Businesses set to benefit from AI
Artificial Intelligence is becoming an integral tool in countless industries, helping businesses and organisations to collect, store, analyse and use data efficiently. In the past couple of years, AI has gone from a slightly absurd, sci-fi concept to an undeniable reality, leading to the creation of groups like the Partnership on AI to regulate practises. One area which has benefitted hugely from machine learning algorithms is marketing. Encouraging consumers to part with their money is by no means a new application for AI. The technology is a perfect fit for CRM (Customer Relationship Management), building customer profiles based on habits and behaviours which can then be used to predict what people will want to buy. The question is, how can companies use AI powered sales to positively disrupt their businesses?
Making sales with AI
AI powered sales is about connecting with customers on a personal, individual level, and attempting to work out what they will do next. The power of emerging AI enabled sales lies in the scope with which it can influence consumers. Amazon Echo, for example, takes user preferences and behaviours and builds sales opportunities around them. Other companies have quickly followed suit. In January, Salesforce announced a new CRM app called Einstein. The cloud computing sales platform plans to use Einstein to deliver in-depth insights and smart recommendations. Sales focused AI is also providing opportunities for startups like Conversica, which received a $34 million investment in December 2016 to create a virtual sales assistant. Another recent example saw automakers Jaguar Land Rover use actual hobbies of SUV buyers to create a unique ad campaign via an algorithm. Despite these examples, only 23 per cent of companies have invested in Big Data to push sales. It’s clear that businesses should look to AI and advanced data analysis to get the most out of their products and consumers, but how exactly will it help advertisers and marketers, and could it eventually replace sales teams?
How will advanced AI disrupt sales?
As AI becomes more capable, its ability to personalise messages will also improve. Instead of targeting pools of potential buyers, companies will use AI for super-personalisation. AI can handle masses of data about individuals, which means that sales teams won’t just be looking for potential customers within broad demographics – they’ll be able to pinpoint exactly who is most likely to engage with their product. This could disrupt the very nature of shopping – why waste time browsing when the items or services you actually want could be picked out for you? Whilst existing AI systems use past data to form predictions, IoT connected devices could transmit realtime data. This could fuel instant in store or online ads that relate specifically to buyers in that moment, taking impulse buying to another level. Other changes to the shopping experience could include intelligent robots like Softbank’s Pepper, who is already working in hotels and some retail stores. There are even robot baristas like Gordon operating in San Francisco. If that isn’t going to get you excited about ordering a coffee, nothing will. Retail banks are also planning to use AI assistants in store (as well as online and over the phone) to interact directly with customers. Looking forward, the sales assistant of the future is likely to be a conversational interface. This sounds like terrible news for human employees, but as brilliant as AI may be, salespeople aren’t about to disappear. In fact, using Artificial Intelligence within sales teams demonstrates that AI and humans can co-operate to improve services and customer experience, which is part of a general collaborative trend between machines and their makers.
AI can handle data far better than any human administrator, but it’s still up to sales teams to work out how best to use the info. It’s important to remember that AI is not a fix all solution – the data it gathers and analyses isn’t infallible, and basing an entire sales strategy on incorrect information could be very damaging. However, artificial intelligence is undeniably a valuable tool when it comes to working out what consumers want – or, at least, what they’re likely to want. But in order to make the most of AI’s data analysis, there needs to be a human sales team in place to decide how best to use it. Using algorithms to collect customer info is a key example of how technology can operate alongside humanity to make sense of a data saturated world.
Could your business’ sales team use AI analysis to improve performance? Will consumers accept or reject the use of personal data to push sales? Will AI replace or enhance traditional sales teams? Share your thoughts and opinions.