Roger Hurni, co-founder of Off Madison Ave, a behavioral marketing agency, &, a marketing automation software for mobile apps

Many brands are jumping into artificial intelligence, which makes sense. There are many efficiencies in terms of supplementing current marketing tactics. But the real opportunity is employing AI programs that can analyze the behaviors of your customers so that you can exceed their expectations. After all, in today’s customer landscape, it takes far more than just providing great products or services for a brand to stand out.

Brands that prioritize customer loyalty already understand the importance of surprising and delighting their customers. They know they must produce exceptional experiences that not only leave a lasting impression but also create brand advocates who spread positive word of mouth.

The problem is these kinds of experiences are few and far between. In fact, according to Forrester’s 2023 Customer Experience Index, U.S. brands for the second year in a row. And when they do, they are extremely difficult to scale—meaning, any true personalization is simply lacking. Until now.

AI has afforded marketers the opportunity to explore new techniques that we can use to surprise and delight our customers. Incorporating these new processes into your marketing strategies can ultimately foster strong customer relationships and brand loyalty while driving long-term success.


Using AI To Analyze Customer Behaviors

The first step in surprising and delighting customers comes from understanding their behaviors, and recognizing patterns is where AI can shine. Not only can AI interpret their explicit behaviors, but it can analyze their implicit ones as well.

Implicit behaviors can provide a brand with unique insights into customers’ actions or patterns that are not directly expressed or overtly communicated. Some examples would be store traffic patterns, which can lead to better product placement; competitive store visits, which can provide an understanding of choice and frequency patterns; and loyalty program usage, which can indicate customer preferences and buying habits.

From there, AI can find correlations of relevancy that lead to predictive behaviors you can use in your content and messaging. All this data can provide you with everything you need to surprise and delight your customers at any moment in time. This can help you exceed your customers’ expectations far more than an expected reward.

Think of it this way: Getting every 10th doughnut free sounds great at first. But it stops feeling like a reward after the second free donut. Then it becomes an expectation, and an expectation will never surprise and delight a customer. It would be better, for example, to randomize a free donut so that the customer can never anticipate when they will receive it.

Randomization: The Trick To Surprising And Delighting

It is critical for brands to apply randomization. Randomizing rewards is incredibly powerful. Take slot machines at a casino as an example. They provide the player with random wins, which in turn help keep the player engaged for longer periods of time, hoping for a larger payout down the line. Every rewards program can learn a lesson from that.

When you examine the behavioral data from AI, you will find there are all kinds of opportunities you can take advantage of to make your customers feel special, such as a half-birthday reward. With AI identifying such an opportunity, a customer service representative could write a handwritten thank-you note or offer an unexpected discount or gift. Anything along these lines will make a customer feel valued and appreciated.

Personalization Is Key

By using AI to examine customer behavioral data, it can identify surprise and delight opportunities. But personalization is key. Tailoring products, services and communications to individual customers demonstrates a deep understanding and appreciation for their needs.

Now, this is where it gets tricky. Typically, a data analyst would look at a customer’s information and make decisions about where there is an intersection between behavioral insight and a surprise and delight moment. As an example, let’s say a customer took advantage of their birthday reward the last three years in a row. A good analyst might suggest sending them a half-birthday deal this year.

That said, more and more brands will likely start to feed this information into an AI tool like ChatGPT or one of the many others that are being deployed every day. The AI tool could make a list of suggested surprise and delight moments you can take advantage of. Furthermore, if you integrate that AI into a platform like email or your mobile app, you could automate customer communications.

Exceeding Expectations Is Critical

Remember, the key is to go beyond expectations and make each customer feel special by surprising and delighting them individually. This is a powerful way to differentiate your brand in a crowded marketplace. By understanding customer expectations, delivering exceptional service, offering thoughtful gestures and creating memorable experiences, you can foster long-term customer loyalty and advocacy. That may sound complicated, but there are all kinds of AI tools available that can automate nearly all of this.

The goal is not to simply just satisfy customers, but also to exceed their expectations in ways that evoke positive emotions, which will create a stronger connection to your business. Brands that go the extra mile will reap the rewards of delighted customers who will, in turn, become their ambassadors and sing their praises.

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