Marie Malins

Getting emotional with technology

There’s an interesting debate happening around Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), machine-learning, bots and automation, and it’s one that’s transforming marketing. From voice-enabled personal assistants like Alexa, to self-driving cars and personalised product recommendations, AI is undoubtedly powering more of the day-to-day experiences we have. In fact, Accenture has estimated AI could add in the region of £654 billion to the UK economy by 2035. So, as these continuous advances in technology threaten to take away the real human interaction aspect of marketing, the question remains; how will brands retain an emotional connection with customers?

At the heart of the debate lies the role of trust. Will your customers trust you if they can’t interact with another human and are expected to deal with an emotionless computer?

Automation frees up time for marketers to focus on what they do best

Whilst thist new wave of AI machines are capable of automating the repetitive and laborious processes that are so essential in today’s data-driven marketing, they are many year’s away from replacing creativity, persuasion, social understanding or empathy. Luckily for now that’s still the human’s job, but we should all be excited about this opportunity that frees up more space for creative thinking, innovation and focusing on an engaging service to customers.

How do you gain customer trust in artificial intelligence?

Building trust with customers isn’t easy and in the context of digital interactions and automated responses, it’s even harder. As AI becomes more pervasive, transparency and education are critical. Businesses should be transparent about what intelligence they are using: what data it’s collecting and what it’s being used for. There’s also the need to educate customers about the opportunities AI can create for them as businesses and consumers.

So how does this all translate for B2B marketing?

We know that personal emotions influence business decisions. Corporate buyers, after all, are people and they still need that human interaction and empathy to convince them to make a purchase, particularly with high value products or services. According to recent research from CEB in partnership with Google (“Connecting Customers to B2B brands”), B2B customers are in fact much more emotionally attached to the brands they purchase than B2C customers are.

Building emotion into technology

Emotional technology is the next stage in the evolution of AI. Brands such as Tesco, Apple and Google are investing in and taking advantage of these developments, and the enormous scope available for individual customisation and increased engagement. For example, Apple recently acquired Emotient, a company that uses AI to read emotions and one of Facebook’s recent patents aims to monitor users’ typing speed to predict emotions and adapt messages in response. Factors such as how quickly the keys are pressed, how hard they are pressed and whether or not the smartphone is moving around or staying in place can offer clues as to the user’s emotions. It can also determine which emotions a piece of content elicits, and then deliver content to the user based on the displayed emotion – all of which will dramatically improve engagement.

Yet whilst technology may be able to recognise and respond to certain emotions, it’s another question entirely as to whether it will be able to comprehend them. Can a machine really feel compassion or empathy?

The ability to capture and predict the emotive responses from customers will lead to many interesting applications in B2B marketing. It can help us gain greater insights into a user’s experience, further optimise messaging, test creative and improve engagement from digital campaigns. Potentially in the future, websites and campaigns will dynamically adapt in real-time, adjusting their message, the offer, imagery and tone in response to the emotional response of the viewer.

Power to the people

The opportunity for marketers to benefit from AI and emotional technology seems limitless. Yet, for all the current buzz and regardless of the latest technology, your customers are ultimately human and they will still want and expect, compelling experiences and fulfilling emotional connections with your products, your brand and of course other human beings.

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