April 28, 2016 | Written by: vikram mohan
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The bedrock of an effective and impactful marketing strategy continues to remain a granular understanding of end customers. Marketers have leveraged various research and analytical techniques to understand every facet of their customers – who are they, what they buy, which channels they prefer and how they respond to changes in prices and promotions. Organizations that are able to harness the digital footprint of customers from fast growing channels such as mobile will be able to increase sales and customer retention, while also reducing marketing costs.
To achieve this, marketers need to adopt cognitive technologies such as IBM Watson, which build knowledge, learn, reason and interact more naturally with human beings than traditional programmable systems. Organizations that are able to take this huge leap forward into the cognitive era would be able to deliver a curated experience that anticipates & responds to consumer behaviors, needs, wants, and desires in real time. Companies that do not invest and develop such capabilities may ultimately be rendered irrelevant by their customers.
Mobile devices have emerged as a great force multiplier in the quest to gain insights and foresight on every unique consumer. Customers’ mobile behavior, the types of devices they use, location data, app preferences, types of messaging they tend to respond to provides critical insights into ways marketers can personalize the brand experience and create a rich, compelling and engaging experience. Marketers are ensuring that the business is investing in the right set of mobile-focused technologies to facilitate how consumers wish to interact and transact in a mobile-first world.
Hence, brands are providing a range of technology options from augmented reality (AR), Personal digital assistants (PDAs), near field communications (NFC) to QR codes to enable end consumers to manage and use their credit, debit and loyalty cards via a mobile wallet.
The underlying trend as a result of the increasing proliferation and adoption of such technology is that consumers are gradually “outsourcing” the entire purchase decision cycle to these sophisticated gadgets. The new influencers and decision makers are not you and I in the true sense, but the personal digital assistants that are making the recommendations for a particular brand and executing the purchase on our behalf. This has led to the emergence of an entirely new target audience for brands.
Take the rise of the robot-based personal digital assistant, virtual private assistants akin to Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Hike’s Natasha (see Figure 1) An example of this new target audience is the Pepper robot built by Japanese companies Alderbaran and Softbank. The interesting aspect of this companion robot is that while it acts as a personal digital assistant and recommends products by connecting to the Internet in response to its owner-operator’ s queries, it also asks questions and senses how she is feeling by recognizing and interpreting facial expressions and body language.
If it senses its user is sad, it may suggest retail therapy to cheer her up and beam a hologram of a new dress and stiletto from your favorite brand. Let us consider another scenario in which the robot based PDA during the course of its morning salutation and interaction realizes that its owner –operator is not feeling well. It immediately activates the health app on her mobile phone which receives a signal from an ingestible sensor in the owner- operators’ stomach and indicates that her insulin level is low.
The robot identifies the specialized medical establishment which would be closest to that location, communicates with the facility and arranges for a medico to administer an insulin injection at her home in the next 10 minutes. The point to note here is that the purchase stimulus and the buying decision for both the activities was initiated by the PDA robot on behalf of the consumer. If we go by the fact that the first batch of these 1000 robots was sold out in a minute and the degree of influence that they will have on human actions, it is time that marketers started targeting them.
As explained in the above examples, the role of the consumer in initiating the need, analyzing the consideration set and finally making the purchase was minimal. The selected brand or service provider was decided by the robot. In the coming years, we would see an increased adoption and proliferation of such PDA robots, and hence it is imperative for marketers to adopt a cognitive strategy aimed at influencing this new audience segment.
However, the dynamics of implementing such a strategy would be vastly different from the traditional methods. It would require a new age digital enterprise which has competencies across cutting edge technology, intelligent analytics, digital sensors, robotics and creative ideation. This presents a golden opportunity for both marketers and new age digital agencies to take the first mover advantage and create a highly influential captive audience base. Organizations could either build these capabilities internally or alternatively forge partnerships with niche new age digital agencies. In the future, marketers will rely very heavily on their capabilities to influence and target the PDA robots to get a bigger bang for their buck. Hence it is imperative for organizations to start building capabilities in this niche area with a single minded focus on this new target audience.
Across a variety of industries and roles, IBM Watson has the products to help turn your business cognitive. Discover IBM Watson today.