How AI and Data will Help CMOs Put Customers at the Forefront
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How AI and Data will Help CMOs Put Customers at the Forefront

By Jess O’Reilly, Regional Vice President, Marketing Cloud, Asia, Salesforce

CMOs looking to get ahead and stand out from competition need to be able to prescribe a hyper-personalized journey and experience for each of their customer–whether they have just 10 or 10 million. But how do they realistically scale customer experience to the millions?

AI and machine learning

This is where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning enter the picture. These technologies, as well as data and predictive analysis, will be a CMO’s best partner at work. Consumers have experienced AI-powered marketing done right – they now expect personalized experiences to be the baseline, not a bonus.

Today’s companies face a pressing mandate to create connected experiences, with seven in 10 customers across the world saying connected processes, such as seamless handoffs or contextualized engagement based on earlier interactions, are very important to winning their business.

In Asia, 52 percent of customers stop buying from a company because they get a better experience with a competitor. At the same time, 57 percent of Singaporean customers and 53 percent of those in Hong Kong said AI is transforming their expectations of companies.

"To successfully deliver the experience customers want, brands must start by addressing concerns and fears of consumers in exchange for customer trust and their willingness to provide data"

Driving real impact

CMOs are now in a prime position to advocate for and extend the use of marketing technologies beyond their own function within the company to drive real impact and business ROI. With AI image recognition embedded in software for sales, service and marketing, brands can go above and beyond to enhance customer experience.

With the region’s openness towards chatbots—three in five would consider using one—it opens up opportunities for brands to add value to their services and boost customer experience, particularly among millennials as a target audience who tend to be more tech-savvy. For instance, an airline’s AI-powered social media dashboard can pick up that a fallen tree is blocking the road to the airport, and immediately trigger notifications to inform all customers taking its flights that day.

In the case of retailers and e-commerce players, they can automatically identify the company logo on a complaint regarding a product that fell apart upon unboxing. The company can react immediately by triggering a service case and reaching out to the consumer, to potentially suggest issuing a replacement for free.

These technology-powered pre-emptive actions help prevent or turn negative experiences into positive ones by anticipating the needs of customers, helping brands understand, connect, and effectively react to their customers at different points of their customer journey.

The rise of voice in 2019

In Asia, voice assistants are the most popular choice of AI interaction among consumers and more than half of the respondents would actively choose to interact with one. In a world where Amazon Alexa and Google Voice make talking to our devices more commonplace, it makes sense to integrate voice and conversational technologies to provide a new level of customer service and increase retention.

For instance, a hotelier can create a connected experience with Apple’s Siri on their iPhone or Apple HomePod in the room. They can take it a step further, to fully integrate their cloud platforms with Siri such that it remembers all the preferences of each customer.

For customers, this means every subsequent visit to that hotel or other hotels under the same chain becomes more personalized since guest profiles and data from multiple touchpoints are being integrated and analyzed.

Consumers’ personalization paradox

To build and leverage a 360-degree view of customers and deliver personalized experiences mentioned, brands must collect and utilize data from both digital and physical touchpoints. However, 57 percent of customers are uncomfortable with how companies use their information, which means consumers will be less willing to share their data with brands.

Interestingly, despite lower awareness of AI applications like product recommendation engines, respondents indicate significantly higher consideration for its usage, compared to other applications. In fact, 79 percent of customers are willing to share relevant information about themselves in exchange for personalized product recommendations.

This is seemingly a personalization paradox – how can companies personalize customer experience if customers are unwilling to provide the requisite data to create it?

The key is trust

The key to collecting and using the treasure of customer data to deliver personalized experience lies with trust. Ninety-five percent of customers say trusting a company increases their loyalty, while 84 percent of customers in Singapore and 73 percent in Hong Kong also indicated the importance for companies to treat them as a person, not a number, to win their business.

Trust earns data, which earns the ability to personalize. This in turn earns customer loyalty. In essence, trust, personalized customer experience, and loyalty form a virtuous circle.

Companies can earn trust by providing control and being transparent with consumers, and 92 percent of customers are more likely to trust companies with their information if they have control over what information brands can collect about them.

Factors that help build consumer trust include:

• Educating customers about how their data helps to enable a better customer experience, explain how their different touchpoints with the brand can be personalized better and faster if they provide data

• Being transparent and straightforward about how the data collected will be used

• Informing customers that the brand is committed to protecting their information, backing this up through solid privacy policies and reassuring that their data will not be shared without permission

Conclusion

As we head into the new year, brands must recognize that data use and privacy should not be an all-or-nothing situation. Ultimately, the customer’s worldview is always stronger than what brands choose to tell.

To successfully deliver the experience customers want, brands must start by addressing concerns and fears of consumers in exchange for customer trust and their willingness to provide data.

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