Artificial Intelligence and consumer behaviour are a partnership that we are going to see much more of in the coming months and years ahead. That’s because our shopping behaviour is highly individual and complex. Getting to grips with it takes businesses a good deal of time, effort and money.
Even though psychologists understand a reasonable amount of shopping behaviour, most of those studies have been conducted in “real world” brick and mortar stores. That kind of research has enabled retailers to design shops that encourage more buying. For instance, you are likely to find floor tiles in areas where the shop wants you to walk quickly through, but a softer floor covering, such as a carpet where you are more likely to linger longer. Similarly, raising an area above the rest of the shop floor makes shoppers feel more superior to the others around them. As a result, you will often find luxury items on flooring areas raised just a few inches above the rest of the shop floor. It’s enough to make shoppers feel good about themselves and worthy of the high-priced items around them.
However, nowadays much shopping is done online. Even though almost 90% of everything we buy is done in a brick and mortar store, most of our shopping expeditions begin online. We search for products, do research, compare prices and then go to the local store to get what we want. It all means that retailers are struggling.
Online shopping behaviour is complex
In the “olden days,” all we did was go to a shop, look at things to buy, maybe talk to a sales assistant and then make a decision. That meant it was relatively easy to study the psychology of that purchasing pattern. Now, though, we do all of these things, plus we look at product websites, we go to comparison sites, we might chat in forums, we’ll ask our friends on Facebook and we might check items out with a range of competitors. We could then read some blogs to see what the “experts” are saying and we could also look at some videos on YouTube showing the products we want to buy. We might also listen to some relevant podcasts and we could even take part in a webinar about the item we want to buy.
For any retailer, this is a real issue. Much of the research activity undertaken by buyers is now done outside the confines of their store. That means the usual kind of intelligence a salesperson could use to secure a purchase is not available. Furthermore, even if the shopper does everything online, they may well be influenced by seeing other products in the real world or visits they have made to brick and mortar stores.
Whether you are trying to sell things online or in the real world, current shopper behaviour is now making your life much harder.
Enter, Artificial Intelligence and consumer behaviour
Artificial intelligence and consumer behaviour are a natural connection for retailers. Gathering evidence to analyse and to work out just how consumers are shopping these days is so complex and there is so much data available, you won’t find patterns or behaviour signals unless you use artificial intelligence.
That artificial intelligence can be as simple as using Google Analytics or it could be something as comprehensive as IBM’s Cognos Analytics system.
There is a danger, though, that focusing on all the “big data” that is now available – even to sole traders and small businesses – could potentially be a problem. That’s because many online businesses will focus on the data, rather than the customer, as a person. Even though the artificial intelligence can wade through the big data and produce significant insights, in many instances, there will be valid reasons for talking to customers directly.
Artificial intelligence is only as good as the programmers who built it. The human mind, though, is highly adaptable and can assess information which AI cannot yet deal with, such as the meaning of body language or tone of voice. Those are particularly human skills.
So the real benefit of artificial intelligence for analysing consumer behaviour is when it is married with human-produced data and information. Using artificial intelligence to analyse online buying behaviour is now essential if you want to survive online. However, if you don’t combine that with human information from talking with customers, then you will only be using AI to deal with a small portion of the mass amounts of data you actually have available.
Artificial intelligence and consumer behaviour work well together, but only if you combine it with traditional face-to-face connections.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+