Imagine being able to order a coffee from your own home with just your voice—no drive-through lanes or even ordering online with your phone. That’s Starbucks’ idea of what the future of coffee will look like. The company recently rolled out its “on-command ordering” feature that allows customers to place their orders using Amazon Echo or an iPhone with just their voices.
Artificial intelligence is shifting the marketing world, making it far more interactive than in the past. A digital assistant, like the above example, is just one instance of how brands and customers can connect through AI: The assistants learn your preferences and relay that information back to Amazon and Apple, then to other parties, like the team at Starbucks prepping your drink. Other examples include customer service bots that grow smarter as they interact with more customers and anonymous bots that show consumers ads that will likely interest them.
Whatever flavor of AI brands choose, AI can help bring them closer to their customers. By simply interacting with AI technology, users allow brands to get a closer look at their preferences. That closer look lets consumers receive targeted advertising that is meaningful to them, and it eliminates a lot of noise from their interaction with the world, making the buying process easier.
Improving The Buyer's Journey
It is in the brand’s best interest to make the buyer’s journey as easy and hassle-free as possible. At this point, it’s common knowledge that buyers won’t purchase something in an instant or after hearing a simple sales pitch; they need time to consider their options and make a decision.
With AI, brands can learn where buyers are in their journeys and interact with them every step of the way. You can discover whether they’re still a prospect or at a more advanced stage, letting you help them along depending on where they are in the cycle.
Consider a customer who is on the fence about buying a product and is looking at online reviews. To help the customer along, AI technology can suggest some comparative ratings for her. Because nobody wants to sift through hundreds of reviews, AI can highlight the ones featuring the information the customer values the most.
AI can also study customers’ buying patterns and help make decisions based on those patterns. For instance, if you buy the same type of coffee every day at the same time, AI can look at that pattern and then start buying the coffee for you without you even having to ask.
Then to confirm those patterns haven’t changed, after the technology has purchased coffee about 10 times, AI can ask you whether it’s OK to continue or whether you’ve changed your preferences. Whichever way you respond will then give the AI more information on which to base future decisions. You’ll be able to set your limits as the technology evolves and better learns your preferences.
Don’t Just Stand There; Do Something
The key to integrating AI into your branding strategy is for company leaders to start experimenting as soon as possible. Don’t wait for the technology to be perfected first.
CMOs and CTOs need to get comfortable with AI’s verdant stages; the engine will inevitably grow. If you wait (i.e., if your competitors get there faster), your initiative will be in its early stages while others’ efforts have already sprouted, leaving you unable to catch up. Implementing an initiative early is critical.
Look at Shazam, for example, an app that uses AI to listen to a song a user hears and match it to an extensive database, telling the user the song title, artist, and even lyrics. Not to mention its challenge of contextualizing the song against background noise. Users aren’t always going to be in an otherwise quiet room when they’re searching for a song title. Shazam had to learn to filter out certain noises in different situations in order to give accurate answers, and the more it learned, the more accurate it became.
This type of learning takes time—likely months, at least, a couple of years, at most—so it’s important to start experimenting if you haven’t started already. Start doing research now, and figure out what your customers want so you can build AI technology to solve a pain point in their lives. Then, using your newly created AI software, you can continue to learn about what your customers are talking about and how you can interact with them during the buying process.
What’s key to remember with AI is that you have to get in the game early to give the technology time to learn—and that means all parties in your C-suite need to work together. AI can do incredible things for your branding strategy by helping you learn more about your customers’ preferences than you ever thought possible, but your team has to start experimenting as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you’ve perfected it to release it to the public. The more users testing it out, the smarter it becomes over time—and the happier your customers will be.