Artificial intelligence (AI) represents one of the biggest emerging opportunities in business, and 2018 promises to be a pivotal year for some of its first practical applications. For every kind of business from startup to mid-sized company to global corporation, AI’s ability to process information at high speeds and huge scale unleashes almost unlimited new opportunities and infinitely better management of processes, systems, networks, and information. And the new capabilities that AI offers for mobile are opening an exciting new chapter for the ways that companies can engage with their customers.
First given a theoretical name by scientists at a conference held at Dartmouth College in 1956, AI is now appearing in a number of our day-to-day tools. For instance, AI provides the capability to let Google Photos to know that two snapshots taken 50 years apart are both of your relative, it enables Facebook to weed out spam from your feed, and it allows the iPhone to eke as much life as possible out of a battery charge.
Not surprisingly, one the biggest opportunities emerging for AI is with mobile. Increasingly, smartphones are becoming front ends for a number of AI-powered services. For example, mobile devices have brought AI to consumers’ fingertips through personal digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant. But up to now, these personal assistants have been simply that — assistants. They haven’t been able to make connections or fully understand the patterns of everyday life and don’t learn from interactions, as true AI applications can.
But this is one of many functions that are about to change. According to Gartner, for instance, by the end of 2018, consumer digital assistants will recognize individuals by face and voice across channels, and by 2020 smart agents will facilitate 40 percent of mobile interactions.
For businesses, the data behind AI has the potential to revolutionize the way they operate and harness information to engage with their customers. The massive amounts of data that AI systems can process in short periods of time have the ability to both provide companies with invaluable insights about their customers’ behavior, and to spotlight how they can adjust their business practices to better meet the needs of and engage with their customers.
In fact, through recent work with our customers, we’ve seen two capabilities in particular emerge that we think will radically reshape mobile engagement in the next few years:
- Engaging customers through multiple channels – New mobile channels available through apps and social media have combined with traditional channels like messaging and email to provide an expanded range of options. As a result, companies needing to reach customers can face a complex challenge in identifying the most effective channel overall as well as an individual customer’s most preferred channel. Now, new AI-powered technologies can enable a sequence of mobile channels to be automatically activated to deliver important messages in an escalated format, and these technologies can offer consumers the power to personalize their communication channel preferences. Using these technologies, in the retail industry, for example, companies like department stores can alert customers of important events, such as a package being delivered or a sale just beginning, by first using a push notification and then a text message and then other channels, to help ensure the customer receives a message more reliably.
- Making use of “mobile context” information – Creating relevance for engagement from a customer’s past and current activities is a new concept that is being termed “mobile context,” and it’s opening a new world of possibilities for engaging with customers. Mobile context allows companies – with the explicit opt-in of mobile users – to gain insight into customers’ patterns and preferences, and then act on this data to personalize services for them. These preferences can include everything from where customers like to go, to what mobile channels they like to use, to what kinds of products they like to purchase. Mobile context information is being enabled by, among other resources, mobile operators that broker the vast amount of data accumulated on their subscribers, and by companies that leverage this data with AI and customer analytics. Retail companies can make particular use of mobile context to tailor notifications for sales, coupons, new product arrivals, loyalty program rewards and special events. Similarly, financial companies can make use of mobile context information to engage customers with everything from on-the-spot customer service, to microtargeted service offerings, to geolocation-verified card transactions.
As a further example of what services these AI capabilities are opening, consider some of the applications now coming into use in these industries:
- Retail – To deliver more personalized marketing, retail outlets can precisely target shoppers with special offers when their mobile devices are detected to be nearby their preferred retail outlets.
- Financial services – To enable greater security, when a bank account holder attempts to use a payment card in a foreign country, banks can request that the location of an account holder’s mobile device be verified, which provides an additional data point to help verify that a transaction is valid.
- Travel – For enriched travel services, companies can provide travelers with real-time concierge services – such as information on directions, attractions, news, hotel accommodations, restaurants and transportation options – when they enter specific geographic boundaries.
With today’s increasingly sophisticated smartphone technology and mobile-savvy users, customers have gained – and come to expect – the capability to interact with their favorite brands in more personalized ways. AI will play a crucial part in furthering this by empowering companies to gain invaluable insights about their customers’ behavior, and to zero in on how they can adjust their business practices to better meet the needs of and engage with their customers. As 2018 progresses, it will be critical for companies to have a well-thought strategy for AI to ensure they’re prepared for this new chapter in mobile engagement.
Apurva Ghelani is a Sales Engineer Director at Syniverse.