Navigating the Challenge of Consumer Trust in the AI Age

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One thing struck me more than anything else at Advertising Week Europe 2018. Across a huge number of conversations with a wide variety of businesses, the issue that came up time and time again was of maintaining consumer trust.

This seems off-kilter for me. Surely a bedrock of trust is at the heart of any kind of brand-building? But as we enter the AI era, along with the challenges posed by GDPR and other regulation, brands and marketers need to refocus on retaining trust with their audiences. For any business, it is an essential route to success in the future.

Businesses need to buck up their ideas or they’ll surely leave this year disappointed. Here are three things for brands to remember when positioning trust at the heart of their activity.

Remember: “AI is the new electricity”

Initially uttered by computer scientist Andrew Ng, this quote is an eloquent summary of the impact of AI on our industry.

AI and machine learning are recognised as the most disruptive technologies across the advertising sector. From automatically personalising messages to pinpoint targeting of relevant and useful advertisements, it’s already transforming how we operate day to day and engage with our audiences in new and exciting ways.

However at the heart of a successful AI strategy is (you guessed it) up-to-the-minute customer insights. It’s impossible for any machine learning system to add value if it’s fed unreliable data, and its difficult to access high quality data if consumers are unwilling to share it with you.

This is both the opportunity and challenge for marketers: AI can make vast improvements to their customer interactions and engagement, but it requires a thorough rethink in how brands are both sourcing and using data.

If AI is in fact the ‘new electricity’, then adapting to its demands will prove essential. Just as Toys ‘R Us and Maplin weren’t able to transition to the digital age, digital businesses that aren’t able to adapt to the AI age are sure to be left by the wayside.

Seek GDPR compliance, but look beyond it

Of course, a potential roadblock to the adoption of AI technologies is the upcoming GDPR legislation on May 25th. Giving consumers more power over whom they share their data with, it has the potential to cauterise the amount of data brands have access to.

With the AI age upon us it’s imperative that marketers are prepared for the legislation changes well ahead of the deadline. It’s clearly front of mind for many – every GDPR-focused session at Advertising Week Europe was packed to the rafters and the topic raised its head in virtually every other on-stage discussion.

Brands clearly see the need to secure compliance with the legislation to avoid being cut off from their customers in May. But of course, it goes deeper than technical compliance alone. With a customer free to pick and choose which businesses they share their data with, there’s an onus on brands to prove to customers that they are worthy of this prize. If they don’t, they could quickly find themselves without any customers at all.

Reinvent your customer relationships

With customers more in control of their data, there’s a need to develop far deeper connections with them than ever before. If a customer trusts a brand with their data, it’s ultimately results in a better relationship with both parties.

This is the key to brand growth and sustainability in the AI era. Where once businesses could turn to third parties like social platforms to source customer insights, now it’s vital that such data is drawn straight from their audiences themselves through first party relationships. In this way, valuable data can be sourced with consent to power their AI toolkits.

For me, this approach is critical. Relying on third party platforms distances brands from their audiences, preventing them from cultivating trust and, crucially, securing relevant insights to drive their AI engines.

Ultimately, going direct will soon be the only route to growth as machine learning continues to disrupt the marketing ecosystem.

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