(Technical) Complexity is Free – and it Can Help Loyalty Marketers

Oct 24, 2017

In our hyper-evolving, technology-dependent world, consumed with improvements in the internet of things (IoT), it’s hard to keep track of all the tools available to us. The phrase “complexity is free” was shared by one of my favorite authors, Thomas L. Friedman (https://www.amazon.com/Thank-You-Being-Late-Accelerations/dp/0374273537), who attributes the quote to Luana Iorio, who oversees G.E.’s research on three-dimensional printing. Friedman discusses technology that was once out of reach to the average person due to either restricted access or extremely high costs, and now, how those same tools are accessible for free to all (with an email account and access to the internet).

This development is important to loyalty marketers. One of the biggest challenges to successful Omni-channel loyalty programs is making it available to customers where and when they need it. There are so many possible touchpoints –in store, social, online, in-app, support at 3 AM, chat, while their product is out for delivery, etc. This significantly increases the cost and complexity of the technology required to support these experiences. The concept of complexity being free, and the technology demands for loyalty, sparked this article – to show just a few of things that can be available, for free.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are some of the cool terms in tech today. What could possibly be free in Machine Learning? Well it just so happens – a lot.  Let’s start with Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services.

Azure offers an amazing Emotion API for free, limited to a hefty 30,000 image transactions per month. The way the API works is that users send in an image to Azure, Azure’s AI tool analyzes it and responds with the facial expressions detected and their emotional scores. There are 8 emotions that are scored between anger, contempt, fear, happiness, sadness, etc. The API returns results such as:

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/cognitive-services/You can try it yourself at: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/cognitive-services/ – simply find the Emotion API and upload any picture with human faces, then receive their emotional scores.

So how can loyalty marketers utilize this technology? Think about the possibilities of personalizing user experiences with emotion recognition. Consider video conferencing with your favorite retailer’s customer support team. As soon as you connect to video they will able to score your emotion. If you are identified as a top tier customer and you are displaying disgust, anger, or contempt with high scores they immediately put you in front of the line with a senior customer support agent. This adds a whole new layer to recognition and personalization – instead of just a number with a name and transaction history, you can now analyze and prioritize emotion near real-time.

Azure offers numerous other API’s that will quickly reshape the advanced capabilities brands will incorporate into their experiences. One of my favorites is the Content Moderator which is a machine-assisted moderation of text and images, augmented with human review tools. In other words, if you have user-generated content such as images and text in your offering, this tool will review it before it is posted, checking for inappropriate pictures or text (no one wants to see that). At what crazy cost could such a tremendous tool be available to you? $1 per 1,000 transactions. That amazing price point blows my mind.  It’ll be even more incredible in a few years when it will be 10x as good, 10x as fast, and ultimately free. Retail loyalty programs often offer points for reviews, because reviews have been proven to drive sales, however the logistics for timely content review is beyond the capability or budgets of some retailers. Not anymore.

Azure is just one example of providers working in this new space. Look out for DeepMind, Google, Baidu, Facebook (and the other usual tech suspects) for what they will offer for free in the next several quarters. Consider the level of intelligence and complexity outlined above that these tech players are allowing you to access at no or minimal cost.  Who had access to this level of technology 10 years ago? No one.

There are some amazing tools on the horizon and just beyond. Every day at Kobie we are working to create unique user experiences and to lead the industry in evolving brand loyalty, using the most innovative tools available to us. Success in customer experience is a long and ever-changing technological journey and we’re excited about what lies ahead. Contact our Consulting Team to discuss your unique needs and what tools may be available to you.