Customers have been in control for several years now, which means that brands must continue to provide a seamless experience across channels, delight them with services like same-day deliveries, provide unmatched customer service and personalize their overall experience to maintain brand loyalty.
But personalized experiences are not just about sifting through big data for ambiguous insights. It’s about the innovative way’s brands can use data to deliver the contextually relevant experience customers have come to expect. Thanks to brands like Amazon who have disrupted customer expectations by providing experiences tailored to the interests of their users. It is about trying to offer exactly what your customer wants, at exactly the right time. For instance, a discount offers on rail tickets when you know that a customer is planning a trip, or discounted pet food for a family with a new dog. (Should we consider rewriting the last few lines starting from “For instance”?)
But you don’t have to be Google, Nike or Amazon to turn actions into insights.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is providing opportunities for brands to offer customers hyper-personalized experiences by mining data and powering intelligent insights. Brands can use AI to pick the most profitable content for each customer, thus delivering the right content at the right time across the most preferred channel or device. All retailers, especially online retailers, generate copious amounts of customer-related data, which can be cumbersome to manage manually, attach the correct tags and the metadata etc. AI automates data mining, which reduces the time required to extract actionable insights from that data. Leveraging data is invaluable when it comes to personalization because, in order to provide truly personal experience, you need to be able to respond to each consumer’s needs now most convenient for them.
When it comes to advertising, we all know that consumers today are quite immune to the ads they see around them, online or otherwise. Between ad blocking software, shorter attention spans and decades of being inundated with ads everywhere they turn, it is only the most inventive and strategies that can get through to today’s jaded consumers. Yes, AI can also prove very handy here by helping brands offer bespoke advertising. The outdoor product retailer North Face uses IBM Watson to create uniquely personalized shopping experiences for its online clients. By asking questions like, “Do you like to hike in winter?” the program is able to narrow down the relevant selection of products to show to the customer.
When used in combination with social media, machine learning algorithms can successfully analyze key information about a customer’s preferences. Instead of creating a broad marketing campaign that may only appeal to a small percentage of customers, brands can use AI to create a one-to-one advertising experience tailored to everyone’s unique interests. L’Oréal, Aldo and Aston Martin are using Einstein from Salesforce to integrate and utilize data to create predict where a potential customer is in the sales cycle and which communication channels they will respond to. These one-to-one journeys are scaled across multiple channels, including email, mobile, social, digital advertising, online and in-store. With this more inclusive data, companies can also identify new/ previously missed market segments.
The other important area that helps build customer loyalty is exceptional customer service. Brands are using virtual assistants or chatbots for everything from banking to pizza delivery. Chatbots are trained using natural language processing which derives meaning from text or speech, and machine learning data from actual human customer services interactions. As a result, chatbots have become so sophisticated that it is often difficult to recognize them from the real thing. 1-800 Flowers uses Facebook Messenger as a customer service platform, where the AI-enabled chatbot uses conversational clues to assist customers with purchases. If someone messages that they need flowers quickly, the chatbot will respond with several relevant options, complete with photos, messaging customization, and even delivery choices. The more customers the bot interacts with the smarter it becomes, allowing it to provide an even better user experience.
Immune to bad days, abuses and frustration, chatbots are a natural supplement to the user experience. Of course, chatbots are not going to completely replace human customer service reps any time soon as more complex situations still require human intervention and expertise. Moreover, chatbots require data from human interaction in order to learn and improve.
The paradox of using AI in this field is that cutting-edge technology is working at replicating a genuine human touch in the relationship between the brand and the consumer. Algorithms are gradually learning to offer a more human-like, emotion-mirroring feeling to customers. Just as many, many years ago the bank clerk recognized a customer by voice over the phone, AI can now do the same by speech recognition, natural language processing, and dialogue management.
By knowing all about your purchasing history, searches, and even your location, AI can compare your profile to thousands of like-minded users and make recommendations, like Netflix. This is, in fact, a granular market segmentation focused on behaviors and preferences instead of demographics. So, when a brand comes along with each ad, each marketing message and each interaction with a touchpoint being highly personalized, customers today can get hooked onto that brand easily and stay loyal for a long time.
Zuci is revolutionizing the way software platforms are engineered with the help of patented AI and deep learning models. Learn more about Zuci at www.zucisystems.com
About the author
Anil is the Director of Technology at Zuci Systems. He is an industry evangelist in retail. With 17 years of experience, he has managed projects with Fortune 1000 companies and successfully implemented relevant technology for innovation in retail. Know more about him at Anil Kumar.