Does Amazon Hold the Keys to AI’s Success?

Does Amazon Hold the Keys to AI’s Success?

Yariella Coello, Head of Consultancy at Profusion, discusses what marketers can learn from Amazon’s use of AI

Concepts like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and data science are terms that are hard for the everyday consumer to understand. Their underlying principles are rooted in statistics and computer science, which are often not the easiest topics to comprehend. Simply put, ask everyday consumers what AI means, and they’re more likely to name robots than the AI in their pockets and PCs.

Of course, for the people who create AI, the data scientists and tech business leaders, knowing the nuts and bolts of their creation is of utmost importance. But is AI itself a selling point for consumers?

Based on its copy, Amazon doesn’t seem to think so. The tech giant recently announced Amazon Go, a concept corner shop in Seattle powered largely through connected devices and machine learning. Take a look at how Amazon has described the tech powering the store, and you’ll see it references the same technology as self-driving cars. In other words, the tech company uses examples to help its customers understand what’s working behind the scenes in Amazon Go.

Package Up Your Product

Another technique companies including Amazon and Google use is to wrap AI up in neat product packages. Amazon talks about the “Just Walk Out” technology behind Amazon Go, and Google uses AI in the guise of Google Assistant. These terms do what they say on the tin. It doesn’t take a data scientist to understand what the purpose of the technology is.

This is a valuable lesson for marketers: keep things short and simple. It may be tempting, when somebody’s heart and soul has gone into building an AI or data science model from the ground up, to talk about how technologically advanced the product is. But speaking on neural nets, machine learning and Bayes’ Theorem will sound like gibberish to the mainstream public.

Make Things Personal

Apple and Microsoft use another strategy to explain their AI products – anthropomorphism. Asking Siri and Cortana to remind you to call someone or to schedule a meeting is now commonplace for many people. But little thought is given to the AI behind these virtual assistants. Apple and Microsoft both say the assistant “helps you get things done” and they focus on all the things you can ask the AI to do for you. In other words, they talk about the practicalities of the technology. This can be a powerful way to engage with your audience – talking about how they can use your product. Given that 65 percent of U.S. smartphone users now use these assistants, it’s a strategy that seems to be working for the tech giants.

When marketing Amazon Go and the virtual assistants, a lot of emphasis is put on how it makes your life easier. This is a big selling point for AI, as a whole. The fact that AI can learn your habits and preferences and tailor a service to your specific needs means mundane tasks are made simpler. Amazon talks about never having to queue at Amazon G;, Apple and Microsoft talk about how Siri and Cortana help you in your daily tasks.

Get Hands-on and Human

Consumers have previously stated that hands-on experience provides them with the most information about AI. Failing that, they rely on the media and technology experts. All the tech giants have tapped into this, unveiling their AI in large, high-profile events attended by influencers and tech press. While these events do go into some detail on how the tech works, the focus again is on how consumers can use the product and what benefits they receive from it. While many marketers probably can’t hold events on the same scale as Apple, Google and Amazon, you can tap into this kind of practical, hands-on thinking. Video content is a good way to give consumers an idea of how your product works. Distributing samples to influencers is another tactic and simply giving customers relatable examples can also work.

The relatable, human AI is an idea that’s been the fodder of Hollywood writers for years. It does, however, pose an interesting opportunity for marketers. People do business with people they like, so making AI feel as close to a human-to-human interaction as possible is the holy grail of mainstream AI adoption. Apple has used a novel technique to make Siri feel more human – laughter. When first released, Siri was programmed with a sense of humor. Ask her the meaning of life and you’ll get a witty response, ask her if she has a boyfriend and you get a cutting reply.

There is some science backing up the fun AI quirk. Laughter has been shown to be a technique humans use to build social interactions. In other words, if we laugh together we’re likely to enjoy each other’s company and spend more time together.

Keep It Simple

When trying to explain techy concepts like AI, simplicity is the key to winning consumers over. Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple have this almost down to an art, using a variety of techniques to make AI relatable and make people want to use them. Ultimately, when trying to market a product as advanced as AI, machine learning or data science, the basic rule of all good marketing still stands true: Know your audience.

Note: this post originally appeared in Target Marketing and can be seen here.