At the weekend I suddenly came to the realisation that I hadn’t physically switched a light on in my house in months. Due to the fact, my whole house is controlled through the super helpful, always willing, Alexa. It started to make me think that perhaps this is how the future looks, touchless and all the ‘mundane’ tasks controlled by our voices, or even spookier – our brainwaves!
Majority of the TV I’m watching is also based around this utopian ideal of humans finally accepting machines into every aspect of our lives. Programs like Black Mirror, although sometimes a little dystopian in its predictions, have jested at purchasing your ultimate ‘Best Friend’, Ashley Too (se5, ep 3). Years and Years on BBC 1 showcased all the characters interacting heavily on a virtual assistant called ‘Signor’ to communicate and completes tasks with. I’ve also seen AI explored further in the film I Am Mother (Netflix) where a human has been raised by machines with no other human contact and how this affects human existence. All these ideas make us feel apprehensive, but also imperturbable at the same time, to all these changes coming our way.
Artificial Intelligence isn’t a new concept, but when humankind first imagined it, they perhaps didn’t realise that it would become a reality quite as quick as it has done. Within 100 years we have almost completely changed the way we work, live, commute and consume. This rapid hurtling through technological advances has led us to reach the rim of the next colossal change in human existence. By creating machines that think for themselves we sever to make our lives easier but at the same time, will the machines revolt and surpass us – duh duh duuuhhhhh!
So, what changes are we already seeing within the world of Retail and Hospitality which are delivering a futuristic experience within our favourite brands? Well, voice-controlled purchases for a start. Through Alexa, members can purchase products from their marketplace and the full process is fully voice-controlled and can be tracked at any stage of the process. You can even order a takeaway using the JustEat function, cool right?!
AI can influence the way we shop and interact with products. The makeup counter at Sephora is a great example of an enhanced experience. The company offers an augmented reality mirror shopping experience where customers can colour test and receive recommended products before they make a final purchase. We are seeing cosmetic brands moving towards this augmented reality as is effectiveness creates a much more immersive shopping experience. This technology allows for consumer interaction, not solely accessing information, but triggering a discovery of new products and instilling purchasing confidence.
Another great example of the power of AI technology enhancing the user experience is in LoweBot which has been installed into American home improvement retail company Lowe’s. This bot acts as an autonomous virtual assistant to support consumers within their stores. The LoweBot is a tool whereby consumers can effectively navigate the store by using simple voice commands and questions, the Bot understands and helps where it can. The idea is to then free up the employee’s time to then deliver a much more specialist knowledge experience for other consumers. It also supports inventory monitoring in real-time to support the day to day running of the store. This cross human-cyber interaction is going to become more prevalent within our day to day activities.
As well as delivering heightened customer service, AI can also be useful regarding learning our behaviours and preferences. This can be a vital tool which can influence how the marketing team approach their tasks. When it comes to visiting your favourite store there are now learning systems in place that provide us with relevant items for us and reduce the time, we waste in looking at products that are of no interest.
For example, in North Face, there is now a conversational interface which wields different results depending on the user’s answers to a set of questions. The customer then gets a streamlined display of relevant products that fulfil the original brief. This streamlines the customer’s journey and thus results in a better overall experience. In the long run, North Face can also now run thousands of potential customer interactions to glean insights which can inform the company’s future endeavours and products. This is all valuable evidence that marketing teams can use to drive sales.
From beauty through to fashion and food, it’s inevitable that the future of consumerism is digital, and AI has proven itself as the most useful asset any company could adopt into their roster. From Marketing and Communication, Logistics, Search applications and Chatbots, adopting a further digital stance will give you the competitive edge.
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