Emerging TechnologyAIArtificial intelligence in action: 5 brands brilliantly executing AI

Artificial intelligence in action: 5 brands brilliantly executing AI

AI promises to transform the future, but one thing it’s doing today is letting brands deliver superior customer experiences. Looking beyond the tech giants, here are five consumer brands utilizing AI in innovative and interesting ways.

You’ve heard all the forecasts: Robots are going to take away our jobs (possibly even within five years, according to new PricewaterhouseCoopers researchas artificial intelligence turns the world on its head. But of course, AI isn’t really the “next big thing” because it’s already here.

Earlier this year, The Economist surveyed 200 executives and found that 75% of them plan to implement AI in their businesses within the next three years. Google and Microsoft have also both announced shifts from mobile-first to AI-first this year and the skillset of Amazon’s Alexa has tripled over two quarters.

AI will obviously play a huge role in the future, but one thing the technology offers marketers today is a way to offer superior customer experiences. Looking beyond the tech giants, here are five consumer brands utilizing AI in innovative and interesting ways.

1. Sephora

An early adopter of AI, Sephora had a chatbot dispensing beauty advice on Kik a year and a half ago. Choosing cosmetics can be overwhelming—searching “red lipstick” on Sephora.com brings up nearly 200 results—and the chatbot made things easier, starting with a quiz about consumers’ product preferences. The chatbot shared both content and product suggestions, making the sales tactic seem less aggressive. The brand gained some valuable insights, such as the idea that bots aren’t as complicated as they seem and work best with a single objective, and saw enough engagement from that experiment that it’s since launched more chatbots on Messenger.

2. Starbucks

Starbucks is one of many apps integrated into Amazon’s Echo, allowing users to place and pay for their orders with Alexa. The coffee giant also has its own voice assistant, My Starbucks Barista, built into its mobile app.

My Starbucks Barista, which rolled out in beta in January, has all the skills of a human barista, such as taking and modifying orders, and confirming pick-up locations. And since you have to register for Starbucks’ app, its digital assistant will probably even spell your name right.

3. Lloyds Bank

According to March Equifax research, 56% of UK consumers consider biometrics more secure than traditional passwords for online banking. We recognize the irony there, but the fact remains that people want more security around their finances.

Partnering with Microsoft, Lloyds Banking Group customers will be authenticated not by passwords, but by their devices, through Windows Hello, which is designed to recognize faces (not images) and fingerprints. The partnership, the first of its kind in the UK, will begin testing later this year for Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland customers.

4. Lowe’s

A trip to Lowe’s—the average store is slightly bigger than two football fields, at 116,000 square feet—can be great for your Fitbit score, but difficult if you’re looking to get in and out quickly. Last year, the innovative home improvement retailer introduced the “LoweBot” to select stores in San Francisco. In addition to helping customers find things and answering customer service questions, the rolling kiosk also monitors inventory in real-time as it cruises the aisles, providing Lowe’s with invaluable data about shopping trends.

5. Disney

Disney, a brand that’s already using AI to organize product SKUs, is training artificial neural networks, computing systems modeled after animal brains, to mimic human brains and recognize what makes a story appealing. Using data from Q+A site Quora, Disney researchers used the site’s upvotes and downvotes to train the neural networks to determine what makes some stories more popular than others. At some point in the not-too-distant future, look out for a Mickey Mouse doll that can tell your kids a better bedtime story than you can.

So what does this all mean?

Though AI sounds like a futuristic concept, brands like Sephora and Disney, not to mention Amazon and Google, show that it’s already the new normal. And while it may mean that robots will pour our coffee down the line, they’re already ordering it for us.

AI is crucial for marketers to master simply because it’s become one of many tools to delivering great customer experiences. As the technology becomes more widespread, it will undoubtedly be utilized in even more ways in an even greater variety of fields, which we’re looking forward to covering further.

What do you think is next for AI? Have you come across another interesting execution? Let us know in the comments.

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