While the nuclear family was a concept around which much of 20th-century cultural, political and economic life was largely centred, it is now being replaced with a new paradigm. The concept of family is evolving, powered by the increasing influence of technology. If you want to know how to future-proof your lifestyle brand and indeed your own family life, read on.
People of all ages are now beginning to explore the possibility that they might not only conduct relationships via computers, but, in a very real sense, with them. Artificially intelligent systems are fast evolving beyond glorified user interfaces into entities with which consumers are developing authentic, emotionally indebted connections; they don’t only help run the family, they are part of it.
Our domestic spaces are more immersed in technology than ever before, with integrated Internet of Things (IoT) devices automating many aspects of home life. McKinsey predicts that there will be 29m connected homes in the US by the end of 2017, a compound annual growth rate of 31%.
Talking to artificially intelligent beings is also becoming mainstream. Consumers can now talk to brands as diverse as Sephora and Whole Foods Market as if they were speaking to their own dedicated member of staff, 24/7, allowing highly personalised one-to-one conversations on an unlimited scale. According to Gartner, by 2020 the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.
Far from being reticent about speaking to machines, many consumers are willing to engage with them in highly personal conversations.
Brands such as mattress company Casper have been exploring what this consumer openness to AI means for marketing with its Insomnobot-3000. Anyone having difficulty sleeping can simply text the bot – which is only active between 11:00pm and 5:00am – to discuss anything from ‘weekend plans, late-night snack cravings and the best tv reruns’ to help them relax.
The increased sophistication of artificial intelligence also has the potential to support certain aspects of parenting. Mattel’s Aristotle home hub, the first assistant created specifically for kids, claims to grow as the child does, singing soothing sounds to calm an infant, playing literacy games to teach a toddler, and helping with homework questions for those just starting school.
Most consumer use cases for artificial intelligence still rely on direct user interaction, lying dormant when not being actively engaged. An obvious extension of the technology, however, is to be a kind of proxy or partner, acting independently with or on behalf of its owners.
Our tools are now actors unto themselves, explains Kernel CEO Bryan Johnson. ‘Such tools can interact with us in ways never before possible.’ Vivint’s new smart assistant Sky works on its own initiative. Although it starts by asking home-owners permission before taking action on the running of the household, in time Sky learns from their answers and will begin to make decisions based on metrics such as occupancy patterns.
Siemens Home Appliances has recently launched two new product integrations with Amazon. The Amazon Dash Replenishment integration works through the Siemens Home Connect app to enable automatic reordering of dishwasher tablets. Amazon Alexa, with the Home Connect platform, can control Siemens appliances - pre-heat ovens, start washing machines or check the process of the dishwashing cycle by voice command only.
As new devices are developed and begin to actively take over the running of households, they will increasingly be responsible for purchasing decisions.
‘For providers of home goods and services, this means that bots will increasingly become customers – or at least important intermediaries between a selling business and a human purchaser,’ says McKinsey partner Jean-Baptiste Coumau. Marketers will have to learn what metrics make certain undifferentiated products appealing not only to consumers, but also to their artificially intelligent helpers.
Planning for the New and the Next: 5 things to think about
1. Images of idealised families no longer speak to the majority of consumers, whose relationships are far more complex than the 2.4 children model.
2. Consumers are increasingly comfortable talking to artificially intelligent bots, opening up opportunities for brands to deliver personalised, one-to-one customer service to scale.
3. In the age of the chatbot, designing a brand identity increasingly means creating a character that represents the best of your business.
4. Humanise to capitalise. Rather than focusing on basic utility, recent advances in the domestic robot market have been based around designing devices that can provide a convivial presence.
5. Learn how to advertise to AI. As smart assistants begin to play a more active role in making purchasing decisions for households, brands will have to work out how to grab their attention or risk losing their market share.
Ruth is the brand ambassador for Siemens Home Appliances http://www.siemens-home.bsh-group.com/uk/