News & Analysis

How Can Brands Use AI to Augment Customer Engagement

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Abhinav Jain

Some time ago on a market trip to a village in Rajasthan, I happen to meet 75-year old person BaburamJi, who was listening to something like news on his smart feature phone speaker. Curiously, I asked him how he found to listen to the news on the phone. To my surprise he explained that he had bought this phone for 1100 INRs with 6-month internet free from a phone-shop and the same phone-shop guy got him enrolled under some government scheme where Baburam got 1000 INRs back, so he thinks that he got this phone only for 100 INRs. The shopper also explained BaburamJi how to use the inbuilt voice assistant in Hindi to discover content over the internet. So, how does he find the latest news? He opens the voice assistant and says “मैडम जी आज की ताज़ा खबर सुना दो” (Ma’am tell me the latest news of today) and is presented with hundreds of videos on the screen that he plays as per his choice. Now thats the “New Bharat”!

India with 1 billion active mobile phone users is one of the largest markets for brands to run experiments, create engagements and eventually turn these engagements to revenue streams. But here is the catch – out of these 1 billion mobile phone users only 50-60% use the smartphone and the rest are still on a feature phone or smart feature phone. So how can the brands engage with these 1BN mobile phone users seamlessly? I call it Last-Mile Digital – A balanced amalgamation of digital and technology to create engaging experiences with the last mile customer powered by hyper-local content, regardless of the type of phone they are using, whether it is a smartphone or feature phone. And Artificial intelligence is one of the key forces leading this paradigm shift.

Artificial intelligence is playing a very important role in engaging the customers and converting them effectively. We are surrounded by the applications that are using artificial intelligence in one way or another to help us ease our means of living and doing business. From voice-based search to smart glasses, driverless vehicles to biometric identifications, face recognition to virtual assistants, artificial intelligence is powering brands to engage with customers directly or indirectly.

Here are my top 4 Artificial intelligence based recommendations for brands to leverage and engage with over a Billion people seamlessly:

  1. AI powered Voice Tech – Google reports that currently more than 20 per cent of search queries in India are already done using voice. They expect by 2020, 50 per cent of all global searches will be voice searches. Important to note, India is seeing a 270% YOY growth in voice searches. And the reason is obvious; people prefer voice over typing. Creating voice-based engagements is a very effective way for brands to connect with customers instantly in their own language. Last year around the cricket world cup “Boost” launched ‘Exams are On’ campaign with Kohli, Dhoni with creating a platform to share exam tips and tricks with their brand ambassadors. Within a span of 4 weeks, over 25,000 ideas and wishes have poured in for the cricket stars. All with simple and interactive kiosk and artificial intelligence powered voice tech on missed calls.
  2. Personalized Gamification – Recently released report ‘Gaming – India Story’ forecasts growth rate of 32% for the gaming industry in India. Online gaming going skyrocket is a clear indication of the love that people have developed to enjoy games at their own comfort on their own device – mostly mobile phones. Now with artificial intelligence, gamification can be completely personalized and end-users can be made aware of the brand/product/features in a gamified and interactive manner. During Diwali last year, to engage with their customers, Airtel launched the Diwali Dhamaka gamified engagement program that became the talk of the town due to the AI personalized engagements that Airtel offered to their customers in rural, urban and rurban.
  3. Instant rewards – Don’t we like it when we get rewards? And it’s even more exciting when they are instant. Now with artificial intelligence, rewards can be personalized and hyper-localized too. Gone are the days when people use to participate in long-duration contests to win a physical reward. Now, with an artificial intelligence-powered instant rewards based gratification system (unified gratification platform), brands can offer instant digital rewards, wallets cash, gift vouchers to their consumers, trade channel partners, or employees via preferred medium set by the receiver instantly or previously.
  4. WhatsApp based engagements (whatsbot) – India messages on WhatsApp. With more than 40cr users, India is the biggest market for WhatsApp. Though Facebook launched the official WhatsApp API some time ago, many brands are yet to understand and uncover the potential that it has and how it can offer a seamless engagement and interactive experience to all pillars of brand outreach and distribution journeys. WhatsApp based sampling, information and education chatbot, service and store locator, instant live video support are just some examples of what artificial intelligence can enable on WhatsApp for the end consumers. Along with this, product information, sales best practices, order enquiry and the latest purchase history are some very basic AI powered applications that can be developed on WhatsApp very easily.

To conclude, the biggest accomplishment that artificial intelligence can do is to let your customer, trade partners or end-users feel that the brand knows them and their preferences. With simple AI-enabled application, the brand can pass on a straight-to-heart message to the last-mile user that the brand values them. And we all know once the customer understands this, engagement becomes conversion.

(The author is CEO and Co-Founder of Almond, an ATechnos Venture and the views expressed in this article are his own)

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