Today, AI can perform advanced functions such as powering the self-driving car, enabling drone deliveries, identifying cancer early and even authoring creative articles. But the wide, successful adoption of AI in the business world largely depends on how we personalize it for the end-user, and the vendor as well. Personalization, within business, already exists with applications like product recommendations on e-commerce sites and AI-powered service Chatbots using Natural Language Processing, but these interactions connect with the consumer at the surface level. There is a significant opportunity now to deepen and broaden those relationships by providing an intimate, satisfying experience that matches a high-end concierge in the real world.
Successful businesses are known to listen to their customers with empathy, ask questions to know their intent and use that knowledge to effectively meet their needs. Think about your first meeting with a financial advisor who wants to know what your life and financial objectives are, what your risk appetite is etc. before giving you a financial plan tailored to you. This is personalization. A typical service experience lifecycle consists of 11 distinct stages from being unaware to discovery, interest formation, service provisioning, and consumption.
While product marketing, which maps to the early stages of this lifecycle, is currently the single largest AI and ML use case the industry is focused on, all 11 stages of the service lifecycle can be enhanced by personalization, not only in the web-based eCommerce markets but also in physical (brick and mortar) stores and kiosks enabled by AI.
MINDBODY is building personalization for the, Fitness, Spa, Salon and Integrative Health industries, where it has been a technology leader over the past two decades. Our software runs the world’s leading Wellness services marketplace, linking thousands of passionate fitness, wellness, and beauty providers around the world to the millions of clients they serve. We are focused on creating deep personalization for our providers to help them grow and run their businesses more efficiently and are helping consumers get access to a personalized plan to achieve their wellness goals.
Imagine you are having a stressful day at the office. Your smartwatch sensors trigger an alert notifying you of your elevated stress levels and suggest a mindfulness break during your next block of free time. With a simple click, it blocks your calendar and when it is time, streams a mindfulness class. That is deep personalization. Now imagine entering your fitness goals in your MINDBODY app – it takes that data, your past behavior, your data from your health tracker, and then matches it with recommendations from experts and by looking at results of millions of others who are like you to find a personalized and effective fitness and nutrition plan. It then, with your approval, books the classes and puts it on your calendar. That is personalization!
Success of an online marketplace such as ours where we match consumers and businesses in the wellness industry also lies in its discoverability – how quickly users find the product or service they need. Quick, efficient discovery of the right product or service is shown to lead to a higher conversion rate, better customer satisfaction, engagement, and retention. Several innovations such as visual search are emerging to address the need for better discovery. Gartner estimates that by 2020, 30% of all searches will be conducted ‘query less’.
Recommender systems are unable to meet the need fully, and online storefronts are establishing physical retail presences to augment the online stores and provide a more satisfactory buying experience. Discoverability in digital marketplaces is not entirely an information search problem; it is multi-faceted and is strongly influenced by the inventory, tagging and on-boarding of content, the presentation layer, search engine design and optimization, and the users’ domain knowledge and cognitive abilities as well.
If search and discoverability of basic, essential goods and services such as clothing poses such significant challenges to both the consumer and the retailer, it is understandable that the problem of discoverability is even more daunting in the context of complex and highly specialized, life-critical services such as healthcare, fitness, and wellness. Our design of discoverable wellness marketplaces hinges on detailed information catalogs tailored to the merchant’s unique needs, rich onboarding of goods and services from the merchants and construction of personalized user profiles (PUPs) via implicit and explicit collection of relevant data for personalization.
This next wave of AI personalization, however, is not without concerns. Access to large amounts of personal data doesn’t come without immense responsibility. Delivering a highly targeted personalized experience requires careful research, iterative experimentation with sensitivity to the intent, context, curiosity and privacy considerations on the consumer’s behalf, and economic and business considerations on the merchants’ behalf. The hope is to get this matchmaking using AI and ML just right, to engage with users on a more intimate and human level, while striking the optimum balance between the context – what, how, when, where, why and how often and privacy – the ‘how much?’.
Getting genuinely close to the customer, a goal of virtually every business, is now more complicated than ever with myriad of choices that the global economy presents via the Web, but at the same time, more feasible thanks to the power of AI. Personalization will create a shift in organizational structures with product development and marketing becoming increasingly intertwined as technology removes the siloed approach.
The companies that are the best at human capital collaboration will move the fastest and potentially develop the most meaningful and influential products. Those that are first to market with AI-enabled personalization will put themselves in a position to succeed and will be viewed as forerunners to e-commerce, sales, and marketing platforms that will be commonplace as early as the coming decade.