The coming year promises to be an exciting one in the world of artificial intelligence.
AI-driven technology is developing exponentially, enabling brands to get consumer feedback on a massive scale, without having to invest a great deal of time and money on the research. While it may be difficult for marketers to keep up with AI’s speedy evolution, it’s also vital. No brand wants to be left behind as competitors use technology to gain a deeper understanding of their stakeholders. It’s important for marketers to understand how to leverage new technology that uses AI to gather honest, meaningful, actionable consumer insights.
This year we’ll see AI continue to help marketers deepen their engagement with consumers. New methods for data collection and obtaining thoughtful customer feedback, like online focus groups and surveys, are becoming much more efficient and effective, thanks to artificial intelligence. Since they aim to draw out the voice of the customer directly from the customers themselves, surveys and focus groups are a perfect entry point into consumers’ minds, provided they’re done right.
While surveys may be easy to implement, they have only offered one-way communication—that is from the survey-answerer to the survey-taker. There is no back and forth and no way for the person answering the survey questions to ask for clarification or bring up nuances and insights that might be valuable to the survey-taker. In addition, a researcher could never be certain that survey respondents were giving honest, thorough and thoughtful answers. The nature of surveys also tends to force respondents to place themselves in a perfectly defined box through predefined answers, when that is rarely the case.
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Some newer AI driven research tools use bots to lead a conversation with a group in real-time, while others encourage the use of a human moderator, so they can engage in conversation more naturally, and also change the course of the conversation depending on what topics arise from the participants. The beauty of live conversation is that it is dynamic—it changes on the spot and isn’t pre-programmed—something that hasn’t existed among traditional surveys, and focus groups has succeeded at but only at a smaller scale of 7-12 people. This highly engaging, dynamic approach gives brands consumer feedback that is more nuanced, thoughtful and accurate. For businesses that don’t want to spend the time or financial resources to organize in-person focus groups, these AI-technologies are a very efficient alternative. Among a range of exciting AI tools that can help brands upgrade the way they engage with consumers are SurveyGizmo and ZappiStore.
Second, we’ll see another very popular data-collection tool—“social listening”—get smarter and faster in 2019. Researchers and marketers have long monitored social media for data on consumer patterns and upcoming trends. In 2019, we’ll continue to see AI help researchers more strategically sort through this data and pinpoint insights. A Chicago-based restaurant company offering food services to major sports venues leveraged AI-driven social listening tools brilliantly. When an AI-powered analysis of the social media interactions of the city’s sports fans found a strong preference for fusion cuisine, the company modified its restaurant menus to meet this demand. Within half a season, the same locations exceeded the revenue made in the entire previous year! Two tools to watch in the “social listening” space are England’s Brandwatch and Santa Clara-based Netbase. Each tool helps marketers discover what people say about their brand in a meaningful way.
Another set of AI-driven technologies, predictive analytics tools, can help a brand predict what products and services consumers will soon demand. Sophisticated information technologies and advanced analytics unearth consumer insights that can be used to craft personalized offers and messaging. The tool to watch in this field is South Africa-based Xineoh, a platform that matches customers to the right products by using a combination of machine learning and AI to find patterns in historical consumer data and then applying the same patterns to analyze current data. The result is that small businesses now have the ability to precisely, speedily and affordably predict consumer behavior and offer curated customer recommendations, something giants like Amazon and Netflix have been doing for years. Other great predictive/intent analytics tools include Philadelphia’s Maroon.ai and San Francisco’s 6sense.
New AI-driven technologies for analyzing consumer data will continue to evolve throughout the coming year. Marketers who keep abreast of the most cutting-edge tools to gain consumer insights will gain a competitive advantage and stay ahead in online marketing.
Gary Ellis is co-founder and CEO of Remesh. He can be reached at [email protected].