We have to understand why we do what we do, not just do what we do. Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.

Pinball Clemons

We live in a world where products and services are commodified to an extent that their value is often reduced to price points, and consumers look for experiences that they can vote on with their wallets. Building and nurturing that deeply emotional connection has never been a priority. Until now.

Mindfulness – a practice touted as the fast track to better leadership – has elicited a push to consider the emotional factors that impact businesses. A Harvard Business Review article on the importance of mindfulness says, “By understanding that the mechanism behind mindfulness is the improvement of broader emotional intelligence competencies, leaders can more intentionally work on all of the areas that will have the strongest impact on their leadership.

Considering research and surveys from several brands, it’s safe to say that the time to move past decent customer satisfaction scores and maximize customer value, is finally here. In fact, based on lifetime value, emotionally connected consumers have more than twice the value when compared to even a highly satisfied customer with no connection. That’s because, those who are emotionally connected to your brand are more likely to recommend your services, visit you more frequently and be less price sensitive.

Empathy is the New Black

Tapping into fundamental motivators and satisfying unspoken “emotional triggers” of belongingness, insecurities, success, and trust, is the kind of emotional connection that will drive businesses in the years to come.

More than anything else, the dynamic shift makes it evident that instant gratification is no longer sufficient. Consumers now want to add value – be a brand voice, if you may – and create a meaningful impact with their engagement. Some of the best examples are defined around storytelling with a human touch. For a case in point, check out Apple’s “Designed for Everyone”campaign. You can expect to see a lot more of those in the coming year.

The organizations that win big here are those that look to create a great experience by identifying their purpose and creatively using that as a way to engage their audience.

Smart is No Longer Smart Enough

Development in Artificial Intelligence is moving at a remarkable pace. With the combination of Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP), we already have the likes of Siri and Alexa. Club that with the power of neural networks and we evolve to the next stage, i.e. Emotion driven AI.

Sentiment analysis, the process of identifying, computing and categorizing opinions expressed in a verbal or text communication, could give a system the ability to predict a customer’s emotion at the time of engaging with a particular product, service or topic.

While assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana and the likes have become a way life, the real AI kicker will emerge when enterprises begin to use it to better the overall customer experience.  Gartner predicts that by 2020, enterprises that use cognitive ergonomics in AI projects will see success that’s 4x more than those who don’t. Evidently, prioritizing and deploying emotional-based AI strategies is an effective way to further significant financial improvement.

Here’s what can (and will) change in the near future

  1. Round the clock customer service with Chatbots

Newer developments, with AI understanding content and context of customer requests, are dramatically changing the way businesses deliver customer experiences.

Google’s Rankbrain does a fabulous job at understanding the context of what people look for when they type their search keywords, and these chatbots will seriously have you doubting your ability to differentiate a robot from a human.

As crazy as it sounds, sophisticated chatbots, in many ways, will soon provide a more human experience than a human. Think about it. A chatbot never sleeps. It won’t make you wait. Above all, it’s never going to have a “bad day”.

  1. Identifying unstated customer needs.

Gone are the days when listening tools will categorize something like this Talkwalker example as a positive comment.  AI-powered sentiment analysis is already smart enough to identify the context of your brand’s social media mentions, and catch those posts and comments that carry an actionable insight into what your prospective customers really want.

Not too long ago, questionnaires and surveys were the only ways a digital marketer could gather feedback, but given the way Big data tools and AI-based data mining on social media is growing, marketers will have soon enough user information and feedback on their product to make the traditional focus groups and surveys redundant.

  1. Content Recommendations

You probably don’t even give a second thought to seeing promoted stories/content suggestions on your favorite sites, but thanks to networks like Outbrain and Taboola, promoting content and getting a bang out of your marketing bucks has never been easier. Now just think – what if their algorithms were powered by AI that understood the content you just read, accordingly categorize the emotion of the person consuming the content, and suggest promoted stories based on that?

In essence, if you’re reading about a tragedy out in the middle east, you’re probably going to want to read something that restores your faith in humanity next. Right? If Outbrain or Taboola for that matter are able to make that sort of content reach you, not only will it tremendously increase their click through rates, it’ll also help them garner better conversions.

For instance – You’re reading an article about how some folks left their pet locked inside their home while they took off on a week’s vacation and then see an article detailing the next pet-adoptathon. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what you’re thinking about now.

  1. Dynamic Pricing

It’s a given that the price tag is a key decider in any purchase and so far dynamic pricing has been one way most e-commerce players reduce cart-abandonment. One of the major advantages AI offers is the ability to track and determine purchase patterns. In effect, emotion-driven AI could actually test and track how much you’re willing to pay for a commodity or service.

While e-commerce mainly uses dynamic pricing to offer discounts and reductions, there is a whole other end to this spectrum and Uber’s surge pricing gives us a taste of what’s in store. Even simple emotion based AI coupled with dynamic pricing might just make your ride to the next Phillies game more expensive than a ride to the emergency room!

What you need to keep in mind

Everybody’s different – This isn’t a one size fits all thing. Whichever AI-powered tool you use to drive emotional intelligence, you need to customize it according to your target audience to get the best results

Expect results as good as your data – Emotionally connected AI is only as good as the quality of the data you’ve trained it with. If you haven’t trained it with real-world data, it’s probably not going to work.

I, for one, am excited to see how this next wave of marketing impacts customer journeys and buyer behavior. I’d love to know what you think, so drop a comment with your thoughts!

Social Media & Brand Advocacy Evangelist | Founder at SocioSquares | http://sociosquares.com | http://socioadvocacy.com | @socio_advocacy

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