Experts View

Understanding Consumer Behavior in 2021 through AI

Nitin Agarwal, CTO & Co-Founder, Locobuzz

Covid-19 has had a very significant impact on businesses and daily life and our society is still uncovering the far-reaching impact of confinement, uncertainty and fear. However, from a consumer behaviour standpoint, the pandemic has turned many people into digital customers that hunt for brand support online. There has been a notable effect on the way people interact with various brands and redefining their expectations of them – therefore, a drastic shift in consumer behaviour has been observed in the past year. Lockdowns and home quarantines gave people more time to browse the far reaches of the web and discover new and existing brands. Now more than ever, consumers expect relevance – and they are a lot more intolerant of bad or poorly thought of customer experience.

In retrospect, loyal customers now want carefully curated experiences that offer the best value for their time.

The focus has now shifted from unprecedented quantity to meaningful quality. However, marketers now face the challenging task of meeting these consumer expectations for renewed digital experiences. As a solution, companies are actively leveraging data analytics, AI tech and automation to study consumer behavior online and increase the effectiveness of their communication and retention strategies. Companies now want to carefully understand every detail of customers in the post-pandemic era.

How is AI helping companies analyze consumer behavior?

It is important to set the context here. Now with the second wave of COVID 19, people are yet again required to stay home and follow lockdown procedures as prescribed in many parts of the world. Additionally, brick and mortar businesses have been put under pressure for the second time as the demand for home delivery, take-away, and online purchases have witnessed a significant rise over the last few months. This sudden disruption in buying behaviour and logistics, making it a challenge for companies to break even. As consumer needs become more personalized, we are expected to see strategic decision-making with AI at the helm taking a front seat.

Between erratic consumer behavior patterns and scrutinized advertising budgets, AI fits right in. Backed by the power of deep data analytics, companies are increasingly leveraging AI to uncover insights that help deliver timely customer experience. This results in more personalized interactions with consumers and allows companies to optimize their marketing budgets accordingly. AI allows companies to adapt to the customers online and establish a more personal understanding of them based on data insights and experience management processes. AI has been the critical differentiator in identifying behavioural trends and helping businesses stay afloat through these trying times. Businesses gather and analyze historical and behavioral data to gain a much more accurate understanding of their customers. In fact, as per a report by Future of Work, 39% of IT leaders are currently resorting to AI to engage with their customers and another 19% expect to use AI in the next five years.

How can AI help brands turn actionable insights from Social digital data?

Through social listening practices, businesses are able to understand how customers perceive the brand and derive insights into market trends and opportunities for improvement. Customers are constantly sharing their opinions, feelings and sentiments across social media, online reviews and customer support interactions. At the end of the day, that is an unfathomable amount of data to be processed from scratch. However, AI-led insights help businesses automatically identify actionable insights from customer sentiments and other sets of unstructured data – all in real-time. With this information now made available, businesses can better strategize their spends and target the exact needs of their customers.

In this context, AI has a significant role to play for real-time data-driven decision making. When a company initiates a decision-making process, they collect data, extract patterns, and utilize the available information to make decisions.
These systems are capable of taking low-level decisions rapidly as soon as supporting data is available. We are already seeing the proliferation of such systems across various use cases. For instance, technology companies are implementing specific AI-powered systems that automate the analysis of data to uncover trends and identify shifts in consumer behavior. The ultimate goal would be to replicate real-time decision-making capabilities that span multiple data sets to empower and encourage cross-functional decision-making. Companies that scale this data mountain will enjoy the benefits of faster and better enterprise strategies.
The idea is to also simplify the customer experience process, identify consumer behavior and eventually verify the efficacy of a marketing solution. To achieve the best results, going forward each brand must constantly improve their AI-models by implementing these insights to create transparent, unbiased AI automation. This is so that AI-technology helps the brand stay relevant and bridge gaps to prevent customer churn.

For instance, campaign bidding becomes more selective and intelligent as AI algorithms gather data, reducing repeated impressions and maximizing ROI. By strategically implementing AI, marketers can integrate brands into people’s lives as hundreds of intelligent decisions can be taken swiftly. Rather than replacing marketers, however, AI technology can save them from getting overwhelmed by static segmentation. Serving as a data science extension to the human brain, AI generates effective results and helps marketers to invest their communications more strategically.

The need to Analyze, Engage, Personalize content and relations
AI has been instrumental in finding solutions for marketers when looking to target or understand the behavior of a specific group of consumers. It helps to set a clear direction for businesses with regard to what to look for and why? By leveraging AI, brands can offer personalized customer experience that not only drives stronger relations, but also promotes customer centricity and a stronger business foundation. For instance, the banking sector can utilize intelligent mobile apps to track consumer behavior and garner valuable personalized suggestions. In addition, AI-powered banking apps can also show offers, services and recommendations based on user search patterns.

The benefits of curated, hyper-personalized experience are extensive. For instance, OTT platforms are well known for using AI to improve customer experiences. Streaming giants use the technology to analyze the viewing patterns of their customers to create hyper-targeted recommendations. Take NETFLIX as a popular example. In 2014, the brand implemented over 80,000 ‘altgenres’ to personalize the experience for their users and keep them hooked with recommendations that they would most likely watch.

Perform communications across all channels that customers are active on In lieu of the pandemic, an omnichannel approach with AI at the forefront will help companies understand the right channels to engage with potential and existing customers. Staying ahead of the curve and delivering experiences that match the demands of customers would be quite impossible without AI-technology.

Furthermore, the right kind of AI-powered social listening abilities help generate insights for companies to retain customers better. A versatile medium, AI can also be leveraged to create significant impact via social media marketing and analytics for any brand. It is also a crucial differentiator in helping companies to associate with the right brand advocates. For instance, with actionable data in hand, companies can then reach out to the right influencers and brand advocates that would help strengthen ties with customers and improve overall brand loyalty.

AI’s role in making marketers and brands become more empathetic
In this extended new normal, quick decisions, based on real-time, actionable data can be the differentiator. By helping brands understand changing customer behavior through developments and data, AI has set a path for businesses to optimize their resources and utilize automation tools efficiently. With AI leading the way, businesses will now be able to analyze further shifts in consumer behavior and connect with their customers at a more personal level.

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