November 20, 2018

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fast becoming the driver of analytics in retail marketing. If you’ve demonstrated you prefer one brand of shoes, AI ensures you’re shown several similar brands every time you shop.

Even more recently AI is being used by retailers to create experiences for consumers aimed directly at their identity: Which outfit looks best on their body? What kind of makeup highlights their facial features in the right way? Which shoes compliment which clothing? AI technology isn’t just guessing at what works, it is using consumer avatars as virtual models so buyers can “see” what kind of products would look best on them.

This can be thought of as an extension of the selfie culture birthed by Apple’s iPhone years ago. Today’s consumers have become so accustomed to looking at, and assessing their reflection in, different settings — and enhancing those settings via filters and more — that the next step is of course to use that alternate reality as virtual waystations for selling.

AI-driven brand experiences are tailor-made for selling to today’s younger consumers, likely the generation most comfortable manipulating their likeness to inform their decision-making. One example is Sephora which recently introduced “Visual Artist,” an AI-enabled technology that allows customers to “try on” cosmetic products like lipsticks, eye shadows, and more. The online technology maps and identifies the user’s facial features and then allows them to apply the products to the avatar. It can apply suggested shades based on the user’s skin tone as well as run a tutorial, using the avatar, to show how the user can best use the products in the future.

Another example is how Thread, a UK retailer, matches the user with an online stylist who helps the user’s avatar — a photo submitted to them — “try on” different clothes. The user gets outfit recommendations every week based on their preferences. Through the AI, Thread can spot patterns in the images the user uploaded to get a sense of their preferred style.

Another example is Macy’s On Call, which is driven by a digital assistant via the user’s smartphone that can take requests and direct shoppers towards items when they are within the store. Finally, Amazon Echo Look is a hands-free camera that serves as an online stylist for the user as they examine new clothes online.

These examples represent an unprecedented deepening of the relationship between the user and brand. AI is enabling the brand to get more personal — far beyond what analytics have given retailers to date regarding details like where consumers live, their education level, etc. After all, what is more personal than helping someone dress or apply makeup?

We can see this in other realms: AI can situate consumers directly inside new construction homes that have yet to be built so they can “touch” amenities or “walk” around to choose which room flow works best for them. Or AI can direct consumer avatars to virtual destinations so they can “see” what it feels like to ski down its hills or determine whether a resort’s blueprint works for them.

AI enabled brand experiences have evolved well beyond novelty status. These experiences are fast becoming about developing a deeper, more meaningful connection with the brand itself. The impact of these personalized, peak brand experiences will be to raise the bar for every other brand, just as Amazon’s “One Click Buying” redefined ease of purchase. So if you aren’t asking yourself how you can use AI to deepen your brand’s relationship with your consumers, perhaps you should be.

Sign up for Moments of Restlessness