As the prevalence of chatbots increases rapidly, research firm Gartner predicts that by 2020 a quarter of customer service and support operations will have bots doing the talking. As natural language processing improves, combined with progress in artificial intelligence and machine learning, these bots should become so advanced that for all intents and purposes clients won’t know they are interacting with a non-sentient being.  And the advantages will be clear – the use of chatbots to deal with client queries is set to provide a global cost-saving benefit of more than US$8bn/ year by 2022, according to a report from Juniper Research. One of the local sectors that stand to benefit most from the implementation of bots is e-commerce. Much has been said about SA’s rather poor uptake of online shopping; it is blamed on a lack of credit cards and high data costs, or might simply be an issue of trust. But why isn’t there a sustained push to make the shopping experience as smooth as possibl...

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