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Only Human After All

With AI’s ability to simulate a human’s proficiency to learn, reason, and create, it has brought us incredible advancements across the healthcare, banking, and transportation space. In spite of its own rapid evolution, AI still requires human involvement (or errors). An investigation into London’s Metropolitan Police implementation of live facial recognition found that the algorithm was successful in distinguishing white males, but ineffective at identifying female or BAME subjects. Limited data available to train these machines means limited results and ultimately unfair analysis.

While participation in the digital era is imperative, companies need to be aware of the trust and money they put into this data. Utilizing metrics that uncover the most popular puzzle on your website is important for understanding what designs customers like and dislike but does not tell us why they prefer the scene of Paris in the rain over the miniature Yorkie in a teacup. To shed light on customer behavior, the research needs to dive deeper. Businesses need to tap into the heart and gut triggers that drive consumer behavior and swing the pendulum back towards the human experience in the age of connected devices.

To better understand the consumer narrative, Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Growth Officer at Publicis Groupe, urges strategists to “find balance between the story and the spreadsheet.” In his essential how-to book for business leaders, Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data, Tobaccowala highlights that data is not bad, but the tilt towards it is. In a data-centric era, companies need to acknowledge that “people are responsible for success, not machines.” Throughout his book, Tobaccowala puts the spotlight on tech superpower, Netflix, emphasizing the company’s transparent approach to employee feedback to maintain a culture that focuses on outcomes. Through trust in employee creativity and entrepreneurship, Netflix trashed its DVD delivery service and transformed into a pioneer of the video streaming industry to ensure long-term sustainability in the digital world.

Zappos, an online shoe retailer that has been innovating for over 20 years, finds balance between human and machine by facilitating data-sharing across a variety of departments. This cross-collaboration encourages dialogue among all groups to paint a more holistic picture of their consumers. To discover the context in which costumers make decisions, Zappos augments their research with home visits, self-report surveys, usability testing, and in-depth customer reviews. By evaluating patterns across datasets and in-person interactions, the company can better understand the factors that lead people to experience the brand in ways that may contradict the numbers on the screen.

When we embrace consumer stories, businesses can broaden their customer scope, create more effective campaigns, and drive innovation. With COVID-19 creating uncertainty about the future for millions, now more than ever it is crucial that companies increase empathy for the consumer’s current condition. It is our job as researchers to bring the story to life and help businesses connect on a human level.

Learn how W5 harnesses the power of quantitative data, qualitative discovery, and informed strategy to create actionable insights here.

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