Is AI Changing The Relationship Between Brands And Consumers?

Is AI Changing The Relationship Between Brands And Consumers?

Tom Lovegrove, Head of Planning at Wasserman, discusses how society is witnessing a rapidly narrowing gap between science fiction and reality thanks to mass-market application of AI

  • 22 june 2017

AI is now so ubiquitous that it has become a cliché to begin discussing AI by noting its ubiquity. It may be commonplace for people to interact with AI on a daily basis, but the technology continues to advance at an astounding rate.

The acceleration of these advances and the changes they bring to our lives are both thrilling and terrifying. In fact, progress is so fast that AI applications that are yet to enter the mainstream already seem ordinary. The prospect of self-driving cars from Tesla are made unremarkable when compared to the objective of Elon Musk’s newest company, Neuralink, to develop an implantable human-computer brain interface.  More elegantly referred to as a Neural Lace, it is an idea lifted straight from the pages of novels by the late science fiction writer Iain Banks.

We are all witnessing a rapidly narrowing gap between science fiction and reality. This is, in part, thanks to brands behind the mass-market application of AI in three core business-to-consumer interactions; customer service, path to purchase and marketing.

So does this widespread use of AI mean we’re witnessing a revolution in the way we interact with brands?

Not quite.

Today the main use of AI by brands is to enhance traditional methods of marketing, rather than generating completely new forms of interaction. But it won’t be long before we see brands scale up this approach globally by applying a range of AI technologies that interact with us wherever we are.

Reaching a point where we engage with AI not just everyday but everywhere, does not just depend on AI’s capabilities and the willingness of brands to push new boundaries. It depends on the extent that we are willing to share our data.

We have long been part of a pact where in exchange for our data we gain access to social media and other online services. In certain cases the more data we give, the more efficient and effective the service we receive. The details of this pact however are seldom clear, which has led to concerns from 61% of global internet users for how their data is being used.

Yet despite this, it’s expected that by 2020 85% of interactions with brands will be automated, possibly with customer response systems that combine speech recognition technology with cognitive computing to simulate more human-realistic interactions.  An early version of this already exists; NADIA. Developed for the National Disability Insurance Agency of Australia, NADIA is an online virtual assistant that uses AI to read human facial expressions and imitate human emotions to provide people with varying disabilities information they may not be able to obtain otherwise.

While there are issues in terms of trust, advances demonstrated by NADIA and similar projects are easier to accept because of the obvious benefits for both consumers and brands.

This is why AI has played an increasingly important role in retail. The technology has seen buying multiply via predictive purchasing and product recommendation. Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo recently launched a search by image tool that matches products to an image supplied by customers as a source of inspiration.  This could be from a magazine, a screenshot from social media or a photo of their friend wearing a top they love.

Digital advertising has also quietly led the way through its use of AI in programmatic advertising, with digital out of home following closely behind by bringing AI into the real world.

British bank Santander recently used an AI driven programmatic platform that altered what was displayed depending on how the demographic of passers-by changed during the course of the day. This has since been developed further by French car manufacturer Renault with its I-Spy campaign that served personalised ads directly to individual drivers.

The next step in AI’s evolution is a new digital billboard platform inspired directly by Steven Spielberg’s thriller Minority Report. In a memorable scene from the movie, interactive billboards use an eye-scan to identify passers-by before communicating tailored messages based on their personal data. The founders of OfferMoments plan to make this reality by combining programmatic advertising, facial recognition and mobile data technologies to identify approaching consumers and then, in real time, create and display a special offer or purchase suggestion from a nearby store specific to their demographic and personal tastes.

The impact of AI’s advances is so great that it will reinvent the relationship between brands and their consumers. AI can help brands engage with us on a level that is more personal than ever before. But to truly change the brand-consumer relationship, brands must earn our trust. Just like any healthy relationship this one must be built on honesty, transparency and respect. If they can do that, they may discover AI has an additional and unexpected benefit; to make brands more human.

Tom Lovegrove, Head of Planning at Wasserman, has over 12 years experience working with some of the world’s top brands in the media, sports, utilities, drinks and FMCG industries. Tom is who the team goes to at Wasserman to get insights on what people do and why they do it that help develop their creative approach to experiences. 

AI is now so ubiquitous that it has become a cliché to begin discussing AI by noting its ubiquity. It may be commonplace for people to interact with AI on a daily basis, but the technology continues to advance at an astounding rate.

+artificial intelligence
+Brand Development
+Brand Development
+brand engagement
+Cognitive Computing

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