Does Your Social Media Strategy Need a Boost? Why It’s Time to Tap the Power of AI, AR, and VR
An infographic on how emerging technologies can improve your customer experience.
Imagine searching for a luxury home in another country. While photos or videos might show what a house looks like, how will you know how it feels to be inside the home — unless you actually visit? Sotheby’s International Realty offers virtual tours, using 3D and virtual reality (VR) technology to let house hunters “virtually” explore a home.
Maybe you aren’t interested in buying a new home, but want to spruce up your own place with new furniture. Ikea’s augmented reality (AR) app lets you take a photo of the room being transformed and visually overlay the furniture you’re considering buying to see how it fits, giving you more confidence in your purchase.
Perhaps you need a spur-of-the-moment getaway, but don’t know what destination fits your budget. While you can check travel websites for the best deals, you could go to Facebook Messenger and ask the KAYAK bot where to go. The bot will respond with information that allows you to search flight itineraries and quickly ballpark the price for your trip.
Experience makers understand the necessity of moving beyond the expected to create more compelling experiences. And, as we’ve learned from the “Amazon Effect,” when consumers get an excellent experience, their expectation for satisfaction in all subsequent interactions with retailers increases.
New technologies — such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, VR, AR, and chatbots — provide enhanced customer insights and create personalized interactions that help companies meet those higher expectations. These technologies help you more quickly reach customers where they are — on social (the most used smartphone apps by far are social). However, for social media marketers, the challenge is how to best leverage these technologies to position their brands for the future.
“There are a lot of brands experimenting with these technologies, and iterating quickly to deliver experiences that will keep their customers coming back,” says Dave Dickson, who leads innovation for Adobe’s enterprise business.
A shift is happening regarding consumer expectations around social media experiences. In response, brands must prepare their organizations and adopt the technology infrastructure necessary to proactively offer what their customers expect. Emerging technologies may just help them deliver on these expectations.
Emerging technologies come of age
Emerging technologies can be integrated to create memorable customer experiences via social media.
Artificial intelligence (AI) uses machines to solve problems that typically were resolved by a person. As the machines ingest more data they become more intuitive. A subset of AI is machine learning, where, through algorithms and pattern recognition, machines can “learn” and make predictions. AI and machine learning can take massive amounts of customer information that is collected from multiple resources and create insights that allow you to anticipate needs and provide the right support, leading to improved customer interactions.
People are engaging with brands in so many ways, especially on social channels. For example, people leave more than 1.5 million pieces of user-generated content on Facebook each day. They expect brands to not only understand their sentiment, but understand what they’re looking for, remember their previous encounters and purchases, and respond appropriately across any given channel. AI and machine learning sift through all of this customer information, cross-reference it, give context, and provide the insights we need to create an informed, timely, and personal response.
One of the many ways to use AI in social media is to filter content for curation. If content has grammar below a certain reading level, or an image shows a certain amount of skin, it can be filtered out. One media company even used AI to measure fan engagement by looking at the sentiments of mentions across various social media sites. Another way for brands to track consumer interaction is by using AI to comb through the 3.25 billion photos shared on social platforms each day to see how their products are mentioned and used.
“What machine learning allows you to do is use these insights, regardless of the social platform, across any touchpoint,” says Mark Boothe, head of Adobe Experience Cloud Social Media. “The real critical function is how you take in all these different inputs, and based on machine learning, understand what is the best experience to put in front of that consumer at the right time. There is no way to do that manually anymore because of the pure scale of this. Machine learning is enabling those insights.”
AI also is powering chatbots through technologies like natural language processing (NLP). Of all of the emerging technologies, chatbots may have the most immediate applicability for brands engaging with their customers on social media. A chatbot is a mini-messaging app that can accomplish different tasks. Fueled by AI and used on different social channels like Facebook and Slack, chatbots can carry on conversations using natural language to provide customer support.
People can use chatbots to check a bank balance or to get curated content from a brand. It’s a different engagement style, and doesn’t require the downloading of another brand-specific app.
While chatbots can increase brand loyalty, engagement, and improve the customer experience, Shopify showcases their ability to automate the marketing process. The e- commerce brand launched what may be the first business-oriented chatbot to allow marketers to create and optimize their campaigns, whether it’s posting updates or running ads on social. This example illustrates how emerging technologies can automate and improve the customer journey from end to end, from helping marketers increase the relevancy and personalization of their messaging to enabling customers to get fast and efficient service.
The market opportunity with AR
Brands may find augmented reality technology more applicable than virtual reality because AR overlays digital images and content on the physical world. Some brands even are considering how to use AR ads on social channels, as Facebook encourages advertisers to launch AR-driven campaigns.
“With technologies like Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore that enable brands to launch immersive experiences on smartphones, AR has the potential to become a technology of mass adoption — and social media can provide a natural on-ramp for consumers to begin trying these experiences,” Dave says.
Dave’s point is important. On the business side, brands need development and product help to begin experimenting with these technologies. Snapchat, for example, offers a three-dimensional Lenses tool that lets advertisers layer AR experiences onto their products and offerings. Facebook is offering developer support as part of its beta program for its new AR advertising feature. AR and other emerging technologies don’t already come with generally-accepted-customer-experience best practices, so programs like this are critical. They reduce the initial investment and barrier to entry for brands to experiment to get the experience right.
The benefits of social beyond engagement
“Social is really the tip of the spear, because that is where people are interacting heavily with different brands,” Mark says.
What this means is that brands will need to become even more adept at collecting and understanding customer intent data at this touchpoint and making it actionable. However, this is true regardless of the interface or emerging technology a company uses — AI, AR, and chatbots just represent another opportunity for brands to capture customer intelligence on social and use it to drive lifetime value.
Still, not every emerging technology will be a fit for every brand’s needs. But these technologies will continue to develop, and, as they do, social media marketers must be ready to incorporate the ones that benefit their customers the most, oftentimes iterating and experimenting quickly to get to that point.
“Emerging technology in the context of social is changing very rapidly. It’s growing more complex, so it’s offering a huge opportunity for brands to lean forward and to respond to their customers,” Mark says. “The ones that do respond across this channel and leverage [these] technologies will have a massive competitive differentiation in their market.”