I’m blogging Gartner Symposium down in Orlando this week. My favorite session so far is: Generation Virtual: How a 40th-Level Half-Elf From Secaucus, New Jersey Will Change Your Business, by Gartner Analyst Adam Sarner.
I’ve been attending Gartner Symposium for the last 5 years (as part of my day job at an enterprise software company), but have only recently seen any recognition from Gartner that there is a relationship between their heavily IT crowd and the emergence of transformative technologies like virtual worlds and AI.
Of course, they cast this presentation in the “mavericks” track so as not to scare the assembled techies too much, but the very fact that Gartner is investing research dollars into this space is a bell-weather in my opinion.
- All you need is love: By 2015, 2% of people in the U.S. will be married to people they will never meet in person.
- A convenient truth: By 2015, time spent online will compete with the real world becoming the most “green” activity, reducing the average person’s overall carbon footprint by more than 50%.
- The dot-com bomb: Sales and marketing of products and services to virtual personas will “explode,” overtaking B2C spending by 2020.
- The day the earth stood still: By 2020, more than 70% of R&D investment in personal robotics will shift to virtual personal assistants.
- Mayor McBlank: A city will elect a virtual anonymous persona for mayor by 2020.
One of Sarner’s more powerful memes was the relationship between Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the emergence of Virtual worlds and AIs. Sarner believes that the virtual world is providing the “self-actualization” that Maslow forecast, but few have been able to achieve in Meatspace.
The latter half of his presentation focused on the emergence of personal AIs – what he called “persona bots”. His take:
In 2017, the persona bot will be mass adopted (more than 20 million active persona bot users in the U.S. alone; more than 10 million in the rest of the world). The drivers for this mass adoption are primarily the persona bot’s time shifting/time saving ability, and ability and authority to carry out tasks on the user’s behalf. The persona bot’s strength will be its ability to be at many virtual places at once, seeking vast amounts of territory, while filtering back and reporting on relevant information.
Just as the customer will have the persona bot as a “killer application,” companies will have their own automated bot for critical relationship handling, such as sales, customer service and marketing. By 2010, more than 15% of B2C Fortune 1000 companies with a Web site will use a chat bot for online customer service. Top drivers, such as 24/7 presence and the ability to communicate domain expertise, will help customers navigate their way toward a purchase. A practice already used is text-based hybrid bots with the ability to start an automated conversation with a customer, then alert a live representative to take over the avatar once a lead is qualified. Eventually, companies will need to develop an interaction process around a fully automated persona bot gathering information from a fully automated company bot.
Sarner’s recommendations to the assembled IT intelligentsia:
- Companies should organize and target products and services online based on mankind’s journey toward self-actualization.
- Sell to the persona, not the person. A persona will show you how it wants to be treated.
- Create virtual environments as a way to orchestrate customer exploration toward purchases.
- Shift from collecting demographic data to psychographic data for understanding online persona behavior and its interaction with others.
- Shift Investment from known customers to unknown ones. Focus on the influencers within the meritocracy.
- Develop and retain or outsource new skills to attract, connect, contribute and gain insight from personas and virtual environments.
- Begin to develop strategy, process and technology around relationships with persona bots as a tool for mutual exploration.
I’m glad to see that Gartner is getting on board. Their perspective will help drive attention and investment to the area.