The sci-fi future of customer engagement

Steven Spielberg’s ‘Minority Report’ first hit the silver screen in 2002. Loosely based on a Philip K. Dick short story, it is often referenced at industry conferences as an example of what’s possible when technology and marketing intersect.

In one particular scene, Tom Cruise’s character is walking through a mall, his retina is scanned then surrounding billboards start pushing contextual adverts to him, ‘John Anderton! You could use a Guinness right now. John Anderton! You could use a trip to the Maldives next week!’ 17 years have passed since ‘Minority Report’ was released and brand to customer interactions based on contextual and personalised recommendations are here right now.

However, there is a fine tipping point and businesses must evaluate at what point does it get creepy? Psychologist Michal Kosinski and his team of researchers proved that based on 68 Facebook ‘likes’ by a user, it was possible to predict their sexual orientation, skin colour and whether they were more likely to vote Republican or Democratic in an election.

>See also: Artificial intelligence is key to the customer journey

From ‘liking’ certain pages and posts, users are inadvertently giving up information. Marketers must understand that the information they gather must provide mutual value. It’s a quid pro quo.

Customers are happy to part way with personal information if they receive something in return. If not, it becomes creepy and detrimental to the customer relationship.

The disruptive force of artificial intelligence

In the realms of sci-fi, artificial intelligence is often depicted as malevolent. Think Skynet from Terminator or Roy Batty from Blade Runner (interestingly, another Philip K. Dick adaptation). It’s all focused on what happens when the programming breaks down and the asset goes rogue.

However, reality is a stark contrast. Artificial intelligence shouldn’t give businesses reason to fear. Instead, they should consider how to embrace the technology, or risk being left in the wake of digital disruptors. IDC predicts that by 2018, one third of the top twenty in every industry will be disrupted by digitally transformed competitors.

Disruption comes in many shapes and sizes. In the origins of CRM it was the call centre that was disrupting traditional business. Then it was the Internet and cloud computing. We’re now on the cusp of a technological revolution with artificial intelligence leading the charge.

Every channel is a service channel

Where does Science Fiction and artificial intelligence manifest itself as fact, in terms of customer engagement? Businesses today have the power, technology and most importantly, the intelligence.

>See also: Artificial intelligence: how it’s transforming financial services today

Intelligence has to be behind every channel which is where artificial intelligence and machine learning comes to the fore. Intelligent tracking capabilities exist to capture what users are doing and to identify them.

Businesses are able to build an anonymous profile of a customer through digital engagement and map that profile to other customers who follow similar patterns. Those patterns of behaviour are what’s picked up by machine learning and the intelligent algorithms that drive the AI that promotes the response.

The onus is now on businesses to use AI as a tool to respond to customers in real time. When a business can create context, it can serve the customer more affectively.

By analysing data in real-time, a business knows what the customer purchased, as well as what they abandoned. By creating a rich context, a business can deliver a great experience. When a business delivers great experiences, it can transform the engagement it has with customers.

In today’s digital world, a plethora of information is available via forums and word of mouth. The majority of the buyer’s journey is complete before a customer even reaches out to a supplier.

>See also: AI: an untapped technology for UK businesses

The product or service provider is no longer viewed as a trusted advisor and, to capitalise on the window of opportunity when a customer does make contact, businesses need to provide a valuable and consistent experience across every touchpoint.

This is the age of the individual and the key to surviving and thriving is to deliver personalised engagement and interaction, making the offering relevant to the customer.

More importantly, the tools, products and intelligence needed to lead this transformation are readily available. It’s no longer the stuff of sci-fi or fantasy, businesses can do it right now. Those who are ready to move ahead and embrace the technology will better serve their customers, and therefore succeed.


Sourced by Jamie Anderson, CMO, SAP Hybris

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...