Integrating artificial intelligence into mobile strategy

The value mobile AI experiences can add to a customer’s journey will take it from a nice-to-have to must-have in the near future.
Mathabo Sekhonyana
By Mathabo Sekhonyana, Head of marketing and communications at Adoozy Power, Africa’s first powerbank rental network.
Johannesburg, 26 May 2023

A mobile-first approach is fast becoming a must for businesses wanting to compete in a saturated retail market. Our smartphones have become an extension of ourselves, and as any savvy businessperson will tell you, companies have to meet their customer where they are at.

Most companies have been incorporating mobile into their strategies for some time already, but to truly innovate, I believe it’s the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into their mobile customer experience that will successfully separate them from their competitors.

No longer a buzzword, but rather an accelerating reality of the physical/digital hybrid world, AI is both the future and the present of tech. For the purpose of this article, I’m focusing specifically on mobile AI.

Given that smartphone adoption in Africa is set to reach 87% by 2030, mobile should be a priority for any serious innovator wanting to reach the modern consumer. In fact, the mobile AI market is expected to reach a CAGR of 28.65% over the next few years, guaranteeing a disruption in the way mobile devices are used.

And things are moving swiftly, even more so now, as there appears to be a post-pandemic haste to embrace immersive technology. McKinsey calls it “the quickening”, stating that since COVID, we’ve jumped forward 10 years as far as digital activity is concerned.

Forrester echoes this in its 2020 ‘Future of martech’ report, which highlights AI techniques like natural language processing and generation, voice and facial recognition as the emerging technologies that will fuel the next generation CX.

Virtual mobile assistants and chatbots aside, it’s the immersive experience that AI can offer that is really shaking things up. Couple this with the fact that these experiences are made possible with the weightless devices in our pockets, and the sky really is the limit.

An accelerating reality of the physical/digital hybrid world, AI is both the future and the present of tech.

It goes beyond just making a customer’s life easier; it’s the value that mobile AI experiences can offer to a customer’s journey that will take it from a nice-to-have to must-have in the near future.

Consumer expectations are evolving so rapidly, that brands that can’t offer a balanced co-existence of mobile AI and virtual and physical experiences, will be pushed to the back of the queue.

According to Futurum Research, over 55% of customers already expect to be able to use Siri- or Alexa-like devices to ask for help in physical stores.

Mobile AI: Sought-after shopping companion

Let’s consider some examples of how mobile AI is shaping the retail customer experience.

Looking first at e-commerce, the Amazon Alexa-enabled voice-powered shopping feature is an impressive tool that enables consumers to instruct Alexa to search for items on the e-commerce platform, add things to their cart, check delivery status, and more, all through voice commands.

Then there’s the Snapchat virtual fitting room, which gives customers an idea of how an outfit will look and fit without having to physically try anything on. It’s been such a success, that within its first two weeks of launching, the feature drove over $6 million in sales for stores.

We also have mobile AI tools that have been purposely designed to enhance the in-store experience; for example, the Adidas ‘bring it to me’ app. This enables consumers to simply point their phone at a pair of trainers they like, and the app then prompts the user to select a size.

In no time at all, a staff member approaches with the trainers, using the customer's location to find their whereabouts in-store. In addition to the app, shoppers can interact with smart mirrors that display product information in the store’s changing rooms.

The key ingredient to the examples above is that they are not tools or features that act in isolation, but rather feed into a larger omnichannel strategy, with mobile being the prime launching pad.

Below I’ve included a guide to help companies consider their own mobile AI integration strategy, with key recommendations on how to get started:

Define goals: Do you want to use AI to create a more immersive customer experience or a more personalised one? Are you looking to reduce costs or automate process? Having a clear objective will assist in successfully integrating AI into the mobile offering.

Select the right platform: Once the right AI solution has been identified, it’s time to select the right platform. Is what you want to achieve possible with a third-party platform, or is a custom-built solution needed? What is the most cost-effective option?

Test and refine: Don’t skip this step when integrating AI into the mobile offering. Test the solution, monitor user feedback and engagement, and identify areas for improvement before rolling it out.

Train the team: AI integration requires technical knowledge and skill. Make sure front-of-house staff members are up to speed on how the features work. More specifically, ensure the specialised skills that are needed to optimise the AI solutions that have been implemented are in place.