Manish Bahl, Associate Vice President, Centre for the Future of Work, APAC, Cognizant

Reaching the AI-Augmented Customers of the Future

(pic) Manish Bahl, Associate Vice President, Centre for the Future of Work, APAC, Cognizant

Consumer power has climbed to new heights. With the rise of nonhuman intermediaries ― recommendation engines, voice-powered search, smart-home devices, autonomous purchasing programmes and other artificial intelligence-powered systems, machines are now empowering consumers with new levels of intelligence. These algorithms have begun playing an increasingly important role by augmenting consumers with the information they need, influencing their decisions and ultimately helping them become better humans.

This new human-algorithm alliance has turned the business-to-consumer dynamic on its head and is challenging brands to connect more intelligently and humanly with customers. In markets of the future, this will have a profound impact on how traditional business models evolve, presenting both opportunities and risks to today’s companies. Trying to influence humans alone will no longer be sufficient. Brands will also need to influence the algorithms. Every industry and business will need to become ‘B2HM’ ― business to human and machine ― and the top brands will be the ones who successfully earn a trusted reputation with both customers and their AI assistants.

What’s the meaning of a brand when consumers are indifferent to whether the brands they use today are still around tomorrow? Or when most of them are not easily impressed with new products and services? Or when they’d choose to buy a brand recommended by Siri, Alexa or Hey Google, despite never having heard of it?

Cognizant has released a Customer of the Future report, based on a global survey of 6,500 consumers in the U.S. (32%), Europe (32%), Asia-Pacific (32%) and the Middle East (4%), to explore the new expectations and perceptions of consumers in the age of algorithms and how businesses can rise above. The research uncovered detailed insight into the future AI-augmented customer, revealing the following key trends in Southeast Asia:

  • Consumers are shifting their trust from brands to intelligent machines

The majority of SEA respondents would trust recommendations obtained from search engines (77%), e-commerce sites (70%), mobile apps (67%) and voice-based personal assistants (48%) more than they would trust information provided directly by traditional company websites (44%).

  • Voice interfaces are emerging as the new gatekeeper of purchase decisions

Two-fifths (41%) of SEA consumers said they would trust the brand recommendations of their voice-based personal assistants. In fact, a large majority said that they would allow these AI assistants to automatically make certain purchases on their behalf, particularly in tickets (73%), travel bookings (65%) and appointments like medical, maintenance, car servicing, etc. (54%).

  • Singaporeans are relatively less demanding of hyper-personalised experiences, and Malaysians appreciate brand offerings that help them save time and money

While 60% of Singapore respondents (compared to the SEA average of 65% and global average of 68%) said a customised experience is vital, more than half (55%, compared to the global average of 50%) were satisfied with the level of personalisation provided by traditional businesses such as banks, insurance companies, telecom operators, etc.

Nearly 54% of Malaysian respondents (compared to the global average of 60%) said they feel a bond with brands that help them save time and money and make their life incrementally easier, more enjoyable and more productive.

  • Companies are paying a huge penalty for falling short in payment experiences, especially in SEA

Nearly one-third (28%) of respondents globally said that in the last 12 months, they have cancelled a purchase simply because of a poor payment experience. Interestingly, consumers in SEA view this in even higher priority than other regions around the world (30%).

So, how can one effectively enthral the AI-augmented consumer?

“Based on Cognizant’s research, traditional companies will need to go the extra mile in overhauling their digital infrastructure, go-to-consumer strategies, and customer experience goals,” says Manish Bahl, Associate Vice President, Centre for the Future of Work – APAC, Cognizant. “These companies will have to adopt a three-pronged ‘Reimagine, Rebuild and Rethink” approach: Reimagine their brand; rebuild digital reputation to reach augmented customers; and rethink their relevance to form deeper relationships with consumers and resonate with their behaviour. By focusing on the human-machine dynamic of this new era, brands will be able to understand and anticipate the needs of tomorrow’s customers, to swiftly deliver value that they hadn’t yet realised they needed.”

The complete Customer of the Future report can be found here.