The use of A.I will accelerate and the high-touch, brand experience will be a bot… And you won’t know the difference.
Mike Gadsby is a Co-Founder and the Chief Experience Officer at O3 World. In addition to leading client and product strategy, Mike also oversees O3’s Labs and R&D initiatives. This article was originally published in Philly Ad News January/February 2017 issue. Read full below.
We all want to feel special. Now, more than ever, as consumers in the digital space, we desire delightful and effortless encounters with the brands and products we love. Personalization has become a key component to that relationship. Whether that is one of the many monthly clothing subscription clubs that have popped up over the past few years like Trunk Club or Stitch Fix, or perhaps the slew of emails you received this holiday season promoting “deals just for you,” selling in the digital space has become far more about quickly and effectively creating successful micro-moments tailor fit to the end user than just throwing gaudy deals at people. Brands are constantly seeking to bring the person-to-person, in-store experience online, and the more relevant and specific the experience the better.
In seeking the ultimate in personalized experiences, the best digital brands are moving beyond segments, filters, and product or service options. They’re not seeking to understand the customer at a much deeper level and then create a real conversation leveraging that insight to give people, more exactly, what they’re looking for. Going back to something like a Trunk Club the idea that I can interface with a “real stylist” to discuss my likes and dislikes as a part of a real conversation online has become a model for a new, digital relationship consumers now expect. Here’s the thing, though, those folks are expensive - - particularly if you go beyond retail and look at services like law, or more, regularly now, financial services.
ENTER THE CHATBOT … AND A.I.
Chatbots are nothing new per se. They’ve been around in simple forms for quite a while. The rise of artificial intelligence though has supercharged bots to the point where a real, engaging human conversation can be had on all sorts of topics. The big evolution is that these bots learn. Piles and piles of data are continuously fed to the bots to make more accurate, predictive and - dare I say - superhuman assessments of various situations. This is a critical distinction that separates the new pack of programs from its predecessors. That personalized brand experience cannot simply be replaced with cold Q and A. Brands will lose trust and, more importantly, lose hearts and minds if the bots do not improve the customer experience. Bots need to be perceived as valuable as their human counterparts. But, how do they work?
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
As any salesperson will tell you, the more information they have about you, the more they can construct a message and a sale specific to your needs. In the online space, this used to be difficult, or at least fairly rudimentary. Now, we can use all sorts of a.I. to get to know you better. At O3, we’ve actually been leveraging various forms of personality insights based on a few of the natural language processing API’s from IBM’s Watson project. As an example, if we can see your Twitter profile, your Instagram feed or your Facebook timeline, we can make a fairly accurate assessment about the type of person you are for traits like openness, curiosity or even narcissism based off of years of social content. Couple that with past purchase behavior or, perhaps, a financial profile, then a chatbot conversation can become not only more factually relevant, it’s tone can be more appropriate for a successful interaction. They can literally tell me not just what I need to hear, but how I want to hear it. It’s actually gotten to a point where telling the difference between bot and human is almost imperceivable.
‘ALEXA, TELL ME THE FUTURE’
While the rise of chatbots as a form of brand relationship is interesting, an online chat as a form of communication is still a rather cold experience. The human connection is lost a little in every letter we key on the screen. As A.I continues to improve and voice platforms like Siri and Alexa get smarter, I think the next big shift in brand interaction will certainly move off of screens and into actual, physical conversations and interactions. The connected home is just the beginning of this journey. Turning on lights and ordering pizza are fairly simple interactions. But, imagine a world where complaining that you have “nothing to wear” results in a new wardrobe on your doorstep in a matter of hours. Or, perhaps a place where my mood affects the lightning or sound in a room. While there are certainly dangers in creating such a connected experience, in its most positive form, I love the idea that we’re creating future where our spaces are smart enough to make our days better and our brand experiences more personal.