Did 'Black Mirror' Predict The Future Of Digital Selling?

Arif Johari

The idea of integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into digital selling practices reminds me of the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back,” which tells the story of Martha, a young woman whose boyfriend was killed in a car accident. As she mourns for him, she discovers a technology that allows her to communicate with an AI-version of him. She reluctantly tries it, hoping for some comfort.

The same can be said for AI-enabled digital selling experiences. Several real-life AI products, including a chatbot that was partially inspired by that episode, enable users to feel as though they are communicating with someone they know. Sure, algorithms for support and recommendations are the core of this technology. But this technology is can become an instrumental tool to closing a sales deal.

But there’s a glitch: AI is smart, but it’s not compassionate. To be compassionate and empathetic, you must have had similar life experiences to the person you’re trying to build a relationship with.

AI is a supplement, not a replacement

It was just a year or two ago that we started talking about AI being this “new kid on the block.” This year, AI is everywhere. It is in everything that you do, everything you see, everything you hear.

AI is taking sales organizations by storm, and only those who adapt quickly will be around in the future. Digital selling has implications in all lines of business – from building fundamentals in the sales process and getting the content marketing mix right, to developing cross-functional teams and ultimately changing the way buyers and sellers engage in a digital world.

We leave data crumbs in our day-to-day online activities, then AI collects, analyzes, and interprets those data points into actionable insights, making predictions about what we might do next and where our thoughts might be heading.

But it is up to salespeople to evaluate the data and use it to create effective customer experiences through hyper-personalization. Prospects’ investigations, as they read and converse on social, create data that enables you to understand who they are and what they’re interested in. Once you know something about a person, you can ask: “How can I take that information and help move them through the sales cycle? What content can I provide that makes the most sense for where they are and what their interests are? How do I engage in a way that’s very targeted towards their industry, line of business, and role within their company?”

Salespeople are not obsolete

The value that the salesperson brings is authentic hyper-personalization. Especially in social, the human brings an authenticity that creates a relationship and trust. AI supplements relationship-building with information and knowledge that otherwise would take a lot of conversations and research to find. Salespeople can use the data to find relevant content and engagement opportunities they can leverage for actionable insights.

It’s true that AI will help us with the digital piece, but the customer-experience piece requires a level of personalization and humanization that AI cannot do. Empathy, relationships, and fulfillment come from humans. Executed right, the partnership between AI and human intelligence is game-changing.

Social media management

We don’t have enough time in a day to do everything we need to do on different social channels. AI provides the remedy: it curates and delivers content to our audience and provides the bandwidth to micro-target our customers, even when we don’t have time to do it ourselves.

For example, it takes only one post out of a thousand to compromise a brand. Natural language processing (NLP) can reduce those risks by scanning the communications that flow through social media at a speed that a human alone can never match. This is one reason it makes sense for companies to deploy AI for social media management on corporate and employees’ accounts.

Creating quality experience and trust

Whether an experience is delivered by a human or a computer, it must be the best possible experience. As long as the information is accurate and the experience is rewarding and valuable, I’m not picky about how it’s deployed and delivered. You must introduce a measure of quality into any AI process to ensure the customer’s experience is as effective as you expect.

The entire customer journey is important because of the deteriorating level of trust and loyalty customers have in vendors today. You can’t deceive people. You want to be open and transparent. You must acknowledge that a cultural shift is happening, but you don’t want to trick people into thinking they’re talking to a human when they’re not.

The future of digital selling and AI

I think AI will become more human and, in certain media, it’ll be tougher to tell the difference between humans and bots. You’ll be able to program compassion to some degree. The interesting question is to what extent will manpower be replaceable with bots.

To commemorate the fifth year of the Digital (Social) Selling program, we’re hosting the first ever Digital Selling Week. Check out the list of webinars and download the calendar invites.


Arif Johari

About Arif Johari

He is a Communications lead, Digital Marketing generalist, and Digital Selling (Social Selling) advocate. He enables marketing and sales employees in Digital Selling so that they’d leverage social media as a leads-generation tool. He is responsible for executing innovative marketing strategies to increase engagement in social media, customer community, and landing pages through content, events, and multivariate testing. He is passionate in making the work processes of the marketing and sales team more efficient, so that they can generate more revenue in a shorter time.