To engage customers, we need to give them a reason to keep coming back for more, a reason to integrate our website or app into the very fabric of their lives.
Making the experience faster and easier to get the value they seek will certainly keep members coming back. For example, retrieving the “right” recipe the first time from all of the healthy recipes on our site, or finding the right exercise for our age, gender and fitness level from all the exercise routines on our portal will certainly delight members.
We are already seeing a trend of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the current round of the search engine wars for this very reason. Google, Apple, Microsoft and others are pouring large amounts of R&D investment into their intelligent assistants — Google Now, Siri, and Cortana to name a few — as a way to be the front end to search and the new way to consume a variety of services, especially in a mobile context. These assistants are easy to use, eliminating the need to type in search strings. And they’re beginning to have near-clairvoyant powers, seemingly knowing what we want before we do. They are gaining increasing acceptance and adoption as evidenced from recent statistics. The investment into the various branches of AI needed to pull this off is creating a new category of cognitive app that moves way beyond search.
The new advisor
The Lark App is one of the best early examples of this trend I’ve seen. It provides nutrition advice based on the customer telling the app what they’ve eaten. The free app generated over 200 million interactions in the first 3 months after its launch in April 2015. Many of the customer reviews mention that the experience is “just like” talking to a human.
Building engagement has been the key to Lark’s success, and the company’s CEO talks of injecting “love” into the app’s interactions with end users to provide lasting behavioral change. Lark has been working in this space for over 4 years and aspires to be THE AI for health and fitness.
Train me, Watson
A further example is how IBM’s Watson has been used to power the “TRAIN ME” app for use by personal trainers. The app saves the personal trainer time by gathering the latest training and exercise information based on their client’s individual profile.
“TRAIN ME will make it possible for trainers like me to ask questions in everyday language and get answers in less than three seconds that take into consideration medical research as well as a client’s metabolism, physical structure, fat distribution, and hormonal profile. The results are targeted recommendations and expert advice for personal trainers and their clients to better reach their fitness goals,” says James Wood of Positive Difference Personal Training.
What makes a next-gen coaching app?
The use of an AI-powered “buddy” or “coach” in apps to proactively assist, give feedback and provide encouragement is the logical next step for health and wellness programs. If well executed, a personalized AI advisor could eventually become a trusted source of information and feedback for customers, binding them more tightly to the brand.
The key ingredients of these coaching apps are:
- Voice interaction – conversational, natural language processing
- Contextual awareness – knowing when and when not to interact
- Heuristic – always learning about the customer based on data shared and the domains in which it is an expert
- Impactful – really helping to achieve the customer’s goals
As noted in Mike Elgan’s recent article, there is a down side to these kinds of apps in that they can become quite addictive to some segments of the population. He writes, “The combination of intelligence, loyalty and faithfulness is irresistible to the human mind.”
From a marketing point of view, these are the very attributes needed to push brand affinity and successful up-sell/cross-sell, and will make these platforms the marketers’ tool of choice over the next few year.
The bottom line
The insurance industry is already launching data driven products through the use of telematics devices and wearables. The industry must move beyond simple pricing discounts and start to use the data generated as a means of deepening engagement with customers. By using the latest AI developments, insurers will be able to turn the data they gather into useful proactive advice for their customers and potentially create a fantastic platform for future brand and marketing activities.
And by the way, please don’t interrupt Siri while she’s talking. It’s just plain rude. 🙂
Andrew Dart is a former Insurance Industry Strategist at CSC. Follow him on Twitter @ITInsuranceGuy.