3 stages of evolution from machines to customers
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As technology gets smarter, a new customer emerges: machines.
Machine customers “will change the way you market and sell,” said Gartner analyst Don Scheibenreif, speaking at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo in Orlando, Fla., in October. “You can’t take your Alexa out to dinner, but you can give her the right information to buy from you instead of someone else.”
This long-term shift will come in phases, analysts expect — and some of that is already happening.
“Try asking Alexa to order a roll of toilet paper,” said Mark Raskino, VP Analyst Fellow at Gartner. “You start by asking once, then it suggests a subscription service, and before you know it, you delegate the purchase to a machine that works in your household, on your behalf, and you take the drudgery out of be a customer.”
The trend will unfold in three stages, according to analysts:
- Machines as linked customers: Devices and systems can only buy from a single customer, such as a printer that orders ink cartridges from its manufacturer after it runs out.
- Machines as adaptable customers: where the AI-driven customer shops, using information to make the best buying decision. Smart assistants fall into this category.
- Machines as Autonomous Customers: Cars will be able to detect when a specific part or component needs to be replaced and automate the purchasing process.
These are long-term steps, Raskino and Scheibenreif said. 2030 is the first time this trend will become more noticeable for organizations.
Internally, most companies aren’t quite ready to respond to automated customers. They are largely still iterating on the AI themselves.
With more AI embedded in different software, technology leaders are grappling with fragmented platforms, making consistent AI strategies a feat.
The other thing that holds automation back is talent. While a Gartner survey found that more than seven in ten executives say they currently have or can find needed AI talent, emerging tech workers have consistently made up a third of job openings in a global marketplace. already strained work, according to data from CompTIA.
Despite the trend still years away, businesses can take steps now to prepare for a future of customers that will be driven by algorithms rather than emotions.
“The first is to think about forming a team to start talking about this issue,” Scheibenreif said. This team – made up of marketing, strategy and technology managers, for example – could begin to identify markets or product lines likely to be impacted by do-it-yourself buyers.
Minimum viable products are a logical next step.
“Maybe people are ready for machine customers in this industry, or maybe they’re not,” Raskino said. “You have to experience, test, discover, measure.”