By Dr. Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy and Abhilash Jaishankar
A 2018 survey conducted by McKinsey, using more than 400 test cases, concluded that marketing is the single biggest domain to which AI (Artificial Intelligence) will add the most value to. Fast-forwarding 4 years, if you carefully observe, AI (say Amazon’s Alexa) is slowly invading all of our lives now. Alexa has become our information giver, an idea source, event reminder, entertainer, advisor and even your best friend!
Very soon there will also come a time where Alexa will (empathetically) understand that you are super tired after work, and would automatically order a warm kichdi, curate your monthly grocery list according to your current financial constraint, or probably even offer a smart investment advice!
You might think that this situation is far away from reality. On the contrary, big technology companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Baidu and Tencent are already placing big bets on this technology!
Along with our personal lives, AI Digital Assistants will also change the way companies work. Be it information collection, goods/service procurement, and marketing.
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Furthermore, all of us prefer branded products, as they signal quality and trust. But if Alexa is taking the decision on choosing which product to buy for you, naturally, brand recognition will start playing a lesser role in product selection. Nevertheless, brands need not be overwhelmed by this fact. In return, brands can overcome this in two ways:
1. Invest in understanding how the algorithms of AI Assistants work, to weigh each brand.
2. Use smart devices (phones, TVs, etc.) to directly reach out to the end customer, and promote brand awareness, to generate loyal customers. Thus, negating the possible effects AI Digital Assistants might possibly have.
Having said this, customers will still want to feel the happiness of physically picking, evaluating and billing their favorite product. Therefore, even after the AI revolution, people may still want an offline experience in a brick-and-mortar outlet. Therefore, brands can target this channel, to improve their brand loyalty.
Nevertheless, as a marketing manager, it is important to understand that AI Assistants, like Alexa, primarily affect brands in 3 ways: Acquisition, Fulfillment and Retention of customers.
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As marketers pour millions of dollars in making ads, with the help of data, there is still always that situation where ads are targeted at the wrong people. Even if the ads reach the right target audience, usually, customers need to re-watch an ad multiple times to retain the information. But with AI Digital Assistants, this won’t be an issue, as these platforms never forget!
Just like how brands pay shelving fees to showcase their products, at brick-and-mortar stores, brands might also have to pay the AI Platforms to showcase their products. Or possibly even pay premium fees to get the best positions on search, like how you now pay in Google AdWords.
For years now, customer satisfaction and fulfillment always drove word of mouth, market share, and profitability. This is why marketers love this metric. But with Alexa making the purchases, it can offer multiple insights on customer’s regular, irregular or possibly even one-off purchases!
AI Assistants can further revolutionize employee fulfillment, by individualizing every employee’s experience, as more and more companies function on Work-from-Home methodology.
As a marketing manager, you can also use AI Assistants to personalize your platforms, to optimize your content and eventually improve conversion rates.
Quite frequently, most marketers assume that frequent re-purchases of products by a customer, means that customer is loyal to the product. But not necessarily! What if the customer currently just does not care to explore a better product?
But if AI Platforms start purchasing 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 more have the edge, and there are more opportunities to the new entrants with better products and price.
Thus, heritage brands will now have to buy data from these AI Platforms and prevent customers from switching, and offer customized sales promotions.
Alternatively, new entrants can use data from the AI Platform to understand the unique expectation of the customers, to make suitable products, and hence eventually acquire customers.
The capabilities of AI Digital Assistants will only keep on increasing as more and 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. Thus, eventually, you’ll only see a handful of AI Assistants available to you, in a few years’ time.
In an increasing digital world that is making human social interaction scarce, Alexa will further add to that divide, albeit in an efficient manner that consumers won’t complain about.
So Alexa, what would I do without you?!
(The authors – Dr. Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy is Area Chair and Senior Associate Professor (Marketing), Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, and Abhilash Jaishankar is an MBA student at Great Lakes Institute of Chennai. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)