Humans Vs Robots: Is Ethical Retail Marketing Possible With AI? 

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    It’s an age-old question. When the robot revolution happens will humans be replaced? Will every job be automated? Will society be changed forever? Okay, maybe it’s a little less dramatic than that.  

    But with the rapid growth of advanced technologies such as AI, marketers are asking the big questions: how much technology should we be using, and can AI marketing be truly ethical?  

    We know that technology can create the most efficient business possible. But will technology remove the human aspect of marketing, and rely on algorithms alone? Is a robot-run future of marketing just the most efficient, and profitable, solution? I know that’s a lot of questions, but we’re going to answer them. Let’s jump in. 

    Technology Can be Effective, But Alienating

    With the mis-use of AI, you’ll lose all the benefits of trust and loyalty that you’ve gained.

    With the difficulties facing businesses in such a hostile global market, companies have to prioritise profit and productivity to keep their heads above water. 

    Artificial intelligence and automation can provide support in many ways, from behind-the-scenes operations, product discovery, and data analysis, to check outs, to content creation. In fact, AI services in the retail sector are predicted to increase from $5B to above $31B in 2028.  

    In the current economic climate, AI can often provide a cheaper and more impactful alternative to a full-human team, too. But stop right there.  

    Artificial intelligence can do more for businesses than just reducing employee cost.   

    While businesses tend to turn to replacing employees as the first call to introducing AI, it may be more effective to look to other parts of the company which can be improved using the tech’s help. AI can make your marketing more ethical and trustworthy than ever.  

    Basically, rather than over-using AI to provide the most efficient service possible, it can help you become the most sustainable, ethical, and customer-focused marketer you can be.  

    Using AI to Support Sustainable Marketing  

    AI has the potential to make retail operations far more sustainable, which helps build customer trust. In fact, Deloitte found that 28% of consumers have stopped purchasing certain products due to ethical or environmental concerns. With the focus on sustainability by Gen-Z, this is sure to rise.  

    By keeping track of emission rates and promoting recycling, AI forecasting tools assist businesses in achieving carbon neutrality. Plus, artificial intelligence provides numerous benefits, such as reducing the environmental impact associated with physical store travel and minimising the amount of waste materials sent to landfills. 

    Creating a Hybrid AI & Human Personalised Experience 

    AI can also bring benefits directly to customers. One way is through the use of chatbots, which assist customers in quickly navigating the store and getting personalised product recommendations.  

    Through the provision of personalised recommendations, AI streamlines the checkout process and increases its efficiency. By incorporating AI in this manner, businesses demonstrate their commitment to delivering a top-notch experience by valuing their customers’ time and going the extra mile. 

    But humans are needed for that extra touch, jumping in when an expert or specific opinion or help is needed. Think about all the times you’ve been on the phone to an automated operator, and what a relief it was to receive human help.  

    Paul Sims, Chief Architect at Primark wants us to remember that loyalty is about trust. Can a consumer trust a retailer if its algorithm is so influential? Without humans, there is no human touch. For Paul, algorithms can not only be used in unethical ways, but they can also be highly ineffective.  

    As Paul says, businesses should be data-informed, not data-driven. Helped by AI, not overwhelmed and overcome by it.  

    Personalisation is key in customer relationships. With tech such as AI, a majority of the responses and solutions are generic, and often give answers based on what people have asked before. So, this is all about people like your customer, not your customer in particular. 

    So, AI might be the most effective way to provide a service. In the world without third-party cookies, it can be the best avenue to a personalised customer service. But without the help of human beings, it can become biassed, over-creepy, and sometimes off-the-mark.  

    Algorithms can perpetuate intrinsic biases, and if a company makes its decisions purely on AI, it can lead to serious consequences.  

    Without the human touch, and the careless use of AI, artificial intelligence can backfire. It can cause loss of trust, and even legal issues. With the mis-use of AI, you’ll lose all the benefits of trust and loyalty that you’ve gained.  

    If you provide a biassed, creepy customer service, your customers will soon forget the benefits of personalisation and sustainability that your AI strategy has provided.  

    This is where the human element comes in.  

    Employees Provide the Personal Touch

    It is vital that workers’ skills are utilised in this new environment.

    So, the trick is to empower your employees using AI, not replace them.  

    Even in cases where the usage of Industry 4.0 technologies is not yet apparent or established, there is already a growing demand for skills related to these technologies. LinkedIn currently features over 28,000 job postings in the EU that require expertise in AI, with 8,000 of those positions located in the UK. 

    Automation will displace a number of jobs in the very near future, but most jobs will be merely changed. The use of AI and similar tech will act as a catalyst for this shifting, but it will work better for businesses to help their employees adapt to the use of AI, rather than just replacing them. It’s all about working as a human-robot team.  

    AI can provide a more efficient and enjoyable experience for customers and increase profits, but will not replace human labour completely. Instead, the business should adapt itself to the changing landscape. So, what do we mean by that? 

    Well, executives sometimes lack the knowledge of what a digital transformation will require, or even look like. As we’ve mentioned before, it may work better for companies to look at other aspects of their businesses to automate over replacing their staff.  

    But digital education doesn’t stop there. It is vital that workers’ skills are utilised in this new environment. Their ability to know, share, and act can be measured and developed in a digital context.  

    AI helps marketers, well, market better. As we’ve mentioned, it provides an opportunity for personalisation, especially in a world where data has become scarce due to the death of third-party cookies and privacy regulations. But to do this, skills have to be developed.  

    Using the tech, marketers can automate mundane tasks, write copy in a click, and get access to any image they want at any time. In fact, a marketer can have all the skills of an entire team. They can become an artist with Dall.e, a copywriter with Jasper, and a data analyst with the IBM AI.  

    Basically, AI plays a huge role in automating many tasks, and can allow workers to spend less time on the mundane, and more time devoted to the tasks where a human touch is needed. They can do the jobs marketers love; strategy, creativity, analysis. They can then contribute more to their campaigns, at an incredibly fast pace.  

    Humans + Robots = Happy Customers 

    Humans and AI have completely different roles.  

    We are social animals, which need an emotional connection with others. AI attempts to mimic human intelligence, but emotional intelligence is harder. AI can’t replicate the empathy and deep understanding of the human experience. And empathy is key to customer loyalty and retention.  

    Technology’s influence on society is indisputable, and its increase is inevitable. Despite the popular portrayal of “us vs them” the truth is much more collaborative. In the future, people and machines will have a much more symbiotic relationship than the sci-fi movies want you to believe. 

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