Originally published on Forbes Feb. 1, 2018.

A competitive marketplace has forced companies to take a cognitive approach to customer engagement. Enterprises should consider adopting artificial intelligence (AI) as part of a cognitive engagement strategy, or they may lose their competitive advantage.

Why Are Enterprises Adopting AI?

A cognitive engagement strategy involves the input of customer data. Predictive analytics process this data to produce insights about future customer behavior. Marketers can then leverage those insights to make smart choices about customer engagement, and use analytics to produce highly targeted campaigns. These campaigns personalize engagement to individual customer needs, but this is a labor-intensive process. That’s why some marketers use AI. AI has its own decision-making capabilities, which help marketers personalize content for individual customers. Marketers can then engage individual customers at the right time with the right content, which is otherwise known as ‘extreme personalization’ — the new mantra for leading marketers. Since AI handles decision making, this is sustainable with little human effort.

AI’s great advantage is its scalability. Enterprises can apply AI solutions everywhere, which frees teams from lengthy analyses and reviews and still optimizes customer engagement.

How Does AI Apply To Cognitive Engagement?

Consumers and business buyers have no shortage of options in today’s market. Engaging consumers no longer depends on only superior products and services. Customers expect enterprises to personalize experiences and delight them throughout the customer lifecycle, but many organizations struggle to offer this at scale in a practical way. Forbes says, “Marketing is becoming less about creatively amplifying the company message. [It’s] about embracing innovations to humanize customer engagement.”

Cognitive engagement dictates an analysis and understanding of customers. Enterprises must craft engagement strategies to meet individual tastes and expectations. But internal teams struggle to scale out this ability, even with advanced analytics. For this reason, enterprises are processing mountains of consumer data using AI. AI determines the next best action for individual customers at an unprecedented scale, which means customers can enjoy a personalized experience crafted for them.

Cognitive Capacities In Practice

Cognitive capacities like predictive analytics and AI are difficult to achieve, but dozens of companies are already using them. The following are examples of cognitive abilities in use today.


In 2016, Starbucks began using artificial intelligence for personalization. This is beyond sending customers emails on their birthdays. It sets the groundwork for merging digital marketing and physical stores. Starbucks will now generate serving recommendations for customers approaching their stores, using location data to know when customers approach. It goes on to detect weather, the timing of your order and your buying history.


At Lowe’s, Kyle Nel believes AI “is going to be the foundational technology [for] which most things are built.” Lowe’s is bringing AI to three-dimensional space with LoweBots. These machines can navigate stores and understand what customers say, and if they favor a particular item. They also keep track of inventory levels for best-possible service and use analytics to study the flow of store traffic and when it occurs.

The North Face

The North Face is using IBM Watson’s AI to bring in-store boutique service to the internet. Its personal shopping tool, XPS, acts as a digital brand expert. The tool helps shoppers navigate the online experience like an educated in-store associate to help with shopping cart abandonment and relieving shoppers of the conflict caused by choice.

Five Advantages AI Provides For Enterprise Customer Engagement

64% of IT executives will invest in cognitive technologies over the next two years, and these technologies will only become more accessible as time continues.

Consider how the following five benefits will help you build relationships with customers and determine how you can use them to scale operations and drive business value as well.

  1. Automate And Optimize Processes

    Automation is already well established across industries. Enterprise systems now include automation in their marketing, service or sales solutions, but automation alone contributes nothing to innovation. AI can develop new strategies and methods, building a foundation for cognitive engagement by transitioning resources from failing campaigns to new ones it has created, resulting in optimized strategies with improved results for customers.

  2. Convert Customer Insights Into Strategic Engagement

    For some companies, Big Data is as much a problem as it is an asset. It’s become simple to gather mounds of performance and predictive data — the opportunity to drive customer insights has never been greater. Processing this data is cumbersome and daunting and leads to missed opportunities. AI removes the burden of transitioning insights into actions from your team members, resulting in better strategic engagement and a pace unachievable by humans.

  3. Empower Customer Service And Sales Teams

    AI’s decision-making power works as a buffer for sales and service teams, relieving these teams of intensive work while gathering customer data. AI can manage the bulk of customer interactions while preparing teams for personalization.

  4. Take Action In Real Time Using Predictive Data

    Marketers spend a lot of time analyzing predictive analytics before taking action, but this valuable data has a shelf life. AI can convert those insights into immediate action, capitalizing on changing behaviors before those insights die out by adjusting strategies to target trending segments of the market. It can reassign resources or adjust strategies in failing segments as well.

  5. Personalize Cognitive Engagement At Scale

    Personalization is an expectation among customers, but personalizing experiences for thousands of customers is a challenge. AI can service these needs at rapid speed and at scale. Cognitive engagement is genuine personalization. It provides a human experience for customers without investing human resources.

Getting Started With Your Cognitive Strategy

The ability to analyze and act upon customer data is essential across verticals, but many companies don’t know where to begin. They may feel they lack the capacity for cognitive technologies as well.

To start, consider launching cognitive capabilities in a limited capacity. There are countless tools, many of which are free. Then, target a specific marketing initiative with the goal of leveraging these analytics in a practical way. Continue optimizing until you’re driving improved results. Now scale.

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