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As AI Reshapes Consumer Expectations, Marketers Should Still Think ‘Human First’

'As we lean in on the intelligence of AI, we have to make sure we don’t lose sight of brand storytelling and the emotion,' says Mindshare's Devon MacDonald.

Investment in artificial intelligence grew an estimated 300 percent in 2017, as adoption of AI-powered assistants like Alexa and Siri continued to skyrocket — and, unsurprisingly, the trend was very much in evidence at this years’ CES.

As customers have come to expect the “personal assistant” level of service from a diversity of devices, “the bar is [just] being continually raised for consumer expectations in the level of intuitive service and response that is available to them,” said Devon MacDonald, Chief Strategy Officer, Mindshare Canada. “People are always looking for things that are faster, easier, safer, and just more frictionless.”

Following CES, MacDonald talked to GeoMarketing about approaching AI from a ‘human first’ perspective — and how AR integrations are finally a tangible reality for brands.

GeoMarketing: At Mindshare, you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about artificial intelligence. Did you see this trend in evidence at CES?

Devon MacDonald: The proliferation of artificial intelligence, built into the connected home, robotics, and transport, is definitely a trend that made a lot of progress in its application for consumers this year. For Mindshare and our clients, the bar is being continually raised for consumer expectations in the level of intuitive service and response that is available to them; people are always looking for things that are faster, easier, safer, and just more frictionless. AI can help us deliver that.

As marketers, this means an even more agile approach to ensure that both our customer experience and brand design are being elevated to lead our categories to delight our consumers. As we lean in on the intelligence of AI, we have to make sure we don’t lose sight of brand storytelling and the emotion behind it as well.

‘Cool tech’ abounds at CES, but what do marketers actually need to think about implementing now? Is it AI? Something else?

The advancements in augmented reality really stand out to me. While the basic premise hasn’t changed, AR’s integration as native applications and the ease of bringing them to market make this medium much more tangible for brands, particularly with the ease of access for consumers.

Previous iterations showed lots of promise, but little in the way of feasibility as consumers had to use a separate device or application in order to engage with the brand through AR. But brands can implement this technology today to differentiate from functional benefits in any category.

Mindshare did a study in partnership with JWT in 2017 indicating the relative “cognitive ease” of voice-first platforms. Where are with voice adoption — and what do you think marketers need to know? 

 Being voice-first requires an understanding of not only how the consumer thinks and acts, but how the platforms serve recommendations. Brands with household names have an advantage as consumers already ask for them by name. Take Kleenex, for example – you wouldn’t ask Alexa to just buy you some tissues. The reason this is critical is that products served in a shopping aisle are served as a visual array, where all are shown equally. In the voice-first world, brands are served up linearly. And if you aren’t the first or second choice, you are in trouble.

As voice search starts to play an even bigger role in commerce, consumers will be more likely to simply buy the first or second product that comes up in their search – and then those same products will come up again when they re-order. Brands need to prepare for the onset of what we call incidental loyalty. In the marketing and messaging mix then this means focusing more on higher level brand activity and lower level conversion tactics versus some of the mid-level activities to win with voice.

How have you put this into practice with your brand clients in helping them build a voice strategy? 

Well, before we get to voice, our recent work with Ben & Jerry’s On-Demand Ice Cream enabled consumers to order ice cream for fast delivery through a chatbot on Facebook Messenger. This played to a simple consumer need from college students but leveraged the technology in a way that made it a very differentiated experience; the chatbot became the number one retail location without stealing share from any of our retail partners. The trend toward this type of commerce [is significant].

And then for voice: I can’t go into exact specifics due to confidentiality, but voice-based shopping and the role of audio in a brand’s overall consumer experience is an area where we’re working on some very exciting programs as we speak. Mindshare was actually the first global media agency to become accredited for developing apps on the Google Assistant, as well one of the first agencies to be named a preferred resource for Amazon’s Alexa Agencies & Tools site.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of GeoMarketing.com. A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.