With the rise of nonhuman intermediaries — recommendation engines, e-commerce sites, mobile apps, wearables, smart speakers and other artificial intelligence (AI)-powered systems — consumer power has reached new heights. The machine-learning algorithms behind these systems are augmenting consumers with new levels of intelligence, serving up information, endorsements, guidance, suggestions and even autonomous purchase decisions.
Consumers seem happy with their augmented capabilities. Our recent research reveals that they’re more likely to trust the intelligent algorithms behind voice-based personal assistants and other machine intelligence-driven systems than the information provided directly by businesses. (To learn more about our research, including the methodology, see the link below.) Not only do these intelligent systems fulfill consumers’ desire for information, but they also imbue them with feelings of freedom, efficiency and creativity.
These changing dynamics are forcing businesses to rethink their approach to brand stature. What’s the meaning of a brand when consumers (nearly half in our study) don’t care whether the brands they use today are around tomorrow? When two-fifths would buy a brand they’d never heard of if it was recommended by Siri, Alexa or Hey Google?
Businesses must address this fresh challenge of influencing not only AI-augmented customers but also the apps, intelligent assistants and recommendation engines they use. We collected consumers’ attitudes toward brand trust and mapped their preferences to online attributes. We then grouped our findings and recommendations into a framework delineating the elements that businesses must emphasize to win the customer of the future, which we’ll call the three Rs:
The more businesses align their brand objectives, priorities and budgets around these Rs, the greater the chance they’ll be seen favorably by machine-generated recommendations and the human consumers who trust them.
Brand reputation, the perception that consumers have about your brand, can be swayed by many online attributes, including how easily consumers can obtain information; buy a product or service; or find ratings and reviews. Only 47% of our respondents felt that businesses made it easy to assess their brand value. When AI-augmented customers or the algorithms they rely on find it difficult to assess brand value online, they move on. The following approaches can help consumers assess your brand’s value:
AI-augmented consumers value brands that know them well, anticipate their future needs, and deliver the right product at the right place at the right time. Nearly 60% of respondents say they feel a bond with brands that help them save time and money and make their life incrementally easier, more enjoyable and more productive. This, however, is where traditional businesses miss the mark. While nearly 70% of respondents say that a customized personal experience is important, only half are satisfied with their actual experiences. Here’s how you can address that:
More than half of our respondents rated businesses’ online content as lackluster and promotional. Today’s consumers are already overloaded with information online. If you bombard them with unwanted messages and blatantly ask for likes, comments and shares, then your brand may be de-ranked by social media platforms, review sites and e-commerce marketplaces.
We recommend that businesses craft their content around four principles, collectively dubbed READ for Relevance, Engagement, Accuracy and Design. Using READ as a foundation, brands can do the following:
We are on the cusp of a new era. Changes in how we understand customers are coming at an unprecedented scale, with intelligent machines playing a massive role by augmenting humans with the information they need. Your brand can’t afford to sit on the sidelines.
To learn more, read our white paper, “Algorithms Over Brands: How to Reach Today’s and Tomorrow’s AI-Augmented Customer,” visit our Center for the Future of Work, or contact us.