Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PME Instrument v2 (Second generation chatbot development platform) Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2020-11-30 Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project Advances in artificial intelligence combined with the massive adoption of chat channels and messaging apps created from 2017 a strong traction for chatbots. Since then, chatbots have been widely replaced by Digital Assistants, their more sophisticated counterpart. The global intelligent virtual assistant market size is expected to reach USD 45.1 billion by 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 34.0%. The growing use of smart speaker-based technologies for home automation and digitization in the retail sector has led to the implementation of conversational e-commerce is the major driving factor of the market. These assistants help consumers to find relevant information and perform tasks with actionable advice. Many retail stores have now implemented assistants in their processes, adding a new dimension to their customer engagement, further enhancing the customer shopping experience.Although customer support has been driving the rise of the market because companies can drastically improve the efficiency of their customer support and technical support - according to McKinsey, the cost savings is a 10x factor compared with phone support - assistants have started expanding their capabilities and scope to revamp the way digital buyers purchase online. The current pandemic has only accelerated this trend as e-commerce companies have realised that digitalisation was the only viable way through.In this race to redefine the online buyer’s experience, European companies face many hard challenges especially when competition is called Amazon and AliBaba. . Botfuel set as its primary goal to be able to democratize and industrialise Shopping Assistants for a vast number of companies of different sizes. Botfuel identified the following challenges as being the most important hurdles for the development of conversational e-commerce in Europe:Performance: As user expectations grow assistants need to cope with fine-grained classification of a growing number of user intents and increased complexity of interactions. Usability: Democratization of conversational commerce will only happen if the cost and time to deployment can be decreased significantly which involves providing new solutions in terms of agility, usability and AI training.Since 2018 and with the help of the H2020 European program, Boftuel has been able to completely redefine the way its technology can be used. The burden for clients of training highly performing AI models has been completely removed, the time of deployment of an assistant has been decreased from several months to a few days and, more importantly, marketing teams (not IT) can now have at their fingertips a powerful tool for improving the buyer’s journey and drive the digitalisation of their retail businesses.While we are only at the beginning of a major acceleration of our digital lives it is key that European companies can bring highly technological products and AI into the hands of a wide audience of companies of all sizes. Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far Since the beginning of the project Botfuel’s has significantly progressed towards providing a completely integrated, easy to use, although highly performing, Virtual Assistant platform.Main product milestones:Q4 2018: Developed a new version of its framework for building advanced dialogsQ4 2018: Released a new version of Botfuel’s NLP engine allowing for no-training, flexible and precise Entity extractionQ1 2019: Launched a packaged solution for Customer Support called Smart FAQ, based on Botfuel’s technology and aimed at customer support teams. Botfuel is one of the first solutions that doesn’t require any training thanks to its fully pre-trained knowledge base for e-commerce.Q2 2019: Launched a new dashboard for monitoring performanceQ3 2019: Researched and tested the use of advanced word embeddingsQ3 2019: Finalised research over multilingual bots and multilingual capabilitiesQ1 2020: Launched a packaged solution especially aimed at Ecommerce allowing customers to combine conversational technology with marketing features.Q1 2021: Used research conducted on multilingual bots and multilingual capabilities to launch 7 new languages that are in production for customersQ2 2021 Launched the conversational campaign featureQ2 2021 Launched the product advisor featureQ3 2021 Moved to Transfer Learning AI technology and BERT to get outstanding Natural language understandingQ3 2021 Launched a new dashboard for tracking specific KPIs such as conversion rate optimization and attributed salesMain business milestones:Q4 2018: Pursued the development of Botfuel’s partnership programQ2 2019: Signed contracts with several large corporatesQ2 2019: Reorganized Botfuel’s sales and marketing teams to tackle International markets and wider target user audiences for Botfuel technologyQ2 2020: attended major international events and conferences and won several prizesQ2 2021: Refocused Botfuel’s business approach to address specifically Ecommerce Q4 2021: Botfuel recognized as the most comprehensive platform for conversational ecommerce Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far) As evidenced by tests and frequent benchmarks, Botfuel’s AI technology and NLP services have kept pace with major players in the area such as Google and Microsoft. In addition, Botfuel has allocated significant resources and succeeded in developing assistants that need no training at all and reach a level of intent recognition and understanding of natural language that are missing from most chatbots.In the meantime and as its second objective, Botfuel has also worked on making its technology highly accessible. Botfuel’s assistants provide:A reduced time to market (a few days) as clients do not have to spend time themselves designing and training the modelsLarge access for small and medium companies to state of the art NLP and AI conversational technology, making it possible for small customer support teams to match the expectations of customers when the volume of requests grows at a fraction of the costBotfuel has also considerably expanded the reach of conversational technologies beyond support to the wider area of marketing and shopping experience, with the integration of marketing techniques and product knowledge into its platform, switching from non-contextual chatbots to highly contextual, personalized assistants that can:Engage online buyer’s at the right time with highly relevant personalized conversations driven by AIProvide advice and product recommendation based on user preferencesAnswer precise and difficult questions buyers have throughout their journeyBotfuel’s ambition remains to become a European leader in the European Virtual Customer assistant market.