This Week in Business and Brands: All About AI, Alexa in the Abode, and More


0s and 1s: Google’s Latest Developments

There’s much more going on than a visual redesign: at Google’s I/O 2018 conference this week, announcements abound that reveal the next steps in the company’s global domination. Some are simply feature-focused, like enhancements to Photos that allow for intuitive editing and seamless sorting. But behind even those surface changes lies the powerhouse of ever-advancing artificial intelligence, further solidifying as the cornerstone of the enterprise’s endeavors. Consider the rebrand of “Google Research” to “Google AI,” turning the spotlight on the power behind computer vision, natural language processing, and neural networks. That’s what allows for “continued conversation” with Google Assistant, enhanced Smart Displays, algorithm-enhanced News, machine-learning integrated software kits, and much more. This is just the beginning of a fully AI-infused world – we expect even bigger things to come in the not too distant future.

Data Behind the Duds: H&M Tracks the Trends

When you’ve got 4,288 stores to your name, how do you decide exactly which clothes go on the rack? For the struggling H&M, that choice is about to be placed in the hands of artificial intelligence, customizing the inventory of individual storefronts based on granular local data. That means using algorithms to analyze store receipts, returns, and loyalty-card metrics to better supply specific demands and minimize markdowns. The company’s software is also sifting through blog posts, search terms, and social media to track the trends as designers roll out the next big line. Together, those tactics tailor the nodes to the neighborhood, stocking swankier styles for the sartorially sophisticated and sticking to staples in discount districts. The strategy has already found success in stores that have adopted the AI advantage, a hopeful sign for the brand trying for a turnaround. In the age of powerful personalization, anything less than compelling creative curation is simply not enough for the modern consumer.

Talking Tactics, Tête-à-Tête: Art(ificial Intelligence) Imitates Life

For even more ways AI is taking center stage in the consumer conversation, heed the words of David Mattin, head of trends and insights for TrendWatching on the next big opportunities:

  • On stats & self-actualization: “Now more than ever, we are all in search of self-improvement. Status is now about healthier, smarter, better – Google Calendar’s Goals function is already using smart scheduling to stop skipping classes.”
  • On an “artificial” ingredient: “In 2018, rising numbers of consumers will covet and seek out the creative output of AIs and smart algorithms – like IntelligentX Brewing Co., who uses AI to find and combine the most popular elements of craft ales for unique recipes.”
  • On the intimacy of intelligence: “In 2018, virtual personalities will prove they have the power to entertain, educate, and heal – like Replika, the virtual companion app that provides lifelike responses to your interactions, forming a mirror of your personality.”

Presenting the Future: Alexa’s in the House

You know she can play music and give the weather report. But have you seen Alexa at work in the fully-integrated smart home? That’s what Amazon has been showcasing in a number of model rooms across the U.S., giving consumers a more intimate experience than seeing the Echo on a shelf at the store. Providing visitors with instructions like “Say ‘Goodnight, Alexa,’” to have the virtual assistant close the blinds and dim the lights, the interactive showcase gives a look into the future (for some, the present) of security, entertainment, and shopping. Partnering with construction company Lennar Corp, Amazon has opened “Experience Centers” near 15 cities like Los Angeles and Washington with more to come. As the global smart home market is expected to reach over $107 billion by 2023, the spectacle-as-strategy is clearly no mere stunt. Even Best Buy is getting in the game by expanding its In-Home Advisor program with 350 experts sent to guide consumers right where the products will live. Bringing the store to the home, and vice versa – is there anything more customer-centric?

Video Victory: Flying into FIFA

That’s all for this week! We’ll leave you with this fun look at Budweiser’s biggest global campaign ever, drone-delivering more than 8 million cups to light up the red in Russia…