Grant Coleman
Grant Coleman 11 February 2019

Re-engineering the customer experience through AI

Today’s consumers want value – both from what they buy, and from the process of purchasing a product/service. Good customer experience is one of the key determining factors for consumers when it comes to deciding which brand to purchase from, and according to a report from consulting firm Walker, it will overtake product and price to become the key brand differentiator by 2020. 

Delivering a seamless, personal customer experience relies on possessing a strong understanding of consumer preferences. In order to achieve this level of insight on which to build meaningful engagement, businesses need to ensure they have in place a strong foundation for trust.  Whether this has been demonstrated through consistently high standards of personalised marketing – the holy grail for marketers -   or simply solid data governance, the hero in this equation is today’s strict data regulation laws and the role they play in driving ideals in data quality. These ideals matter because on the one hand consumers are becoming increasingly protective over their data making them less likely to share from the outset. A recent study by Emarsys showed that just 5% of consumers would be willing to share their browsing data with an online-only retailer, and 3% with a high street retailer.  Secondly, bad data leads to bad marketing, so there is a huge education piece that brands need to spearhead around how personalisation is achieved.

While brands completely understand this relationship between good data and good personalisation, many marketers still struggle with the data deluge it entails, unable to harness it effectively without the help of smart technology.  For a marketer it’s clear that human personalisation simply doesn’t scale.  The industry has long accepted that it needs machines and smart technology like AI to cope.  But for customers to get fully on board, brands need to demonstrate how AI helps to improve shopping experiences. By doing so, brands will be in better shape to deliver on that promise of marketing to transform consumers’ experiences resulting in increased brand loyalty and higher revenues.

With this in mind, here are three tips to build consumer trust and deliver a better customer experience through AI:

1.    Know your customer better

Start by gathering as much data as you can to build a picture around individual customer needs and preferences. Consider loyalty-based discounts and personalised offers for your current customer base which should appeal to both the customer’s rationality and emotion. While data is essential for providing relevant discounts on products, marketers need to use these insights to create compelling content that appeals to the customer, whether that’s eye-catching graphics, updates on seasonal trends or tailored offers in line with what they’re currently interested in.  

While the discussion around the impact of AI on our daily lives has dominated headlines over the past year, consumers are still in the dark over how businesses are using it to benefit them. As it stands, only a third of consumers are aware of how AI can be used to send them personalised offers or ads, yet 44% are happy for technology to determine the marketing materials they receive, as long as it improved the shopping experience. Consumers are clearly open to the idea of brands using technology, but they need some guidance. Use this as an opportunity to educate your customer base on how you can use AI to benefit the customer. Consistently delivering on this experience will help build trust and ultimately help win more loyal customers.

2.    Stop the spam and stay relevant

While there is so much opportunity to work creatively with AI, it’s important not to go overboard with gimmicks, or use it to send blanket emails across a large audience. Our research found that two in five consumers swear they won’t purchase from a brand again if they receive irrelevant marketing materials.

We’re not just talking about a poorly-timed emails as a mild inconvenience, there are serious repercussions for brands that don’t personalise their content to the audience. In fact, two thirds of consumers also admitted they would ignore all future marketing from a brand if it sent them irrelevant offers. Quality of content is therefore vital to any brand – it’s what gives them that magic touch. To stay relevant, marketers need to ensure that they are feeding each and every interaction with customers into their CRM database. Once everything is in there, the AI can find out what product each consumer wants to hear about, when, and on what channel. Responding to personal preferences has a huge impact on conversion rates. By automating the back end of this process, marketers can dedicate time to developing creative content which differentiates their brand, letting AI take care of the rest.

3.    Be transparent with your customers

Consumers are more protective over their data than ever before. Businesses will need to work hard to convince consumers that they are using customer data for the right reasons – for their benefit. The solution? Transparency. It should be embedded in every business’ brand strategy – consumers will value an open conversation about why a business wants their data, how they are collecting their information and how it will be used. Always keep the consumer in the loop on how you plan to use their data for their benefit. Ultimately, consumers are unlikely to trust a brand unless they have proof that it is keeping its promises and experience a better overall customer experience as a result.

By using AI to better shape the customers’ experiences marketers will be able to open up conversations with potential shoppers, enhancing customer journeys, increase brand loyalty and boost revenue. Start by asking yourself questions about how your customers are currently benefitting from your marketing strategy, whether that’s personalised emails or product recommendations, and if your current technology in place is capable of providing greater personalisation at scale. This will help highlight any current gaps that can be filled with AI. 

Ultimately, consumers want a shopping experience which provides value, and implementing AI in their marketing strategy will bring them one step closer to delivering on the customer experience consumers have come to expect. AI is the most effective tool to ensure that brands continue to delight at every turn, deliver on customer expectations and unlock the lucrative benefits of customer loyalty.

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