What’s most interesting to me about these trends and how they might come together is what it means for the advertising business. Eventually, IoT will mean that everything we have will be connected, allowing the systems to know how we’re using a particular product. So, if my washing machine knows what size box of detergent I have, then it can automatically order a refill when the time comes. The AI will be able to learn how often I do wash and how long it takes me to go through that box, really taking me out of the ordering equation completely.
While not using really any tech at all right now, we have that system running with dog food today. For years, we watched the food dwindle, reminding ourselves daily for a week or so that we needed food. That usually resulted in a few days of them eating things we made at home before we got back to the pet store to buy more food. By going into the store, we could then be influenced by sales or a desire to try something new. Today, we have a standing order at Chewy and the food arrives about every six weeks.
What this means for dog food manufacturers is that it’s now much harder for them to get me to change my order. They have to get me at the right spot in the cycle to get me to change the order and they have to change my shopping habit, which Chewy has not established. The upside for our household is that our dogs are never without food. The downside for all of the brands that we’re not currently using it that it’s much harder to get into my shopping cart.
Today, we are seeing more and more products purchased this way, these kind of standing orders that happen automatically without any consumer involvement. The Amazon Dash Button is an interim step to this future, automating the purchase, but still requiring the consumer to trigger the purchase.
But as 5G rolls out, making it much easier for a wider variety of things to be connected to the network and more things being automatically connected to the network and AI learning our habits and behaviors, it starts to take me out of the purchase funnel. In the near future, I will be able to program (or they will just learn!) my shopping bots to do a large majority of my shopping for me. And for marketers, this creates huge challenges.
How will marketers in the future influence those bots that are out there shopping on my behalf? Today marketers use all kinds of tools to get me to buy. They can appeal to my emotions or just my budget. They can help me with longer term purchases or connect with me for an impulse buy. But how will an emotional appeal change the behavior of my bot?
Now, there will always be things that either require my involvement, big ticket items like major appliances or cars as well as other items that I just like to be involved in the purchase. But if toothpaste, deodorant, laundry detergent and even some of the more standard parts of my wardrobe can be purchased through my shopping bots using AI, I’m not sure I’d want to be involved in that purchase process myself. And that will upend the entire idea of the consumer journey and purchase funnel.
For me, of course, this means brands need to figure out how to connect with me before I programmed my shopping bits, so that their brands are added to the mix. I might not always want just the cheapest dog food, but I may be up for a deal among 3 or 4 brands that I have preselected. It’s critical for those brands to be in my consideration list for my bots.
Think of how many products you wish you didn’t have to shop for every week, where you could just do some upfront programming and then let the system to the rest. If you think you’re one of those products, you need to start thinking about this issue today. For the robots are coming, but these robots will be working for me the consumer and you need to make sure that I’m already loyal to your brand when they’re here.