AI will bring big changes to everyday commerce – and brands have a limited window in which to act to avoid becoming invisible to customers, says Professor Steven Van Belleghem.
It won’t be long until we have an always available, omnipresent AI platform for every consumer. This AI platform will help us with all our day-to-day choices – from education to mobility, to healthcare, even finding the love of your life.
The platform will track our use of everyday household products – food, beverages, cleaning and personal hygiene products. These are the kind of products we go to the store to buy every single month; a majority of these regular purchases could easily be outsourced to an algorithm, meaning you can simply have a subscription to your everyday products.
Imagine: these items will come to your house in an automated way, just like the way we have come to take electricity and the internet for granted. You won’t have to worry about it, it just happens – the algorithm will know what you want, and when you need it.
In terms of customer journey, this will create a fantastic, effortless service that can be scaled to reach many, many people. But for businesses, it will also completely revolutionise the way they brand and market their products.
The world of automated commerce
As technology touches more and more areas of our lives, we are inevitably moving into a world of automated commerce. We’re already outsourcing many of the decisions we make to technology, so handing over decision-making for purchases to a machine is a logical next step. The day that happens, brands will be split into three categories.
1. Very strong brand
If you’re a brand manager, this is the best category to fall into. These are the brands that consumers will specifically ask for because they have a strong emotional connection to them. For example, each time an individual consumer is out of toothpaste they might specifically tell the AI ‘I want you to buy Colgate’.
2. Filtered-IN brands
Other brands will find themselves in a situation where consumers are not actively asking for them, but machines will recommend their products because they have strong value – it’s a good product with great quality and price. It’s a product that people appreciate, so it has built up a number of positive reviews from similar users online, and it will therefore get through the AI filter to the consumer. This is the second-best situation for brands to end up in, although it means the real strength is in the product, rather than the brand.
3. Filtered-OUT brands
There will also be a group of brands who will soon be filtered-OUT, simply because they don’t add enough value to the life of a consumer. It could be that their price isn’t competitive or the product quality just isn’t good enough, but these brands will find their route to customers is cut off by a machine.
In the past, marketers could use mass advertising to get through any “filters” and reach customers, but today it is getting increasingly difficult to do this through traditional advertising. With increasing transparency, the only real way to get through the filters will be by delivering a high-quality product or by being a well-loved brand that people ask for.
There is currently a window of opportunity to secure that level of branding that will spark an emotional connection so that customers specifically ask for your brand. Realistically, I estimate brands have around 3-7 years to position themselves in one of these top layers and make sure they are not filtered out. But if they fail to do this, there is a big chance they will disappear behind the filter in the next phase of AI.
Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is an expert in customer focus in the digital world. He’s is an award-winning author, and his new book Customers The Day After Tomorrow is out now. Follow him on Twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at www.youtube.com/stevenvanbelleghem or visit www.stevenvanbelleghem.com.