You don’t have to think back very far to remember the time when disruptive start-ups and forward thinking businesses were championing a “digital first” strategy. Digital technology had been adopted by mainstream consumers and companies that failed to recognise it were being left behind.
More recently, that slogan has been replaced for many businesses by a new one, “mobile first,” and is not difficult to understand why. Today’s consumers are constantly on their mobile.
We use our mobiles on the train, while watching television, in bed and even while we are walking around real shops. Wherever we go, our mobile is our first, and for some their only, screen in our life.
Digital world changing rapidly
The sales figures from some of the world’s top retailers also reflect the shift from shopping on a computer to a mobile. Today, half of the revenues of leading e-commerce site Zalando come from a mobile device.
And it is not just shopping – almost half of the content streamed by Netflix happens on a mobile device. The reality is, if you’re not thinking mobile first today, you are 5 years behind the real world.
However, the digital world moves so quickly that we don’t have to look far into the future to see the next evolution coming. In just a few years’ time, the mantra that the most exciting start-ups will be pushing in their pitches won’t be “mobile first,” but “artificial intelligence first.”
In the last year, the biggest technology companies in the world already made the switch towards AI first. For the likes of Google, Microsoft, Facebook and several others, Artificial Intelligence is not the future, it’s today’s reality.
What does ‘Artificial Intelligence’ mean for your business?
For many people, the whole idea of artificial intelligence still feels a bit science fiction. The world’s pioneering technology companies may be able to invest huge amounts of money into its development, but how could it impact the operations of ‘ordinary’ SMEs across the world.
Well there are actually several fields where AI could soon play a big role in your own business, both in the back office and the front office.
It presents particularly exciting possibilities in the field customer experience, and I think that some of the first really interesting applications of AI will be in this area. For example, just consider these three ideas:
- Artificial Intelligence will automate customer service, at both the front end AND the back end
- It will make sure companies are available to their customers 24/7
- It will constantly process and analyse data to personalise the experience for every individual customer
Keeping up with the leaders
While it may be the online giants that lead the way in the application of artificial intelligence, it doesn’t take long for this to shift consumer expectations. The reality is that, once customers have come to expect a level of service and accessibility, if your business does not match up then many customers will go elsewhere.
Consumers are less loyal than ever before. They now literally have a world of choice at their fingertips so they will always pick the brand or company that is available when they want, wherever they want.
One way to overcome the problem of decreasing customer loyalty is to optimise what you offer to them according to their personal preferences. Treating each customer as an individual can make them really love your brand, as demonstrated by Amazon or Netflix.
These online giants analyse previous behaviour and purchases and intelligently recommend similar products or shows. This is called ‘algorithm based decision making’ and it has already become a game changer.
Application of AI goes beyond entertainment
The practical application of artificial intelligence goes much further than just shopping and entertainment. The likes of Amazon have introduced us all to algorithm based decision making, but it is also starting to make an impact in other fields of society that could make a huge difference.
When we look at healthcare, we see the same inclination: the more data we can use to understand our health, the more algorithms we receive that deliver predictions, the more the decisions we make on our personal health are influenced.
For example, there was a health story that hit the headlines a couple of years ago with Angelina Jolie. Apparently, she discovered that she had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer later in life, which caused her to take the decision to undergo pre-emptive surgery.
Now this is obviously a very sensitive topic, but it demonstrates an extreme example of how algorithm based decision making will influence the choices we all make in life.
The extra layer that gives you the edge
While it is not necessarily crucial that every business jumps on the AI band wagon right now, it is important to keep an eye on the technological developments that are on the horizon. If you fail to plan for the future you will miss out on a lot of opportunities.
Without AI it will become harder and harder to meet up with the expectations of customers. Artificial intelligence won’t take over the human aspect of costumer services, but it definitely will add a powerful layer to it that will increase customer experience significantly.
Now is the time to start thinking about how your company will create strong customer relations in an AI first world.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Prof. Steven Van Belleghem, an expert in customer focus in the digital world, and author of the award-winning book When Digital Becomes Human, published by Kogan Page, priced £19.99. Subscribe to his videos at www.youtube.com/stevenvanbelleghem or visit StevenvanBelleghem.com
Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is a regular contributor to ByteStart, other thought-provoking articles he’s written include;