Just weeks after acquiring conversational AI provider Active.ai, Gupshup, the San Francisco-based messaging service, is adding ecommerce-focused AskSid to its portfolio. The move further bolsters two other acquisitions from the conversational AI platform’s growing list of service offerings, as it positions itself to benefit from trends such as conversational engagement, Rich Communication Services (RCS), and retail customer experience (CX).
While Gupshup’s interest in Active.ai was rooted in its live-production experience with trained, deep banking and financial AI datasets and overlapping customer bases, AskSid and its Retail AI Brain hold similar deep-domain knowledge sets that Gupshup says will position it to provide comprehensive conversational retail and commerce solutions throughout the entire customer lifecycle. AskSid’s AI Brain uses a combination of entity extraction, natural language understanding (NLU) models, and utterance generation, to turn unstructured colloquialisms and past customer queries into personalized shopping experiences.
Getting to the shopper’s intent
The AI Brain collection of models uses canonical methods and no less than 200 intent signals to create these mapped shopping journeys. The canonical nature of AI Brain puts the power of pre-trained data in the hands of developers and engineers, without requiring them to be familiar with the incoming unstructured data that is mapped to their standard data. The richer experiences that this model provides could mean that for an enterprise bank, for example, instead of a more cookie-cutter response to a series of customer questions surrounding transaction activity, the software might respond with a relevant table of transactions that covers the period of interest. That means rich, personalized data is delivered in time to increase engagement and conversions. However, in practice, these concepts can be challenging to implement.
CEO Beerud Sheth’s vision draws analogies to what search meant to Google, or how Shopify helped pivot ecommerce for businesses: “Shopify built out this infrastructure of tools and capabilities that every ecommerce merchant needs to set up a storefront on the web. In the same way, Gupshup is building out the conversational infrastructure that businesses will need to build chatbots and conversational experiences.”
Sheth emphasizes Gupshup’s belief in prioritizing capturing the nuances of human conversation. “Maintaining context across conversations, across queries is important, because by the time the third or fourth query comes in, you may need to refer to the first query. The AI has to handle a context switch, and enabling these multi-turn conversations, just as humans do – there’s a lot of elements to it.”
Perhaps this attention to the details in the art of capturing intent in human conversation is the differentiator that continues to power Gupshup’s investment growth, despite competition from the likes of Attentive, Senseforth, Yellow.ai and Haptik.
Bringing low-code into the conversation
With a diverse customer base including McDonald’s, Verizon and Amazon, Gupshup looks to provide a tool set that includes out-of-the box options within its base layer. This provides connectivity to core messaging services like SMS, WhatsApp, Telegram, RCS and voice. On top of that base, Gupshup provides low-code tools that allow users to communicate via queries, directly with a business service – such as an AI chatbot, database or live call center agent handoff. The third and final layer is used to increase the value of the service, with advanced specialization in knowledge-heavy verticals, like finance and banking, retail and commerce, or education and healthcare.
Both of the moves come at a time that Sheth says is an important point in the story arc of conversational messaging. “Conversational engagement has reached sort of an inflection point, and it’s moving very rapidly. More businesses are adopting it, and consumers are starting to use it extensively.”
“What businesses need to realize,” Sheth says, “ is that the technology is now mature, it’s ready, it’s been proven and validated, and the adoption is just taking off in a big way. Conversational engagement is going through a rapid transition right now.”
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Author: Dave Nance