you drive can identify the need for an oil change and schedule a service visit on its own. If the custobot is trained, for example, in the specifications of all possible smartphone models, and its user wants a particular one, it can advise the purchase of another, very similar one, which will ultimately prove to be a better choice in some regard.
Advantages of custobots
The vision of cost savings and increased efficiency, thanks to the incorporation of machine customers, is certainly extremely attractive to businesses. The impact that custobots can have on the operation of the latter is very large. The introduction of machine customers can eliminate the need for human involvement in many areas of a company’s operations.
As their knowledge grows, custobots have the potential to replace entire departments and divisions – not only providing greater savings and sales volume, but also changing the way a company operates. Machine customers can provide support in various areas of a company’s operations, such as accounting, chat service and inventory management.
Custobots can improve the operation of supply and administration departments. For example, a machine customer can be programmed to detect when the office is running out of printer paper and order it. The uses for custobots will certainly be many – as companies put them into use, they will analyze in which areas they can use them effectively.
As predicted, custobots will be introduced first in industries where routine or repetitive transactions dominate. Whereas industries that have more complex or “more emotional” decision-making processes will need more time to implement machine customers.
The emergence of custobots will change the entire sales process
With the arrival of machine customers, companies must prepare for a new sales approach to get their products into customers’ shopping carts. An approach that will be based primarily on information systems rather than relationships. Companies will have to reconsider how they sell their goods and services, and discover the algorithm by which the latter will be purchased.
Machine customers will operate based on logic and will be much more likely to make efficient purchases than is the case with humans. This can take the form of buying smaller sized products, minimizing waste (e.g., you might normally buy five apples a week, but your smart refrigerator, and thus custobot, knows that you actually only eat two a week and throw the rest away), substitute products, or those with lower shipping costs, or recommended value-added products that may seem more expensive in the short term but will prove cheaper in the long term.
Marketers and retailers will have to find new ways to communicate information about the products they promote and sell – ways that will make that information reach custobots and influence their decisions. They will have to figure out how to convince the custobot that their product is better suited to the requirements of the user the custobot represents.
Marketers are anxiously awaiting the introduction of machine customers into general use because some of the products they promote do not stand out from their competitors. Their differentiators are just “marketing” that can convince people to buy, but custobots no longer necessarily. Gartner believes that industries and categories in which the products are virtually the same (even though marketing claims they are different) are in for quite a shakeup.
One strategy that marketers can employ will be to influence the artificial intelligence models on which custobots are based. So that the latter are aware of the details of their products. Such activities will resemble optimization for online search engines, but with AI models as the target.
It will also be interesting to see how businesses and individual customers approach the machine customers. Will they have enough trust to interact with custobots? Will they have the knowledge that a transaction with a machine customer is not an attempt at fraud? So there must also be some way of verification that will make this trust and willingness to interact.
If you want to know more about the most important strategic technology trends for 2024 according to Gartner, we invite you to read our post.