Nick Burton, Vice President Digital Development, Avon
Companies are standing on the precipice of technological revolutions every. Single. Day. Coupled with an increasing need to understand workforces and customers, balancing human connection with convenience is a real corporate conundrum.
According to the latest research from Brigham Young University in the UK, lacking in-person social connections is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day1. Pair that with the emerging Generation Z – dubbed the ‘super creatives’: 55 percent of them say that online spaces are more creative than what they experience offline2. And then add in trying to reach and retain these contradictory audiences.
Let’s try to break it down. Artifical Intelligence (AI) is already rooted in our most basic daily existence. In my house, for example, we have eight Alexas that control the lights, heating and music – and their use has now become quite natural for the whole family (even though my wife was sceptical at the outset). Content recommendations are another example of predictive AI we see almost daily… whether on news channels or Netflix. But we still rely on word-of-mouth recommendations. And it’s in fact the content we enjoy and see through that forms the basis of those predictions. It’s an intrinsic link… So how and where can we build on this partnership to create excellent end user experiences?
Coupled with an increasing need to understand workforces and customers, balancing human connection with convenience is a real corporate conundrum
The beauty industry is a fascinating example of marrying of these two core facets of on and offline. It was founded on relationships, with women seeking out and taking advice from each other, sharing tips and recommending products. Avon was the first company to tap into this community of beauty fans when it was founded in 1886 and successfully built its brand on networks of lipstick lovers. Today we offer that same personalised service… but it’s multi-faceted. Using technology, we’re now able to support our Reps in a more dynamic way by providing them with rich consumer insights that inform the types of recommendations and services they offer to their clients. By predicting purchasing patterns based on historical behaviour, Reps can more accurately tailor their advice and build increasingly deeper and more meaningful relationships with their clients. Softer skills like decision-making, leadership, creativity and empathy are currently areas where AI cannot compete, but where our Reps can really capitalise. Using this AI generated insight delivers efficiencies in cost and time, with less being spent on manual tasks due to the automation possibilities AI brings. So, with retail trends moving towards personalisation, Avon is seeing the benefits of this shift in focus from task-based to value-driven as Reps can more effectively optimise and manage their time to build their beauty businesses.
Blending artificial and emotional intelligence can fuel corporate growth, when technology and data are used to improve your core business model, as opposed to replace it. Part of Avon’s business strategy to Open Up focuses on how to access innovative ways to enhance our business. One example of this is using automation to help us identify Reps who are at higher risk of leaving so we can provide timely interventions. We then work with our sales teams to define better retention programmes and prevent high churn rates.
It’s easy to imagine a world run by life-size Alexas, but it’s much harder to conceive of a world where connection and convenience co-exist harmoniously. I believe there’s a powerful combination in people and technology – the challenge we face in the industry is how to harness it effectively.