Brand Building

Crafting Contextually Aware Consumer Experiences With the Power of Artificial Intelligence

I remember at seven years old, arriving in the United States for the first time. There were many things from that experience that I was struck with and won’t soon forget – like the real size of an airplane, or being above the clouds for the first time, or how luggage magically and effortlessly moved on conveyor belts. But the most arresting of these experiences for me were the automatic sliding glass doors. Somehow, they recognized I was there, opened for me, and I walked through. I was captivated by this. I wanted to do it again.  Which I did, repeatedly – until my mother’s patience waned, and she asked with frustration “Why don’t you stop that?” My bright eyed and giddy response… “It knows I’m here, and opens for me.”

Forty years later with the dramatic arrival of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our daily lives, automatic sliding doors aren’t the only things that recognize where we are and intuitively responds to our needs.

Never before have our lives been so fueled and driven by technology as they are today. Almost all facets of our everyday lives are connectable to our ever growing number of devices, digital products and services. And the things that matter most to us are instantly delivered on screens and interfaces that connect our careers, well-being, homes, health, family, entertainment, education, travel, finances and more.

This connected dynamic provides a new normal which I view as Contextually Aware Experiences – always on, always learning, always recognizing where I am and intuitively providing exactly what I need. Making me smarter, faster and more informed, while providing an unequalled sense of ease, access and control.

In order to be meaningful in the lives of today’s consumers, digital products and services need to be designed to leverage and amplify this new connected dynamic – with functional and technological strengths that EMPOWER, EXTEND, and ENABLE these Contextually Aware Experiences.

Providing a set of connected concierge experiences.

No product is an island – at least not to consumers. They expect that their AI driven products and services are collaboratively connected with digitally silent dialogue that provides [personalized sliding glass door experiences] which contextually open and close throughout their day.

Consumer adoption of free automation services like IFTTT (If This Then That) and Stringify to link their devices and services together for a stronger and more meaningful set of aligned and enhanced capabilities, speaks to a new type of consumer loyalty – not to an individual product or brand, but rather to a seamless and intuitively connected experience. A digitally powered concierge experience within your own personalized ecosystem of products and services that know you, and predictively provides what you need next – having learned and adapted to your preferences and behavioral patterns over time.

It’s a growing shift in what consumers now expect in their connected environments that include entertainment, fitness, banking, health monitoring, and control of home appliances – give me what I need before I ask, and sometimes whether I ask or not. Increasingly for them, nothing less will do.

This market reality has propelled the continued rise of voice-activated smart home hubs like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the soon to arrive Apple HomePod, and Essential Home (powered by the new Ambient OS) – all of which promise their own unique brand of a connected concierge experience.

Clearly, the leading tech giants have seen and accepted the consumer and economic writing on the wall. Which has resulted in a very public Ambient Computing race with collections of hearables, wearables and connected device experiences – always on, always learning, always anticipating, and providing for your needs, often without your awareness.

So, because of this new reality, providers and designers of future products and innovations will need to be aligned with this design re-thinking. Single or one-dimensional product offerings won’t easily survive unless they are designed to be integrated into existing collaborative eco-systems that intuitively support consumers along their journey – like a trusted and ever present companion.

In order to truly compete in this space your product offering needs to be potently multifaceted and flexible, with connectable devices and components that are contextually triggered to learn, anticipate, and provide [personalized sliding glass door experiences] which open and close as consumer needs arise.

Designing responsive and adaptable support for real life activity

The digital product graveyard is full of once bright ideas and apps that had hope, but ultimately not enough consumer sustained life. Some lacked funding, others lacked the right marketing touch, and still others were great ideas but presented to the wrong audience and with unfortunate market timing.

But, most lay still and inactive in the graveyard because they were fairly one-dimensional and were not architected to adjust to the consumer’s fluid activity beyond their designed use. You could use them as designed – but as designed, they were not useful in the wider scope of your life activities.

As such, they fell along the wayside with all the other digital products that could not empower, extend or enable Contextually Aware Experiences to meet today’s heightened consumer expectations.

On the other hand, there are some products that have successfully designed responsive and adaptive support for real life activity – and have thrived because of it. And there are lessons to be learned from their consumer-centric design approach.

One such product is WAZE. When the navigation app WAZE began to gain momentum, a colleague of mine encouraged me and others to give it a try – citing it’s predictive search capability as his main rationale for encouraging us to test drive the app. And so I did, and WAZE did not disappoint. It’s predictive search, social notification, and real-time alerts all made for an informative and supportive driving experience that connected me with the experiences of other drivers while keeping me in full control of my own.

But, there was also a [personalized sliding glass door experience] I had not expected. While initially setting up my drive with WAZE, (being the control freak that I am), I pinched and zoomed the map to my desired size, and then began driving.

During my drive, a change occurred that I didn’t initially notice – the WAZE map at times would zoom out wider, and then at other times zoom in closer. Normally any change from what I setup myself would frustrate me. But this change wasn’t at all disruptive for me, though I hadn’t expected it.

After some time, I realized what was gracefully taking place. WAZE was dynamically adapting and responding to my drive. Whenever I increased my speed, WAZE increased the map view so that I could see more of the landscape ahead. And when my speed reduced, WAZE zoomed in closer for me to see the street detail around me. And it did all this in proportion to the map size I had set originally. It was beautiful. WAZE didn’t ask me permission to make the change, it just accurately responded to the change in my own activity to ensure my safety, security, and sense of control.

It was an exquisite display of experience design, which immediately raised the bar for all other digital products I would use going forward. They too would need to be powerfully delightful – in their function, in their use, and in their ability to enable, empower or extend my Contextually Aware Experiences.

And so, for providers and designers of digital products and services who are serious about providing innovative [personalized sliding glass door experiences] that keep consumers using their products through many facets of their daily lives – understanding and adapting to the consumer’s use of your products, while also responding to the environmental context of that use, will provide the type of real-time and relevant life activity support consumers demand today.

Supporting key moments along the consumer’s journey

Those forty years ago, I believed myself powerful enough to open doors with my mere presence. What seven year old boy wouldn’t want that superpower? But what I could never have imagined then, was that someone had designed this experience in part to enable that very feeling of ease, access and control.

Someone was thinking about my journey –  and at just the right time, contextually provided this enabling moment that would open a door to another part of my travel experience. And this enabling moment would trigger a connective experience – as it took me from one section of the airport to another.

These types of contextually aware experiences can be found across a wide breadth of industries and are embedded in almost every consumer’s journey.

When designed and experienced well with the facilitation of AI, the efficiency, helpfulness, and power of these enabling moments become an enriching new normal for consumers.

Just as my sliding glass door experience (in its moment of wonder and delight) instantly connected one part of my journey to the next – and became a key enabling moment for me – the power of AI provides designers and producers of digital products and services unlimited flexibility to enable instant connections for consumers, along their journey with powerfully delightful experiences.

The power of AI, driving and supporting today’s on-demand consumer culture which requires in the moment, my choice, my location, my way/device, real-time connections to the things that matter most are evidenced in the consumer adoption and dependence on digital products and services across increasingly interconnected industries.

In entertainment – Redbox, Netflix, and Hulu not only provide powerful flexibility of on-demand choice and access, but also includes recommendation engines that are contextually triggered by location, history, genre and more.

In travel, Google Maps, HERE, and WAZE are the top downloaded navigation apps and are rich with AI driven power. Google Maps tracks your routine travel patterns and proactively informs you of the time and distance to your next likely location. WAZE Plugs you into a rich real-time driver eco-system with fluid alerts and recommendations. And HERE’s consumer popularity and AI rich features compelled the consortium of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW to purchase the app from Nokia for $3 Billion. Real-time data from their cars (traffic status, road hazards, speed changes, and more) will be pooled together in HERE’s app to further the contextual experiences for their driverless car efforts.

In eCommerce, Amazon and eBay provide a wide breadth of AI powered product recommendations, shopping experiences, and delivery choice that continue to influence customer experiences in adjacent industries.

These are but a few examples of how AI can be used to EMPOWER, EXTEND, and ENABLE Contextually Aware Experiences for consumers. Intuitively providing these key connective moments (along the consumer’s journey) must be your main objective. And that effort of enabling them will become the thread in your designed product experience.


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Lance Moncrieffe

Lance Moncrieffe

Executive Director, Product Design at Cognizant Life Sciences
Lance is a digital experience champion, leading creative strategy, experience-design and innovation for Life Science digital products – with an emphasis on crafting engaging customer experiences. He partners with clients as a key strategic advisor, providing deep knowledge of top trends, best practices and innovations in the digital design landscape. In 25 years of design and user experience leadership, Lance has led digital and brand initiatives for some of the most recognizable companies and brands in the world—including Sony, Timberland, Toys “R” Us, Pet Smart, PBS, Hasbro, Comcast, AT&T, Microsoft, SEI Investments, First USA Bank, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, ADP, AstraZeneca, Bayer HealthCare, Shire, SymCare and Novo Nordisk. Before joining Cognizant, Lance served as Director of Creative Services for Ebay where he built, scaled and managed creative and user experience teams and led global e-commerce brand strategies and launches. Lance also held Creative Director positions at Digitas Health and Refinery.

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