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The New Reality: AI-Enhanced Relationships Intelligent automation has hit local businesses, and it's actually outperforming humans.

By Ido Mart

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Local commerce is the epitome of a simple, common human interaction. Images of the flour-covered baker taking hot buns out of a brick oven or the mustached barber sliding a gleaming blade over a man's cheek are ingrained in our collective minds. Despite few of us having grown up with those experiences, many still hold up that model of local commerce as it was "meant to be."

But consumer behavior has shifted, with 90 percent of consumers relying on mobile while out shopping. Perhaps even more indicative of our new reality, 58 percent prefer to use their mobile device over talking to a customer service representative.

Related: 7 Ways to Get Your Customers to Actively Promote Your Brand

Today's market is built for personalized automation.

While major enterprises have plenty of resources to throw at the problem of keeping up with customer behavior, the average business owner might not have the time, money or savvy to learn digital and mobile marketing on the fly. The biggest challenge to maintain an effective relationship is avoiding batch messages (spam) and engaging in the right conversation at the right time. The goal is to make customers feel as if you're talking specifically to them, with personalized content that makes sense based on who they are and what they're doing. This is especially true among millennials. As digital natives, they expect personalization in all branded interactions.

The good news is artificial intelligence (AI) has made it easier and more impactful for businesses to personalize their content. Early data suggests AI interactions are outperforming their human-triggered counterparts. Across a sample of 1,500 businesses leveraging the flok customer engagement platform in Q1 2016, we saw contextual, AI-driven push messages perform 3.8 times better than messages sent by humans. In that same span, AI-triggered visit reminders performed 1.6 times better than humans, and requests for online review sent by AI performed more than five times better than those sent by an actual person.

Related: Personalization is Giving Customers What They Want Before They Demand It

Timing isn't everything, but it's close.

How is AI besting humans in managing relationships? Message timing and context are common themes across all AI engagements. Push messaging allows businesses to perfectly time personalized messages, which could lead to better engagement rates. Visits for store reminders often are proximity-based, making them more contextually relevant than a static message.

Review requests could be a simple matter of AI sending the message after the store visit. This frees the business owner from remembering to send it. It also means the request can go out right away, not hours later when the owner has time to catch up on digital marketing and the experience no longer is fresh in the customer's mind. In each case, AI and automation improves the timing, engagements are personalized and businesses avoid "blasting" all customers with one batch message.

Related: 4 Techniques to Expand Retail Business

Smart software helps build brand loyalty.

Software-based automation systems and the ambient intelligence they add might not be as glamorous as in science fiction -- yet -- but AI now governs many aspects of our lives. AI is helping businesses fight against the commoditization of commerce, keeping relationships alive and building brand loyalty over time. In the early going of this brave frontier, it appears AI's immediate and personalized touch is resonating nicely with customers.

Ido Mart

COO of flok

Ido Mart is chief operations officer at flok, a customer experience platform for businesses. flok connects business owners and their customers, powering lasting and mutually rewarding relationships. Based in New York City with offices in Tel Aviv, flok is backed by General Catalyst Partners, Gemini Israel Ventures and Founder Collective.

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