We’ve already seen some of the consequences of mysterious data working behind the curtain: consumers creeped out by odd friend recommendations on Facebook, re-targeting that haunts us like a stalking ex-, and the famous dad who learned his daughter was pregnant from the checkout clerk.
And the more analytically powerful and automated our environments become, the more potential there is to deliver experiences that make consumers scratch their heads or become uneasy. As we leverage the awesome capability of marketing technology, we’ll need to keep several thoughts in mind:
It’s OK to Keep Some Things Behind the Scenes
There may be operational realities that consumers may not understand or appreciate. If it’s an unavoidable issue, you may not need to give them all the details and risk firing them up — but use all your analytic power to let them know how to best deal with it.
DMV: Don’t tell me about 4-hour lunch zones. Help me find the best times to come, but knowing about your extended dining schedule just makes me mad.
If It Is Visible, Make It Really Intuitive
In situations where you give consumers a peek into the inner workings of the machine, present it in clear, human language. Make it a no-brainer why it’s happening, and illustrate the benefit to the consumer — not to your operations. If a front-line associate can’t explain it without sounding invasive or self-serving, perhaps you should rethink it.
DMV: Don’t just tell me you’ve figured out a weird system of Letter Tickets that works for you: help me understand how it helps us ALL get out of here more quickly.
Set Expectations Upfront
When consumers are engaging with your data-powered environment, let them know what’s coming, how to expect things will work and what your guiding principles are, especially during those first forays into AI. Context provides comfort and pre-explains what might otherwise appear mysterious.
DMV: If I’m a difficult “D”, help me understand why that is and let me know that I should take blood thinners to avoid deep-vein thrombosis while waiting in a chair.
Build — and Maintain — Trust
This is the most foundational issue. As consumers place more of their daily life in our hands, and as marketers hand more execution over to the algorithm, we need to make sure consumers trust us to make the right choices. That will mean living up to expectations, exposing our core values, and doing right by them — even when it’s not first choice for us. A good litmus test here is to ask whether a front-line employee could comfortably explain your analytics-driven action to a customer — without appearing creepy, self-serving or otherwise disturbing. If not, then maybe you shouldn’t do it.
DMV: You haven’t earned the right to have me trust your system without understanding it. Start by understanding me, and the pain I suffer with you, and then set and live up to my expectations to build a foundation of a trusted relationship.
We’re entering uncharted territory with self-driving cars, AI-driven medical diagnoses and spouse-finding apps. In order to make this all work, we’ll need to be thoughtful about how and when we expose the inner workings of this technology and how to help consumers get trust us with it.
And now wish me luck — I’m camping out on the sidewalk like an iPhone groupie so I can be first in the door at the DMV tomorrow with my dreaded scarlett “D.”