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How Voice controlled AI could produce the richest companies ever

The self-driving car drops Pooja at her home and then leaves for its scheduled service at the car service station . It would be back in time to take her to the airport the next morning. On the way into her house, Pooja gathers the drone deliveries from her drop box .The familiar voice of Steve, a next-generation smart assistant like Alexa, greets her and reminds her of the travel plans for her upcoming seminar in Mumbai. Pooja has not  bothered to spend her time learning the details of her travel, since Steve has taken care of everything. This includes finding the best flight(best suited to Pooja’s preferences), a convenient seat, and the hotel room all that would be within her company’s expense policy

She unpacks her groceries. Pooja notes that Steve has adjusted her weekly purchases, by leaving out perishables and adding travel-size toiletries . Noting that Pooja was running low on soaps and tooth paste , the bot has already got some more but this time switched to an alternate brand, it is less expensive but with better reviews . And, knowing that Pooja would be too tired to cook, it has arranged for Zomato  to deliver her dinner and scheduled to arrive at the time of her return

 Pooja relies on Steve for similar help with her banking and other financial products as well

Pooja cannot imagine her life without Steve. She now relies on her digital assistant  to make several decisions that not only gives her time to focus on other important tasks but also saves her money in several cases. It has also introduced her to new products and services she didn’t even know she wanted.

Does this scenario sound like a scene from the latest sci-fi movie or is it the latest Rajinikanth movie? No, it is soon going to be a reality: All the technologies that Pooja uses to interact with her AI world are either currently in development or already available. Amazon, Google, and other tech giants have launched artificial intelligence platforms with amazingly skilled digital assistants. While none have yet attained Steve’s impeccable capabilities, that is goal plan they are working towards —and it’s just a matter of time before they get there. All these companies are working towards making machine learning accessible to even AI novices

A chatbot – a chat robot  is a computer program that simulates human conversation. It could be a text communication or voice based It has been helpful to influence a customer relationship by responding to requests faster and at the same time meeting expectations.

With the potential for delivering instant responses around the clock, chatbots can also help  customer support teams to efficiently utilize their time and emotional intelligence to more complex issues.

One of the earliest examples of a chatbot was called ELIZA built by MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum in the mid-1960s to simulate a psychotherapist. ELIZA was programmed to respond to a user’s typed questions with simple pre-programmed replies, based on a script.

As technology developed, in the early 2000 chatbot model called Smarter Child was built . It  was offered as part of the desktop version of AOL Instant Messenger. Smarter Child was a basic digital assistant, and provided simple requested information like movie showtimes and weather reports.

Companies have incorporated more sophisticated techniques to enable chatbots to better understand people’s queries and concerns and in turn provide more helpful responses.

The ones who are able to command supremacy  in the AI cloud will become the most powerful companies in history.

It is amazing to note the fact that it is not just Amazon, Google or  Microsoft that are pursuing dominance. Chinese firms Alibaba and Baidu are becoming major forces too. Some major software companies including Oracle and SAP are incorporating machine learning into their apps. Thousands of start-ups have ambitions to become tomorrow’s AI leaders.

Over the next few interesting years, as these firms and others battle  to establish the preferred consumer AI platform in the market, the smart assistants will transform how companies connect with their customers. They’ll become the most significant channel through which people get information, goods, and services, and marketing will turn into a battle for their attention.

Consumers are bombarded with choices in today’s market. Ultimately their decision will soon be decided by their AI assistants. Every year people buy from thousands of product categories, deciding among  several  options in each. Both routine and non routine  purchases can be time-consuming as it often requires sorting through many competing offers . While shopping for dresses may be fun, picking the right soap bar from more than 200 products is quite a bother.  Choosing the wrong tennis shoes can ruin your game, and buying a non-competitive cell phone plan or insurance policy can be expensive

Consumers’ loyalty will shift from trusted brands to a trusted AI assistant.

Marketers’ current obsession with creating an omnichannel customer experience will fade as AI platforms will become a powerful marketing medium, sales and distribution channel, and fulfilment and service centre—all rolled into one.

As a major means of communicating with consumers, and the huge reams of data about their habits, preferences, and consumption, the platforms will have a lot of influence over prices and promotions and the consumer relationship itself.

In fact, it is evident  that AI assistants will win consumers’ trust and loyalty better than any previous marketing technology. We therefore expect the focus of many brands to shift from reinforcing direct relationships with consumers to optimizing their positions on AI platforms.

These changes brought about by AI platforms will have an impact  on all  levels of customer journey: customer acquisition, satisfaction, and retention.

Acquisition.

Consumer data is already being utilized by firms  to create highly targeted marketing. Customer acquisition has become highly efficient . But even today marketing strategies are  far from perfect. Ads continue to be directed at consumers who are not the target audience and don’t reach the people who may be interested . Even when an ad does find the right audience, its message is often not serving the purpose and is limited by the consumers’ cognitive ability. People usually  remember only the content of the ad that interest them (for example, the emotion/humour/message) but not the product’s name or the brand promise.

These issues will become irrelevant soon, when the main target of the billions of marketing budget will shift from forgetful, biased consumers to AI platforms that retain every last bit of information. These smart platforms will analyse the data, taking into account products’ pricing, characteristics, past performance, and reviews along with  the consumers’ preferences and past behaviour. Customer acquisition will become even more of an intelligent automation and will focus on a single channel-The AI platform rather than on multiple channels.

Though Amazon says it has no plans to add advertising to Alexa, CNBC has reported that the company is talking with several consumer goods firms about promoting their products on the platform.

Satisfaction

Traditional market research will soon become outdated and inefficient altogether by the intelligent data about consumers’ actual behaviour

Soon we will be able to find that  AI assistants will be able to satisfy consumers’ needs better than the consumers themselves can

Retention.

It is often assumed in marketing strategies that repeat purchases indicate customer satisfaction and are is a sign of guaranteed brand loyalty. But the reality is far from that as many customers keep buying a product not because they are loyal to the brand  but because they are too busy to explore alternatives if a particular brand is performing adequately. As it is normally observed that in day to day life, most people have better things to do than evaluate the ingredients of laundry detergents. An AI assistant, however, does not think like us humans. It can regularly assess all brands in any relevant category, whether laptops or soaps, and regularly recommends a new one that might serve the consumer’s preferences better. Some people may even like to change some regular  things  just to break the monotony—so their smart assistants, being aware of that, will periodically recommend new products they might like to try

Research shows that in organizations already using AI chatbots, 78% of them  say their teams have seen reduced call and email volume. Also incorporating AI chatbots offers enormous potential when it comes to offering personalized customer experiences. That’s because the ability of the chatbots to deliver personalization have become more pronounced as they get to know customers’ preferences and behaviours

Imagine you check into a hotel . This is your second time , you are a returning customer.  The hotel’s voice assistant greets you with a warm welcome. Soon she alerts you that the room temperature has already been set to your preferred temperature, your favourite music uploaded, and the TV tuned to your most-watched channel.

CONCLUSION

Every brand can expect AI platforms to radically alter their relationships with customers

Though the marketplace will be more efficient, companies will encounter intense pressure to offer consumers the best deal—the one most closely aligned with the preferences of  the smart assistants

Over the past, consumer goods companies, used to maximizing economies of scale  have zeroed in on one strategic question: How much more of our products can we sell? AI platforms will present a very different opportunity for these firms ; to maximize the depth of the relationship with the consumer by offering a wide range of products—in other words, shifting towards economies of scope. Investments will be focused towards  building trust with consumers and their AI assistants . The strategic questions that need to be addressed would be “What else does this buyer need?

Human involvement in developing  marketing strategies  will still remain as firms will need to  acquire, satisfy, and retain consumers in the AI world too—but it will not be the same ever again.

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