AI in Consumer Culture and Content Marketing
Anything that has an element of futuristic possibilities captures the imagination of the media and consumers alike. Artificial Intelligence or AI being no different. Though it is considered as the next big ‘industrial revolution’, AI, relatively, is still
in its nascency. Which gives media, marketers, venture capitalists and companies the freedom to interpret AI in the way and manner they please. As a representative of an acclaimed global business rightly puts it – “The hype doesn’t help here. Famous
personalities make statements in the press about what AI can do, in the next 5 – 10 years…this is overblown by them and the media which creates a perfect storm of low understanding.”
AI – A Consumer Focussed Perspective
So what really is AI and what is its impact on consumer behaviour? To understand this, we first need to distil out a concise definition of AI. Accenture broadly defines AI as – “a collection of advanced technologies that allow machines to sense, comprehend,
act and learn.” That in itself sums up the tremendous range and potential of AI across multiple consumer-based applications.
When it comes to consumer marketing, AI has the potential to deliver a wide range of consumer benefits, some of which are experienced directly, others hidden and operating in the background. AI can be used to reduce service costs and in turn the prices.
It can make services more easier and intuitive, enrich them with new features, make them a lot more relevant and personalised.
AI Classification Based On Consumer Experiences
In general, consumer focussed AI can be broadly classified into three key categories.
- The first category is the one in which a consumer comes directly in contact with AI through an enabled device. Like AI based personal assistants, chatbots, automatic text translators, and more. This is the category that offers the maximum room for
innovation in the future. From self-driven cars to AI based robotic companions, possibilities are virtually endless.
- The second category is where the AI works behind the scenes to provide better consumer experiences. Consumer doesn’t see or experience the AI first hand, but is benefitted from it in one way or the other. Like the ads, options served as recommendations
for ‘next purchase’ to a user based on his past purchase or search behaviour.
- The third category is where AI is being used to improve a service, again in the background. For example, AI based applications and technologies being used in the manufacturing sector. To reduce production costs, improve quality of products, cut costs
further in any way possible. These benefits are transferred to the consumer as lower prices and improved quality.While the above serves as a broad classification of consumer focussed AI, what is important is to gauge the impact of these AI enabled experiences on consumers. How these experiences shape their purchase decisions and behaviours.
AI ‘Improves’ Consumer Experiences
Consumer focussed AI services enhance or upgrade their users’ experiences by giving them more independence, motivation and simulation. Like when they discover new music and films, or how fitness trackers help them maintain a healthy lifestyle. Or, how
customised maps help them travel with ease. Such services are perceived as helpful, exciting and a positive part of consumers’ lives.
An consumer quoted in Consumer Internationals’ 2019 research report beautifully sums this up: “I was surfing Carat Lane for some jewellery then Bluestone came up with pop-ups on my Facebook. AI was responding to my requirement!… I don’t think advertising
is excessive, we enjoy this window shopping also. I like it!”
AI Helps Keep Up With Social Trends
Often, social approval plays a big role, at least in parts, in adoption of AI enabled services. The need to have a smart TV to watch Netflix on it, like other friends do. Sharing running mileage on Facebook to come across as a tech-enabled fitness enthusiast
within the community. And many such instances elucidate the need to ‘keep up’ with the social trends that often compels consumers to adopt AI enabled services.
AI Offers A Sense Of Control
There’s a sense of control and clarity that consumers associate with AI enabled services. These services let them take full control, based on their choice, without anything being forced upon them. A consumer’s online shopping experience being the perfect
example. Everything is available to him based on his purchase behaviour. He is free to ‘consider’ those recommendations or ignore them.
Downsides To AI
However, there are downsides to this as well. Consumers also feel that AI enabled services make everything look too perfect, without any scope of ‘trial by error’. Gone are the days where one would casually purchase something and see if it works for him
or not. In the AI enabled shopping universe, everything is perfect. One gets to see the ratings and reviews of a product, a list of recommendations is served based on purchase behaviour. In other words, the scope to go wrong has been almost nullified.
Compulsive over-shopping, too much screen-time, influence or ‘personalised advertising’ on kids, less of ‘real contact’ and dependence on on-line search and suggestions are some common negatives of AI that affect consumer behaviour.
To sum it all up, with more benefits and the potential to make purchase decisions relatively easier for the consumers, AI is here to stay. Over the years, it will grow more intuitive, more accommodating and will become an indelible part of consumer based