Living with artificial intelligence involved a learning curve for my wife and me, but at 4 years old, our son is completely at ease with Alexa. In fact, he already pulls her into his schemes by running past the device and slyly calling out, “Alexa, add ice cream to the shopping list!”
Our household is hardly unique. Children think nothing of talking to computers; for them, the tools are native and natural. Adults are following suit, with 37% telling Global AI researchers that they had used an AI tool. What's more, 63% are using AI without even realizing it.
Consumers are increasingly integrating intuitive chatbots and intelligent robots into their daily lives — and not just to make sure there's ice cream in the house! The sooner we accept the prevalence of AI in everyday dealings, the better we can leverage the technology as businesspeople.
AI: The good, the bad, and the ugly
Imagine sitting in your living room only to realize that a useful gadget is out of AA batteries. Not long ago, you had little choice but to get in your car and drive to the shop to buy some or wait until your next trip out of the house to pick them up. Now, Alexa has made it simple to order whatever you need in real time without any fuss or extra energy.
Similarly, if you’re doing dishes and see you’re running low on soap, you can simply call out, “Add dishwashing liquid to the grocery list!” You don't even need to dry your hands — you can place your order mid-scrub. It’s an incredible multitasking experience — not to mention one that’s efficient and convenient.
AI has infiltrated the consumer psyche much the same way social media did. Social media slowly trickled into our lives before engulfing the world like a pandemic. Tools and platforms that didn't even exist 20 years ago now make up a significant portion of humanity's waking hours. Facebook wasn't available to the public 15 years ago, yet now some 1.4 billion people average 35 minutes per day on the platform. It's just a matter of time before AI is just as commonplace in our daily interactions.
The difference between evolution and exponential growth
While the AI revolution hasn’t happened overnight, it has infiltrated our lives much more quickly than other inventions. For example, in 1920, around 35% of Americans had telephones, and it took 30 years for the technology to reach just 62% of U.S. households. Compare that to Amazon Prime. It was launched in 2005 and now, some 13 years later, is estimated to boast roughly 79 million members (Amazon won't disclose the specific numbers). Put another way, more people have Amazon Prime memberships than voted in the 2016 U.S. presidential primaries.
It’s hard to wrap your mind around just how commonplace this technology has become. AI is ubiquitous and has snuck into our lives so rapidly that our evolutionary brains are having trouble conceptualizing its far-reaching opportunities and challenges. Humanity has evolved in an evolutionary basis in which things built slowly but surely over many decades, centuries, and millennia. AI, however, is growing at an exponential rate, not an evolutionary one, meaning it's growing faster than we can comprehend. Because our brains struggle to process this incredible shift, it’s hard to realize just how much this affects our behaviours and habits.
For example, the barrier to purchasing something is almost nonexistent now. In the past, customers had to physically go to the shop to buy a product. Then, they were able to order items online in a matter of minutes and easily compare products across online shops. Now, all a customer has to do is tell Alexa to "buy AA batteries," and two days later, a package of AA batteries arrives at the door. This new way of shopping is convenient, sure. But we’re totally missing the 35,000-foot view of how AI is impacting our expectations and behaviours — and the way we’re spending our money.
Brand messaging in an era of AI
Customer-focused professionals have an incredible opportunity with the rise of AI to increase their value among target audiences. However, before you jump into the AI sphere, be ready to take a few steps to ensure you're well-versed in the effects and experiences of the AI movement. Here's how:
1. Be a part of the game.
You’ll never fully understand AI if you watch from the sidelines, so go out and buy an Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, or Google Home. Play with it, test the waters, and track your usage. Keep documentation so you have a working knowledge of and data on how AI operates and how it influences you as a consumer.
2. Add AI to your marketing plans.
Every business can implement AI in some form, so start having conversations about how you can take advantage of voice command technology.
“But Joey, I run a B2B business. What can I do?” you might be asking yourself. While you might not sell directly to consumers, you can still take advantage of AI. For instance, what if you asked Alexa to read you the three most recent tweets from the company you’re having a phone call with in 30 minutes? Creatively lean on AI to give you a better understanding of how you can increase your abilities as a leading company.
3. Consider and explore how AI will impact your business.
My wife and I recently had a long conversation about how AI might alter my business as a professional speaker. While many people might say that it's crazy to think my business would be disrupted by AI, I'm not willing to wait around and see. Neither should you. If you’re not already having in-depth discussions with your employees, advisors, and the smartest "tech types" you know, you’re setting yourself up to be blindsided by AI in the near future.
4. Get involved with AI whether you love it or hate it.
Saying, “I don’t like AI, so I don’t want anything to do with it,” is acceptable in the same way that a business could say, "I don't like the phone and email." You can certainly take that position, but you won't be able to hold it and stay in business for very long. Like the oxygen we breathe, AI is here to stay, and it promises to impact everything we do; in fact, it already has. Remove your judgment, and pay attention to how you can work AI into your business model; otherwise, start counting the days until AI completely replaces your business offerings.
AI has moved into all industries, so jump into the fray
AI moves at lightning speed. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of people using voice-activated assistants jumped an incredible 128.9%. Every industry is poised to experience the effects of this technology; the only grey area is how quickly and to what degree.
You’re playing a new game now, but it doesn’t have to be confusing. As a matter of fact, you still have time to set your own rules because AI’s guidelines are hardly set in stone. Just make sure you’re thinking one step ahead of your competition, or you could end up with gallons of ice cream showing up at your door thanks to quick-witted, young consumers who live in your home and aren’t afraid of using AI to advance their self-interest!
For over a decade, Joey Coleman has helped organizations retain their best customers and turn them into raving fans. He’s an award-winning speaker who has worked with companies ranging from small startups to major brands such as Whirlpool, NASA, and Zappos, and his First 100 Days® methodology helps fuel successful customer experience endeavors at companies and organizations around the world. His upcoming book, “Never Lose a Customer Again” (available April 2018), helps businesses learn how to turn any sale into a lifelong customer.