Customer Experience

AI, Marketing and the Customer Experience

By Engage Hub expert 20 February 2018
  • No one understands a human better than a human – and that will never change
  • Machines are learning more all the time – soon they’ll be able to outsmart us

Whichever side of the debate you stand on, there’s no denying the growing influence of artificial intelligence (AI). With the power to sift through huge amounts of data, businesses from all sectors can use AI to extract patterns that might take humans years to detect. And if you’re in the retail, financial services or logistics industry, the amount of available data is growing at a record rate.

But will these giant leaps in technology sound the death knell for marketers, designers and CX professionals? Will the day dawn when machines take over our roles, automatically generating everything that’s required to build a brand? Or does our innately human ability to empathise give us an advantage that can never be surpassed?

In this blog, I’ll be analysing the impact of AI on branding, marketing and the customer experience. (Hint: Don’t worry, we’re not going to be out of jobs any time soon!)

AI gives us empowering insight to boost the customer experience…

At the end of 2016, Forrester predicted that AI would ‘drive faster business decisions in marketing and ecommerce…helping to close the gap from insights to action.’ And that’s what we’re seeing in numerous brands across varying industries.

Thanks to AI, it’s an exciting time to be involved in marketing and branding. From chatbots and cross-channel integration to reducing waiting times and delivering outstanding customer service 24/7, there’s no denying the advantages that machine learning delivers.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. And empowered by the new knowledge that a data-driven approach delivers, not only are we better at knowing what customers want from their interactions with us – we also have the tools at our fingertips to personalise the experience along the way. In other words, AI gives us the ability to look better.

… and deliver a competitive advantage

Many brands have already turned AI to their advantage, tapping into data to maintain or achieve a competitive advantage. For example, after its survey revealed that 98% of men had been told to ‘man up’ during their lives, Axe responded by shifting its focus from masculinity to individuality.

Luxury brand Burberry are also masters at leveraging AI insight to bridge the gap between online and instore. They do this by using data voluntarily shared by customers through loyalty and reward programmes to offer personalised recommendations. So, sales assistants use tablets to show customers items they think would interest them – based on purchase history and social media activity. For example, if a customer has recently bought a coat, they might be shown a handbag that’s popular with other buyers.

This approach is incredibly effective. In 2015 Burberry revealed that their investment in personalised customer management programs had resulted in a 50% increase in repeat custom.

The message, therefore, is clear: the level of insight driven by AI helps make brands smarter and able to achieve better results at a much faster pace.

But does that mean that machines have won and humans are no longer needed?

According to Juniper Research, chatbots will create cost savings of $8 billion annually by 2022. What’s more, a report by PwC in 2017 revealed that 27% of consumers weren’t sure whether their most recent customer service experience was with a human or a chatbot.

And perhaps that isn’t surprising. Businesses everywhere are beginning to rely on machine learning to perform mundane and simple tasks – leaving them free to build the relationships that arise from more complex conversations.

But all these AI-related advantages beg the question, are we really needed anymore? Or are humans fast becoming superfluous to brand interaction and the customer experience?

Relax! We’re a crucial link in the chain and we always will be. Of course, disruptive technology will have its impact on job roles. But fast-thinking and industry-leading brands will develop and support employees while simultaneously using the power of technology to improve the customer experience and optimise brand perception.

AI will help you make informed decisions, but creativity can’t be taught

AI is already helping marketers, brand experts, designers and CX professionals in numerous ways – but it isn’t set to replace you altogether any time soon. Yet if the data reveals that perceptions have changed, you still need a team to re-configure your brand.

AI will help you make smarter, informed decisions, but it can’t build a brand by itself – creativity cannot be taught. And ultimately, that’s what a creative job has always been – to try to translate the data and use the findings to communicate and connect with your target audience, developing an emotional bond with them.

So, don’t be afraid. Technology can help us automate repetitive tasks, freeing up our time to focus on the interesting part of the job: strategy. Whether you’re in design, branding, marketing or CX, AI will help you deliver personalised experiences that are directly relevant to your target audience. And remember, as machines get smarter, the scope of what we’re able to achieve will increase correspondingly.