What’s Driving Artificial Intelligence? How AI Will Make Consumers Fall for Brands
Artificial intelligence (AI) is powering the next wave of customer experience. Virtual buying assistants, chatbots and voice-activated apps all are changing the way customers interact with brands. The future of e-commerce will look entirely different, and brands are taking steps now — big or small — to make this vision a reality.
This is the sexy side of AI, the stuff of headlines mixed in with sci-fi fanfare. It’s exciting for sure, but the love story between customer and brand, quietly driven by AI for years — and just skimming the surface of what’s possible with access to more data today — is what gets our heart rate up at Boxever.
What really makes the magic happen is when AI drives e-commerce behind the scenes, creating personalization that guides the consumer, enables them to pick up where they left off, and reads their cues and preferences effortlessly to give them only information relevant to their needs.
What Makes AI Tick
The beauty of AI is that it makes the customer-brand relationship stronger. Every interaction is personal, experiences are more memorable and AI — i.e., machine learning — remembers the things the customer says and does from a historical context to inform a brand’s next move.
It’s like having a boyfriend who remembers your favorite flowers, the name of that restaurant you liked on vacation last summer, the fact that you're allergic to nuts and that your idea of a good date is playing board games at home, not going to the ballet.
The personal touch is what brings customers and brands together, and what triggers the emotional, feel-good reaction that makes them loyal, year after year.
What’s important is that AI is smart enough to set out to do what it says it will. Without the right logic and overarching algorithms in place, what's intended to be an elevated experience between brand and customer can easily deteriorate.
It’s what happens so often in marketing automation today. For example, an email kindly requesting feedback on a recent trip is sent en masse immediately after a flight delay caused you to miss your event. Or, consider these examples:
- You receive an ad for that sweater you’ve been dying to buy, only to find out it’s actually sold out.
- You speak to a customer service rep — virtual or not — who has no idea about your previous history with the company or any context into your existing issue, even though you’ve already spoken to two other people before them.
- You received a notification for a coupon or offer because the brand “misses you” moments after making a purchase rather than at checkout.
These scenarios aren’t unusual in today’s day and age. AI sets out to correct these moments that interrupt the customer-brand relationship and cause friction — and confusion — along the path to purchase.
A recent Entrepreneur article, "The Growth of Artificial Intelligence in E-Commerce," highlighted how AI advancements are a win-win for customers and retailers alike, saying: “Shoppers will be able to easily find the best price for an item and communicate with chatbots for quick customer service. For retailers, they’ll be able to better analyze consumer data to predict future buying patterns, create autonomous replenishing systems and also save money and time on customer service by utilizing chatbots.”
That’s definitely true. However, one without the other doesn’t quite compute. Bringing chatbots to life without strong AI running your systems on the backend has the potential to do more harm than good for customer relationships.
It’s more important than ever to show consumers that AI is friend, not foe. According to our recent report, 88 percent of marketers agree or strongly agree that AI helps personalize customer interactions, yet 45 percent of consumers polled disagree or strongly disagree that AI (more broadly) will improve their experiences with brands in the future. And, despite the fact that 79 percent of marketers responded that they think customers are either excited or very excited for chatbots, nearly 50 percent of consumers reported that they're very unexcited or somewhat unexcited about chatbots. Marketers need to show consumers that AI, in all of its forms, is doing what it set out to do — make their lives easier. This needs to happen consistently in practice to prevent a disconnect between what marketers think consumers benefit from and what they're experiencing in reality.
Bringing Data Together
According to a recent Winterberry Group report, over 40 percent of North American marketers believe the integration of their marketing technology will improve cross-channel identity resolution; nearly half think it will boost omnichannel marketing performance.
Moral of the story? Integration is key to a successful AI implementation.
Having a central hub for data to reside is what makes AI run smoothly so that it can do what it promises to do — personalize, automate decisions and analyze customer behavior. Having access to customer data across channels is necessary to take the next step to operationalize AI so that it's received well by customers and has the greatest impact on business. AI must be supported by a database that can collect all of the disparate sources of data — activity across channels, historical data, demographic/psychographic detail and any other valuable segmentation — so that it can delight the customer again and again.
In the love story of brand and consumer, AI can up the ante. With these things in mind, AI can be the glue that sticks customers and brands together, helping brands really know their customers better than ever before.
John Callan is the vice president of marketing at Boxever, a real-time customer intelligence and personalization solution.