How Midea uses AI-driven insights to meet customer needs

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels May 4, 2022 Audio mode
Summary:
Midea is using data-rich insight from AI specialist Birdie to give its customers the features they want.

knowledge

Midea, the world’s largest manufacturer of home appliances, is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyze customer reviews and create marketing campaigns that focus on the right features.

The firm is using Birdie’s Competitive Analysis module to monitor thousands of reviews. The company uses the tool to identify the attributes that consumers value when buying a product. The company can also use the system to understand how customers explain those attributes, says Cristiane Muller, Midea's Digital Marketing Manager:

The reports that we have are so rich because Birdie gives us the opportunity to understand the context of use. I like to say that Birdie is transforming qualitative to quantitative information. We have customers expressing themselves and then we group that information and transform it in dashboards. Through that, we have clear insight and performance data on a specific market and a specific product.

The marketing team wanted to create campaigns for its customers that would address the real-world benefits of Midea’s new IoT-enabled products by listening to customers’ unsolicited feedback in as close to real-time as possible across a range of platforms, such as e-commerce and app-store reviews, Muller explains:

We started using Birdie technology because it's important to hear the customers’ voice. We’re going through a process of digitalisation at Midea. We’ve hired a lot of people across digital aspects such as ecommerce and marketing and also data analysis and engineering. Birdie was part of this digitalisation process.

Birdie started tracking customer opinions in June last year. Midea’s team had weekly reviews with Birdie every Friday to go through the dashboards and help identify key indicators in its reports. Midea then ran a pilot project in Brazil during the final three months of 2021, which illustrated the value of the technology to the rest of the business, says Muller:

Our marketing director developed the opportunity to talk to Birdie and to track all the reviews. When we started using the social listening tools here in Brazil, we realised that there’s so much information already on the internet.

Through the pilot project, employees could dip into the reports and see key marketing indicators. The pilot has now been extended, so the technology can be used across marketing, customer market intelligence (CMI) and product management, says Muller:

We can see the opportunities we have compared to our competitors. Birdie also gives us a dashboard, where we can compare our products and our competitor products. That means we can use the information that we tracked on the voice of the consumer to compare what they are talking about and what we are talking about.

In practice

The implementation means Midea can use qualitative data that would otherwise be missing from its decision-making processes. The company went to market with a new IoT product last year and surpassed key performance indicators in less than half the time of previous launches. The results of this process included a 25% uplift in product awareness and record engagement rates. Muller says Birdie makes it much easier to convince people across the company that a change in marketing approach will produce big benefits:

I think the most valuable thing inside of the company is being able to prove, using data, what things we have to do to change our communication and our strategy to increase sales and performance. So, we could just bring a dashboard to the engineers here and tell them, ‘OK, that's what the customer wants to hear about our products – and this is how they use our products and this is how we need to communicate with them’. That was the biggest benefit because it can be hard to convince people about a change in communication. But when you have data that’s tracked and based on the voice of the customer, there’s no doubt that you have to make changes.

Muller cites an example of how Midea has used data to improve its communication with customers. The company was keen to run a digital marketing campaign for its IoT-enabled air-conditioning units in Brazil. Many of these units run at night to keep bedrooms cool. By using Birdie to track customer sentiment, the marketing team discovered that it was important for customers to have access to a remote control next to their beds with an LED backlight. Muller says they were able to use this insight in digital marketing campaigns:

We had data comparing us to our competitors and we knew that no one else was talking about the light in the remote control, so we could bring this feature up and use it as a unique selling proposition. We could also talk about performance based on context of use and change the way we used terminology.

Muller looks back on the implementation process and says working closely with Birdie on a weekly basis to explain the insight on the dashboards was a key factor in helping to push the cultural acceptance of the technology across Midea:

People need to be comfortable with the system and the information that’s displayed. They were asking questions, such as, ‘how does the algorithm works and how accurate is this information?’ So, we could explain to them how the algorithm works and how the tracking works. It was a learning curve with the CMI team and with newer adopters who weren't included in the first phase of the project. But everything went well.

Midea’s long-term plans include a wider rollout. Muller’s team presented the results of the pilot to the company’s head-office team late last year. As Midea is investing significantly in IoT-enabled products, it’s crucial it delivers the features that customers want – and that’s where a broader rollout of the technology will help:

Our marketing chief from international business loves the technology and she is adding it into other markets to track IoT technology to see what people are talking about. The aim is to provide similar reports across the whole globe, so we can have a benchmark.

Muller advises other business leaders who are thinking about implementing AI-tracking technology to get as many people in the business involved as quickly as possible:

You need to get people briefed really well because it's important to know your goal. Otherwise, you're going to end up tracking everything. So, if you want to know something about your customers, be very specific and track exactly what you want to understand and make that clear to everyone in the process.

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