AI Insights from our Geekmeet

Rarely a day goes by at the moment without a story about AI leading to an end of humanity and employment or a revolutionary opportunity for brands to automate, optimise, and enhance their business processes and customer experience. It’s all very confusing, especially if you are a small brand.

To learn from the best, we contacted our community of ecommerce experts and brand leaders and gathered them for one of our Geekmeets to have a frank conversation about AI in the context of smaller challenger brands.

It can tell you anything you want to know and do anything you need to do, but it’s how to know what to do and how to know what you need to know.

The catalyst for this session was a brand leader from our portfolio posing a question to our digital expert, Leon Hughes, ‘is there a tool where I can plug everything in, all my brand’s data and processes, and AI can tell me what we should do next?’. The resounding answer is not yet, otherwise some of us at Piper might be out of a job.

Generative AI can create, but before it can create, it has to be taught. That is where the people at the roundtable said they will be focusing.

By teaching AI what the business already knows such as sales trends or customer behaviour, they can begin to find new and valuable insights.

Not all AI is created equal. When creating our generated image for this newsletter, we got quite a few duds using Dall-E and Canva before Bing’s AI Image Generator created the image we used (with the prompt, “Geeks meeting to discuss the future of AI”).

During the group discussion, one of the core distinctions was between brand leaders, whose creative teams are nervous about job security, and ecommerce experts who see real opportunities in automation, data analysis, and optimization.

The group agreed that most businesses are going too far in how they are thinking about the potential of AI, excited by AI’s ability to write content despite its somewhat clunky clichéd style and ignoring the true value it brings in automating mundane tasks and repetitively processing data far beyond human capability.

The group talked about optimising the areas that used to be rife with human error and mind-numbing spreadsheets, such as analysing purchase behaviour, search trends, campaign data or customer feedback. As a result, teams will have more time to create and implement improvement strategies as well as focusing on team culture.

You are not competing with AI. You are competing with humans using AI well.

One great example was around NPD. The brand had used an image generator to create 100s of product variations, then the team used customer knowledge and brand purpose to find the successful elements and make further iterations. With time, brands will be able to train AI to suggest NPD based on what their customer wants and needs.

They also talked about tools that help with forecasting and predicting customer behaviour, which will create smarter and more relevant customer service, CRM and customer communications. Some were already using tools that can learn and respond to the most common customer queries and personalise content.

The overall recommendation to smaller brands is to forget the more attention-grabbing AI articles around stealing jobs from creative teams and focus on tasks that people never have time to do. In many ways, AI is a bigger opportunity for smaller brands who don’t have the capacity or internal skills to do time-intensive tasks, like customer analytics or personalisation, allowing them to compete with bigger brands that have business intelligence teams and expensive tech systems and consultants.

To help, here are four AI tools that smaller brands can start using today:

While most creative teams know Canva, the online photoshop competitor, their new range of AI tools means that designs can be reformatted for multiple platforms with just a click, languages translated, details erased from or moved in photos, and now has dozens of plug in apps.

An automated AI-powered customer service software that can maximise efficiency by dealing with the first touch customer enquiries, the simple ones your brand receives over and over again, freeing up your customer service agents for more complex escalations.

A workflow automation tool that allows users to integrate applications to automate tasks so that you can focus on what matters, no more tedious manual data entry or campaign performance monitoring.

Similar to Chat GPT but focused on research and information discovery. It provides sources and can help with market sizing for NPD, competition, or new territories.

But even these four tools are just scratching the surface. To really dig into what is available, Future Tools is an AI database that collects and organises all the best AI tools available.

Or just lean right into the AI explosion and create a whole brand, with a brand name, logo, and branded copy & content. Who needs brand building experts when you can randomly generate it by mashing together the millions of brands that came before…