It was reported last week that Google is shifting resources within its virtual assistant unit from Assistant to Bard, its intelligent chat technology. This comes as no surprise to Forrester. Google has a long history of launching and discontinuing services that fail to gain traction with consumers, and voice has failed to do so.

Amazon launched Alexa late in 2014. These voice assistants started with voice commands rather than natural language understanding, but they evolved over time. Nearly 10 years later, however, just 21% of online US consumers are comfortable using voice to access information and a mere 12% are comfortable controlling devices in their homes. Consumers do lean into voice when they need to be hands-free (e.g., driving, cooking) but otherwise are more likely to pick up the device and use their fingers to surf.

Google’s Assistant (i.e., voice control) and Bard (i.e., chat-based search and language generation) technologies do complement one another, but AI ubiquity diminishes differentiation for Google. The prevalence of conversational interfaces forces Google and others to innovate on more than a better experience of existing functionality. Shifting resources to Bard will not guarantee Google’s success in conversational interfaces. Bard needs to solve different problems and create new value to generate revenue. The launch of ChatGPT puts the likes of Google, Amazon, and Alibaba on notice as Microsoft Bing becomes stronger as a revenue generator. The focus on Bard and shifting resources accordingly signals a necessary step on the AI innovation path for the company and for the market.

Why This Development Signals A Tipping Point For Enterprise Use Of LLMs

This Google Assistant news is also an important development in the evolution of AI, especially as a tipping point for next-generation large language models (LLMs). Enterprises must buckle up for the LLM wars while pragmatically adopting them into their products and services to stay relevant and evolve to meet customer expectations for digital experiences. To ensure that LLMs deliver business outcomes, Forrester recommends that enterprises take the following actions to fly above the disruption fray:

  • Incorporate conversational interfaces into your digital touchpoint portfolio. Despite near ubiquitous consumer awareness of using chat to engage with companies, just half of companies offer live chat on their website or mobile app. Fewer (15%) offer a branded or third-party virtual assistant. Enterprises use chatbots today for simple (answering questions) vs. complex (researching) experiences. LLMs such as ChatGPT provide a huge opportunity for generative AI capabilities to evolve toward more conversational customer experiences.
  • Deliver a trusted customer experience incorporating AI governance. The insight and action from an AI conversational experience is one side of the experience equation. Trust is the other side. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey data, 37% of consumers are distrustful of smart devices that they perceive are always listening. Through proper AI oversight and governance, enterprises must weigh revenue goals against reputation and ethical risks. As regulations such as the AI Act in Europe are released in 2023, AI governance will be the new normal to de-risk AI algorithms. Enterprises will need to focus on explainability, observability, and data integrity while providing simple interfaces to opt out of sharing information.
  • Buy and build conversational experiences smarter. Forrester’s Data And Analytics Survey shows that 51% of data and analytics decision-makers plan to purchase packaged business applications with embedded AI capabilities. Embedded LLMs will reduce data science and developer time and resources. New technology evaluation approaches and management are needed to test the viability of the AI inside. Decision-makers must conduct proofs of concept on enterprise data, question the management and retraining of algorithms, and understand how data is collected, processed, and potentially stored.

Enterprises can partner with Forrester to better prepare for this next generation of AI capabilities with Forrester’s Connected Intelligence Framework as they strive to design and deliver future consumer digital experiences including more conversational and proactive engagement.