B2R2C: Robots And Advertising

June 29, 2020

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What will advertising look like in a world where automation and artificial intelligence serve as intermediaries in the business to consumer digital marketing relationship look like, and how can brands prepare? Let's take a look...


Business to Robot to Consumer (B2R2C) marketing is a trend that sounds like science-fiction, but with global spending on robots expected to reach $241.4 billion by 2023, according to data from Forbes,  it’s quickly becoming a reality. Traditional marketing has focused on telling a story, building an identity, and eventually establishing brand loyalty. Marketers were trying to communicate with consumers, telling a story, sharing information, and building a relationship. But with the rise of digital assistants, AI, and other online avatars, it’s becoming harder for brands to reach out to consumers directly. These robots are quickly becoming gatekeepers, acting as intermediaries between the massive pool of information directed at our eyeballs, and our overwhelmed brains. In order to reach tomorrow’s consumer, you’re going to need to first convince Alexa, Siri, Google or another robotic presence of your information’s worth.

Kim Bates, the Chief Futurist at Faith Popcorn’s Brain Reserve, feels that the customer journey of the future will occur via B2R2C, and will largely take place in our homes. According to Bates, “Our robot intermediaries will have greater control over the meals we eat, our nutrition, and healthcare regimens. They will influence our immersive and entertainment experiences and the products we bring into the home.” Bates feels that our current smart watches, appliances, and phones will be replaced by an array of robot servants who can mirror our consciousness and attend to our physical and psychological needs. She is confident that these “carebots” will soon be entrusted with a great deal of our economic decisions, whether buying clothes, food, or appliances. She envisions a future where we will “consume ingestible sensors that tell our doctors what is needed and when. Shoppable closets and personal avatar twins will go out and shop for us in the metaverse.” If this sounds far-fetched, remember that personal assistants have been able to detect whether you have a cold and offer related recommendations since 2018!

If robots begin to make all, or a significant percentage, of our choices in the marketplace, brands need to find ways to influence their purchasing choices. And in a digital marketplace that frequently overwhelms us with choices, these robots will presumably be able to quickly process more information, and make more informed and pragmatic shopping decisions. The question for brands will become “how do I influence a robot?”  

We have already seen shoppers experiment with outsourcing the task of shopping for groceries. Instacart and other services offer personal shoppers who will both follow instructions, and follow their instincts and inclinations when replacing a product that’s out of stock with a substitute. These human shoppers are of course susceptible to marketing, both consciously and unconsciously. The same will likely be true for the AI powered robots that will soon be a part of our lives. For brands, this means ensuring that your brand has a strong presence on social media, clearly defined products, and marketing that is easily compatible with voice technology and the operating systems that drive new technology.

It’s crucial to remember that one of the reasons that tech titans like Amazon, Apple, and Google have been selling innovative technology so cheaply is to ensure that consumers become familiar with AI, and AI learns what the market wants. Tamara McCleary, futurist and CEO of Thulium, notes that these powerful companies will have a massive built-in advantage when the shift to B2R2C begins in earnest, observing that the many “layers of AI involved in unraveling to keep pace with the sovereigns like Google, Apple, and Microsoft, are exquisite. Marketing in the future is an entire paradigm shift where it’s no longer the brand owning the relationship with the customer but rather the personal digital assistant, (and the platform it is run on), owning the relationship.” McCleary feels that alliances and partnerships between brands and the companies that provide us with virtual assistants will determine who succeeds and who fails in this brave new world. 

Many leading experts also feel that social media campaigns, and the ability to integrate data, AI powered bots, and influencers will be a key battlefield. As McCleary puts it, “Social media is THE most powerful marketing tool of 2020 but if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Building your presence across social networks will not only enable you to reach a maximum amount of human eyeballs, but also ensure that you come out on top in searches performed by smart appliances, digital assistants, and whatever AI-powered helpers the future brings. This means that your brand’s cultivation of influencers, likes, fans, celebrity chefs, cooking channels, and shoppable recipes will help robotic gatekeepers differentiate your product from the competition, and define it as a customer’s preferred choice.

Becoming the default choice in any product category will likely yield massive dividends. If you can convince a consumer to tell their assistant that they only will eat Heinz beans or drink Fever-Tree tonic water, you could be securing a lifetime’s worth of sales. If you can’t inspire brand loyalty, you could be at the mercy of a rapacious competitor like Amazon who will use its technological advantage to undercut your ability to reach a consumer with any message on any platform.

At Adimo, we strongly recommend you start exploring the following strategies before Skynet, oops, we mean Amazon, terminates you. First, take control of your marketing data and use it to build an effective social media strategy that allows you to tweak campaigns in real-time, ensure maximum shoppability, and deliver value to consumers through recipes, offers, and information. Second, take steps to ensure that you can deliver frictionless sales through digital assistants, smartphones, and voice-based search without simply relying on Amazon or another self-interested company to do the heavy lifting for you. Finally, seek to build partnerships with retailers and logistics innovators like Ocado, who can ensure that your products can be purchased online and delivered quickly to your customers (or their robot butlers). While no one can predict exactly what the future will look like, we would recommend assuming that AI and B2R2C will have a big impact on the FMCG industry. If you need advice on how to prepare your brand, get in touch with Adimo today!  

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