Artificial intelligence is one of the latest new technologies that marketers are still figuring out how to play with. AI offers many possibilities for improving the way brands interact with their audiences, and one of the key ones could be personalising the customer journey.
It’s just another way of using data to get closer to customers, serve them better, and stay ahead of your competitors.
AI offers the advantage of being able to react speedily to changes in customer behaviour – usually more speedily than an organisation’s communication department can achieve.
One example might be if AI noticed a sudden rise in the number of marketing emails being opened by recipients. The reason for this might be that a snowstorm had unexpectedly changed customer behaviour, perhaps giving them more time to open emails than they normally would have.
The AI system could respond speedily by firing out an increased number of messages whilst the customer behaviour was in an unusual state, to encourage sales.
Organisations that integrate AI will almost certainly gain access to much richer levels of data about their customer.
Combined with machine learning, the self-improving system should be able to achieve segmentation on a scale not previously seen. It will be possible to serve customers in a much better way based on their specific needs, for a more rewarding customer-brand experience.
Combine that with the type of natural language processing seen in systems such as Alexa, and you’ll have a powerful customer service solution.
It’s a big departure from the frustrating service machine encounters that customers are used to. Take automated checkout for instance. Typical frustrations include trying to guess what type of bread roll or pear you picked up, whilst choosing from a list presented to you on the screen.
Voice integrated AI could help overcome this by allowing the customer to describe what they have in their own language. It’s also likely to be used extensively to handle inbound customer service calls, directing customers through the various options and responding based on their needs.
AI also has applications in advertising and can be used to make messaging more relevant and contextual based on the consumer’s life stage and immediate needs.
This may actually benefit customers, by offering them more relevant advertising messages. From a brand perspective, the investment into AI technology could be worthwhile if it delivers greater advertising cost-effectiveness.
Of course, AI is going to be a highly disruptive force. In the long term, there’s going to be a massive skill shift, away from customer service human operators and towards the AI team.
Developments are going to be limited by an AI skills shortage: there’s going to be a huge need for people with the skills to implement AI programs. The skills shortage is going to make it extremely hard to implement AI effectively.
Avoid alienating customers
Marketers have already been accused of creepy behaviour with remarketing efforts that freak recipients out and make them feel stalked around the internet. It’s important that the same mistakes aren’t repeated with AI. If your brand adopts AI, aim to avoid being too intrusive.
Swedbank is using AI to handle 80% of its inbound calls, but the bank avoids freaking customers out by making it clear that the customer is dealing with a non-human operator.
The danger is that, as AI integrates with customer data, it has the potential to make judgements that are too intrusive for customer liking.
For example, it may be possible to tell from a customer’s buying behaviour that they are pregnant, but it’s creepy to the proceed to communicate with the customer based on that knowledge.
When to join in with AI
Not every marketer is going to have the capabilities to employ AI in their marketing efforts just now. Like any new technology, it’s likely to be slow and costly to implement and integrate with other systems.
It’s likely some of your industry’s biggest players, and major consumer brands with huge marketing budgets, are going to be the first to engage with this technology.
One of the effects of this may be that the gulf could widen between brands using AI and those who aren’t yet on board with this technology.
Will the customer experience offered by brands that aren’t using AI seem inferior? Customers could very quickly become accustomed to AI’s more tailored experience.
Although your organisation may not have the ability to incorporate AI into the customer experience, it’s well worth keeping an eye on how this technology is being used elsewhere.
It’s likely that this technology will have implications for activities you are already engaged with, so watch out for what it could offer you.
Society as a whole has yet to adjust to AI, and there’s a lot of exploration work still to do about consumer tolerance for this kind of tech.
From the perspective of individual marketers, the challenge is how to skill up in this emerging area – and potentially adapt your own career through the disruption.