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Ads Are Losing Their Sense Of Humor

And Our Shopping Assistants Are Responsible For This!

Now that more than 100 million homes are equipped with virtual assistants replacing us in most everyday activities including buying products, we are faced with three levels of evolutions, as Jamais Cascio details in his scenario “Machines as the New Consumer Class“. Let’s dig into this future together…

Smarter shopping agents

First of all, shopping agents are getting smarter and smarter, and consist in way more than a Google search for a product! “Today, shopping agents put out requests for bids, run one-second auctions, and share information along trusted circles about how well the products fit the needs of the humans in real-world use, not just a checklist of features.” Preferred software will include a flexible ranking of needs and special attention to customer price sensitivity. The best assistants also include an “experimental” setting, allowing the shopping agent to purchase something new outside of the “comfort zone”.

A very interesting aspect is that despite these advancements, virtual assistants are not able (yet) to completely reproduce the human behavior which consists into reevaluating one’s needs according to results and to get tired or bored after a while, incorporating irrationality in the decision process. As a matter of fact, machines have much more patience than human beings! “Computerized buyers never get bored or tired, never are distracted by crying children or hunger, and—most importantly—never suffer the same asymmetry of information that has been an inescapable component of human retail.” But we are only at the beginning of the optimization of the assisted shopping experience, so this could very well be changing soon!

Advertising directed towards shopping agents

Another crucial consequence is that advertising is changing its very nature with new areas of development as pitches are addressing machines. Shopping agents represent a whole new buyer persona for advertisers! This translates into two major changes.

First, ads become more about pushing forward detailed list of features as agents can read and decipher large amounts of data and will proceed to flash comparison. In addition, virtual shoppers will be faced with “coupons provided alongside a purchase, and even blip advertisements in media, too fast for human eyes to follow but ideal for communicating with the software in the home-control or wearable systems”.

Secondly, ads are losing creativity and sense of humor, as shopping agents are not sensitive to this very human activity yet! In the future, differentiation will probably be less about brand image than about products’ real value proposition. One can wonder what the future of marketing and advertising is going to be in a world where we sell to bots and no longer to people. Does it signal the end of creative commercials and advertising agencies? And what about the top Superbowl’s commercials that people savor like art house cinema each year?

New forms of spams and scams

A field in which creativity is still flourishing is the reign of spams and scams directed towards machines! Spam filters will need to be fine-tuned to let in legitimate commercial messaging while still blocking out unwanted enticements. High-efficiency spam filters are already been developed. 

The risks are even bigger with scams and the uprising of “Advertising Engine Optimization”. The principle is the following: these bots routinely ping shopping agents with a set of product offers, each with a slight variation in features (A/B-testing like), to identify which characteristics are more likely to trigger an inquiry. We also notice that “Pop-up sellers advertise and sell products that fit a shopping agent’s requirements, but deliver something entirely different—and disappear from the network immediately after a sale.”

For shopping agent providers and advertisers, this means an investment into fighting illegitimate practices that disturb the overall buying experience. And as products and services are increasingly designed to display data that appeal to shopping agent software, brands will be faced with a decisive dilemma: Optimize for humans vs. optimize for machines!


Published by Sylvia

Futurist - Futures Thinking & Strategic Foresight

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