Ask customers what they want (as IMRG and Adobe Commerce did) and the majority will say they want personalisation and AI in their online experiences, but what exactly does that mean?
As a consumer, I would dearly love the organisations I try to communicate with to give me a personalised service. But I yearn to speak to a real person, because I know that 99 times out of 100, the AI bot will not be able to answer my questions, deal with my problem, or tell me anything that I really want to know.
People don’t speak to chatbots to get the type of information that is freely available on the website, they connect because they have a problem to which they can’t find the answer. Chatbots are really not good at this because a programming human has to first anticipate what type of questions are likely to be asked, and if these humans manage to work out what it is you will want to know, they will put the answer on the website anyway. The big challenge, is to answer the unexpected, individual and the obscure.
For loyalty programs and its members, the issue is even more complex. IMRG says that 74.7% of customers are more, or somewhat more, loyal to brands that are strongly personalised to their interests, but try contacting them with a points query, or even an exchange, and the chatbot will likely frustrate. Yet again, the interaction will only be as good as the programming in the first place.
Searching, searching …….
The survey suggests that 42% of customers want live search that automatically ranks and filters the best products ( this was voted the most helpful personalisation feature by customers) but who decides which are the “best” products? Isn’t this just a way for companies to shift slow moving stock (like the message that warns “ten people already have this product in their baskets, and we only have nine, so hurry….”)
Chat Bot or ChatGPT?
Customers apparently would mostly feel sceptical (33.6%) if online retail chatbots became as advanced as Chat GPT, although anyone who has dabbled with Chat GPT knows that its answers are only as good as the content on the web, and this is often far from accurate. So the following comment from Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director at IMRG is pertinent: “The consistent thread that comes out of research such as this is that, generally speaking, how comfortable people are with AI correlates with the extent to which it enhances the quality of the experience they get. It follows, then, that the anxieties that people may have over how sophisticated and potentially intrusive technology is becoming can be managed by really focusing on the benefits it brings to them and by avoiding the trap of ‘doing AI’ for the sake of it, which many businesses seem sure to fall into.”
So the learning from this research is similar to that for any of the new technologies that have emerged over the last few years: If done well, there are potentially massive benefits, but be wary of rushing in, because you risk doing it badly. This will disenfranchise your customers, and potentially damage your bottom line.
International Loyalty Awards 2024
Interestingly, the International Loyalty Awards is creating a new category for 2024 for the Use of AI for Customer Loyalty, and is seeking a panel of AI experts to judge it. So if you are doing something impressive, consider entering, and if you believe you have the expertise to be a judge, then contact firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t miss next year’s list of Finalists, to see which companies are in the lead in terms of AI development in loyalty.