By Dr. Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy and Abhilash Jaishankar
A 2018 survey by McKinsey, using over 400 test cases, concluded that marketing is the largest area where AI (artificial intelligence) will add the most value. Fast forward 4 years, if you observe carefully, AI (say Amazon‘s Alexa) is slowly invading all of our lives now. Alexa has become our source of information, a source of ideas, a reminder of events, a facilitator, an advisor and even your best friend!
Very soon there will also come a time when Alexa will understand (with empathy) that you’re super tired after work, and will automatically order a hot kichdi, organize your monthly grocery list according to your current financial constraint, or probably even offer smart investment advice!
You might think that this situation is far from reality. On the contrary, big technology companies like Amazon, Google, MicrosoftBaidu and Tencent are already betting big on this technology!
In addition to our personal lives, AI digital assistants will also change the way businesses work. Be it information gathering, sourcing of goods/services and marketing.
Moreover, we prefer all branded products, as they are synonymous with quality and trust. But if Alexa makes the decision of which product to buy for you, naturally, brand recognition will start to play a lesser role in product selection. Nevertheless, brands should not be overwhelmed by this fact. In turn, brands can overcome this in two ways:
1. Invest in understanding how AI Assistants algorithms work, to weigh each brand.
2. Use smart devices (phones, TVs, etc.) to directly reach the end customer and promote brand awareness to build customer loyalty. Thus, negating the possible effects that AI digital assistants could have.
That said, customers will still want to feel the bliss of choosing, reviewing, and physically charging for their favorite product. Therefore, even after the AI revolution, people may still want an offline experience in a physical outlet. Therefore, brands can target this channel to improve their brand loyalty.
Still, as a marketer, it’s important to understand that AI assistants, like Alexa, primarily affect brands in 3 ways: customer acquisition, satisfaction, and retention.
While marketers invest millions of dollars in creating ads, using data, there is still this situation where ads are targeting the wrong people. Even if advertisements reach the right target audience, customers usually have to revisit an advertisement multiple times to retain information. But with AI digital assistants, this won’t be a problem, because these platforms never forget!
Much like how brands pay shelving fees to showcase their products, in physical stores brands may also have to pay AI platforms to showcase their products. Or maybe even pay extra to get top positions on search, like how you pay now in Google AdWords.
For years, customer satisfaction and fulfillment has consistently driven word of mouth, market share and profitability. That’s why marketers love this metric. But with Alexa making the purchases, it can offer multiple insights into the customer’s regular, irregular, or maybe even one-time purchases!
AI assistants can further revolutionize employee fulfillment, individualizing each employee’s experience, as more companies operate on the work-from-home methodology.
As a marketer, you can also use AI assistants to personalize your platforms, optimize your content, and potentially improve conversion rates.
Quite often, most marketers assume that frequent product repurchases by a customer mean that the customer is loyal to the product. But not necessarily! What if the customer doesn’t currently care about exploring a better product?
But if AI Platforms starts buying products, instead of humans, it will only make a decision based on data, not brand loyalty. This makes the market quite open like never before, where heritage companies no longer have the advantage, and there are more opportunities for new entrants with better products and prices.
So, heritage brands will now have to buy data from these AI Platforms and prevent customers from switching, and offer personalized sales promotions.
Alternatively, new entrants can use data from the AI platform to understand unique customer expectations, manufacture suitable products, and therefore eventually acquire customers.
The capabilities of AI digital assistants will only grow as more people use them over the years.
The AI digital assistant market is a high barrier market to enter, as it requires extremely expensive technology to build and operate. So, eventually, you’ll only see a handful of AI assistants at your disposal, in a few years.
In a growing digital world that makes human social interaction rare, Alexa will further add to that divide, albeit in an effective way that consumers won’t complain about.
So Alexa, what would I do without you?!
(The authors – Dr Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy is Regional Director and Director Associate Professor (Marketing), Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, and Abhilash Jaishankar is an MBA student at the Great Lakes Institute, Chennai. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)