When we sat down and started thinking of what problem we wanted to tackle at Likelihood (pre-name), we had an inkling that we wanted to do something to improve customer experience by applying our expertise in large datasets and real-time decisioning. We also had an inkling that we wanted to do it in retail.
While it was (and still is) a noisy space, we fundamentally believed (and still do) that most retail customer experiences are broken, and that there is room for marked improvement by changing the way things are done in digital marketing and digital commerce.
Growing trend: visual content and navigation
More and more retailers were shifting from the traditional search and browse navigation metaphor to employing much richer content both as a means of storytelling and as a means of navigation:
Problem: showing the wrong visual content
We dug deeper and firmly believed that the new, more visual approach that people are trying “looked better” (scientific term). But we noticed time and again that the status quo approach pretty much amounted to a bunch of good photographs that obviously came from the brand, but that generally didn't resonate with us in the moment or help us get from point A (the thing I’m looking for or don’t quite know that I’m looking for) to B (getting that thing).
As pointed out by CMO.com and Hubspot here, it’s clear that most of you agree: “Nearly three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated with Web sites when content (e.g., offers, ads, promotions) appears that has nothing to do with their interests.”
Problem found! We know how to fix that! We decided to start tackling the problem of picking the right visual content to show to the right individual at the right time, using real-time data and real-time decisions. This would be different than most segment-based approaches to A/B testing and personalization because it would truly be operating at the individual customer level, doing so in real-time, and not require someone to write rules. (This would also be a misstep, learning experience, and result in a pivot - but another post on that some other time)
Harder problem: not enough visual content
We spoke to several digital marketers and creative directors across retail and in the agency world. We heard loud and clear that it would be fantastic if the right content was chosen automatically, if there were actually more than a few content options to choose from.
We dug deeper on why there wasn’t more content at their disposal and found consistency across the board: It’s expensive to produce, it takes forever and our team is already occupied with upcoming campaigns and seasons.
The real problem was with the content supply chain. About 200,000,000 people a year in the U.S. shop online, but there are only about 90,000 creative professionals listed on LinkedIn in the retail industry - numbers that just don’t realistically add up to shoppers getting individualized content.
What if machines could help?
So we asked people, hypothetically: what if artificial intelligence could be a force multiplier for your creative team and get you more content for your customers? We got a lot of silence and quizzical looks. We had potential customers tell us we were crazy for trying and others tell us that it sounded great, but the details would be in the execution and they’d believe it when they saw it. We got a lot more of the latter. It seemed hard and interesting to do and there was value to create, so we decided to give it a shot.
So we’ve set out to create a new arrow in the quiver of digital marketing, commerce, and creative professionals in the retail space. One that produces more relevant, engaging, and inspiring creative content, on demand, using machine learning, artificial intelligence, and guidance from marketing and creative teams. We call it Intelligent Creative, and we look forward to showing it to you and giving you an ongoing peek into why and how we build it.
We have had a lot of fun with hypotheticals about what we might make possible. And we’d be curious what you think. Ask yourself:
- Am I happy with the creative we have today and how we use it?
- What creative assets and experiences would we have if I weren’t already strapped supporting upcoming seasons, campaigns, and launches?
- What would I do if we had 10x the creative designers we do now?
- What would I do if we could have 1000x the creative content we do now?