This article is part of our March 2019 series about emerging technology. Click here for more.
No matter the industry or what is being marketed, opening up new lines of communication with customers is a key part of brand success.
From chatbots to voice assistants to facial recognition, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have ushered in a new age of “people-literate” tech tools that can understand and interact with people, mimicking the human experience. These tools also are helping to eliminate layers of friction in the way consumers can interact with brands seamlessly and in the moment.
“Today’s generation thrives and survives on mobile conversations, whether they’re on instant messengers or social media,” said Nyha Shree, co-founder of Singaporean social commerce startup Jumper.ai.
Customers are more impulsive, and it’s up to brands to be ready at the customers' “moments of inspiration” for purchases, Shree said. That was top-of-mind when Jumper.ai developed a conversational purchase bot for Disney to help drive box-office sales for the 2018 release of “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
When a person engaged with a Facebook post for the film, the bot–named Jacob–would start a conversation via Facebook messenger, inviting that person to purchase tickets through a seamless, chat-based process. The approach resulted in 18 times more engagement on social media and a 58% conversion rate to ticket sales, Shree told CMO.com.
Creating A Conversation
Recent years have witnessed a surge in the smart speaker market that makes it clear how conversational experiences are a favourite amongst consumers. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30% of Web browsing sessions will be done without a screen, as users learn which kinds of interactions are best handled through conversation.
“We are starting to see this shift in more natural communicative ways of interacting with our devices because we naturally like to use our voice to search information and carry out tasks,” said Rita Arrigo, Microsoft Australia’s chief digital adviser.
The 'voice' market is still relatively new across the Asia Pacific region. By mid-2018, an estimated 1.5 million Australian households owned a smart speaker, up dramatically from only 10,000 in 2016, according to Teslyte.
But not all voices are the same. Conversational nuances are important considerations from region to region, and technology needs to adapt accordingly.
Amazon understood this with the launch of its smart assistant, Alexa, in Australia in early 2018. The company localised Alexa with an Australian accent, as well as programmed it to understand regional accents and names to create user-friendly experiences.
“We have teams who are focused on how we embody a personality into Alexa. Those teams can’t be sitting back in Seattle. Our teams are local, and they think about all the local things that might make Alexa more Australian,” Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices and services at Amazon, told Business Insider.
Never Forget A Face
Faces play an important part in our social interactions. They serve as a gauge by which we can recognize one another, read each other’s moods, and establish trust with a simple glance. As such, it’s clear why replicating this distinctly human experience with technology is high on the wish lists of marketers looking to better understand and communicate with their audiences.
As AI improves, facial-recognition technology is becoming more widespread and sophisticated. Across APAC, the technology can unlock smartphones, recognise people as they approach an ATM (eliminating the need for physical cards or devices), and even predict a person’s order when they walk into a KFC store in China.
Facial recognition is also being used in the pursuit of very human causes. Case in point: the 2018 Invisible Friends campaign by Australian non-profit Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN), which uses Facebook’s facial-recognition technology to help identify missing people who might appear in the background of the 350 million photos and videos uploaded to the social network every day.
How does it work? MPAN creates profiles for missing people and encourages Facebook users to “friend” these profiles. The wider the missing people’s friendship networks become, the greater the chance they could be digitally recognized in a photo. If someone is recognised, a notification is sent to MPAN, which can investigate further. With an estimated 2,000 long-term missing people in Australia, the campaign serves as an exciting example of how people-literate technology is being applied to help solve age-old problems.