Conversational AI platform Ambit is preparing a Series A raise to support international market validation, expansion, and hiring new team members.
The raise is intended to capitalise on major shifts in the way consumers expect to engage with brands. These trends, accelerated by COVID-19, include the rapid adoption of messaging by consumers and 24/7 online shopping.
As retailers, financial service providers and utilities seek solutions to scale customer service, day and night, cope with unexpected spikes in demand, and introduce more automated guided selling, many are turning to conversational AI, the company says.
Investors are watching too, it says, as large trade acquisitions internationally reduce the number of independent conversational AI companies.
In August, Hootsuite announced its acquisition of Heyday, a Montreal-based conversational AI platform, for US$41M, recognising that commerce is rapidly moving onto social and messaging platforms. This deal follows one in April in which Microsoft announced it will acquire another conversational AI company Nuance for US$19.7 billion in cash.
"We are extremely well positioned as brands seek partners to respond to macro trends in consumer shopping behaviour and our own growth path to go to market for investment," says Tim Warren, chief executive and co-founder of Ambit.
"Natural language processing is evolving and chatbots are improving their understanding of the sentiment and emotions felt by customers, to provide ever more sophisticated levels of service," he says.
"The value of Ambit's dataset is increasing exponentially with each new customer as our AI learns from every chat, deepening domain knowledge and offering ever more nuanced conversations."
In recent months Ambit signed Pulse Energy as well as two major travel-related brands, Southern Cross Travel Insurance and Online Republic.
Global travel eCommerce group Online Republic, part of digital travel business Webjet Limited, has launched an Ambit conversational AI chatbot, Wheelie, to scale up and support its customer service for its two global land travel brands, Airport Rentals and Motorhome Republic. Motorhome Republic, one of the largest motorhome rental agencies in the world, and Airport Rentals, a leading player in the global car hire marketplace, will benefit from the additional 24/7 customer support and clever capabilities of Ambit's AI platform.
In July, Ambit signed an exclusive partnership with Vodafone to bring its enterprise-grade chatbot platform underpinned by AI and natural language processing, designed to deliver 24/7 personalised customer service, to its contact centre customers across Aotearoa.
Conversational AI compliments a contact centre, reducing pressure on human agents at peak times and removing repetitive tasks.
Forrester predicts more than 25% of all US retail sales to occur online by 2024, a figure which underlies the challenge for retailers to change their business model to deliver world class experiences at large scale.
Ambit says it believes this pressure to adapt to new consumer preferences will be felt by any service provider with a large customer base, including utilities. During a power outage, an electricity company reported that 85% of its customers preferred to speak with a chatbot rather than calling the contact centre. Offering conversational AI reduced the pressure on customer service agents, allowing them to focus on the more complex enquiries.
Founded in 2017, Ambit counts as major customers Noel Leeming, Vector, Mercer Financial Services and Tower Insurance.
Ambit has 20 staff members on its team, and expects to grow this by 50% once the raise is completed. Despite the well publicised squeeze on highly skilled talent, the Auckland CBD-based company says it has attracted senior people to roles including head of engineering, head of customer success and also senior operations manager.