By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
If you happened to catch any of the Masters golf tournament earlier this month, you likely saw one of the many commercials for IBM’s Watson. According to the company, Watson can interpret and analyze all of your data, allowing you to personalize recommendations to your customers based on their personality, tone and emotion. Under Armour is one of many companies now working with Watson, combining user data from its Record app with third-party data and research on fitness and nutrition. With Watson’s capabilities, Under Armor offers personalized training and lifestyle advice to customers.
Watson and the work at Under Armour is just one example of how companies are using artificial intelligence (AI) to more effectively meet the needs of their customers and build their business. By definition, AI is the ability of machines to mimic cognitive functions of human minds, such as problem solving, learning and analysis. More important in the retail setting is AI marketing, through which AI tools and techniques are used to enable behavior targeting of consumers. While artificial intelligence has been around for years, recent technology innovations (think greater horsepower, easier data access) have propelled it’s use to the forefront of marketing.
While retailers are rapidly gaining efficiencies in better understanding their own sales data and tying customer data from loyalty and credit cards to sales in various departments of the store (think pharmacy, coffee shops, grab-and-go), multiple pieces of data need to be added to the equation to fully understand shopper behavior as it relates to health and wellness. For example, what food, recipe, nutrition, supplement and fitness products are your shoppers searching for online? What health and wellness apps are they using and how are they using them? How are they talking about these topics in their social channels? How can nutrition information on individual products as well as claims these products can make be tied to sales data and online ordering?
Finding and partnering with the staff at your company responsible for capture and integration of data sets is the first step to using AI to most effectively reach shoppers’ health and wellness needs and truly measure the value of shoppers who engage with your healthy living programs and services. Vendors of varying data sets can be a valuable resource for integration of the various data sets, and evaluation of the meaning of the data.
The real work – managing the output and insights from the data – then becomes the priority. But it’s where the impact and their future is, allowing you to customize communications and sales of products and services for shopper segments, understanding where and how to market your programs most effectively, and building services that truly meet your retailer’s most valuable shoppers’ wants and needs.
Retail dietitians are called on every day to expand their skills and knowledge beyond the traditional dietitian role. Understanding and leveraging AI should be at the top of the list for building the future of your programs.