Algorithm Schmalgorithm

Forget the need for human interaction. Much vaunted Voice Recognition technologies and their supporting algorithms are apparently going to influence our lives hugely. Worryingly for marketers, we’re told they are changing the ways we choose and buy products. It all sounds as if they’ll do for brands & retailers what Satnav did to road atlases…

  • The likes of Amazon Echo & Google Home ‘personal assistants’, or rather the algorithms that support their respective search capabilities provide the prospect of fundamentally altering shoppers purchasing behaviours.
  • By aiding purchasing decision-making, they will close the space between consumer and shopper needs and the fulfilment of those needs.
  • As the algorithms begin to anticipate a shopper’s requirements, all the brand levers we’ve traditionally pulled to signify quality and influence choice begin to diminish.
  • Tracked by the algorithms, a shopper’s historic preference for price or own label for example, will make it difficult for marketing activities to change shopping behaviours.
  • In low consumer and shopper involvement categories often prevalent in grocery and FMCG, there runs the risk that commodity-type choices will become increasingly automated; with both brands and retailers being unknowingly dumped by shoppers as the algorithms chase the best deals, regardless of where they come from.
  • The algorithms that make Voice Recognition so attractive to us as consumers and shoppers seem quite likely to limit or remove our choices as our preferences are honed automatically to our priority needs.
  • At the very least all this throws into question the current ways we try to communicate marketing messages at the most salient moments on a path to purchase.

As this emerging world of Vice Recognition develops, there could be at least three outcomes from a marketing point of view.

Firstly, in terms of communication, we may need to become as much algorithm-centric as consumer & shopper-centric. Product descriptions will have to be those most likely to be picked-up as priority need states by an algorithm.

Secondly, NPD will have to create wider brand portfolios to both meet more specific consumer needs, and to help retailers differentiate themselves from one another by product selection, not just price.

Finally, the planning and targeting of shopper and consumer communication will need to be increasingly implemented on insight based in actual shopping behaviours rather than demographics and traditional claimed attitudes and lifestyles.