Exploring the potential of an AI self-care coach for GSK

The insights gained via a tailored, multi-method research approach guided GSK to take the next steps in the development of its AI and voice strategy for healthcare advice in a retail setting.

The challenge

In 2019, as part of a Technology Incubator initiative, the GSK (USA) Shopper Insights team started to explore the role of an AI Self-Care Coach, which shoppers can interact with in a retail healthcare environment. This AI Coach was still very much in Beta, but was essentially an avatar you can ask a series of questions and receive advice from, on a variety of healthcare needs. ​

Little did we realize the profound implications this idea could have for shoppers today in our new ‘pandemic’ state of being, i.e. a preference for contactless, instantly accessible and affordable healthcare advice in a retail environment. ​​

However, before even considering progressing and developing this technology, GSK needed further insights to understand:​

  • how shoppers would react to the avatar,​
  • which categories and situations would best fit its assistance, and ​
  • the potential impact on GSK’s future retail strategy.​

Our solution

InSites Consulting designed an innovative and tailored research approach utilizing a variety of methodologies:​

  • Perception test: we engaged with the Health Hub Square, our always-on digital community, to get a foundation-level understanding of participants’ attitudes and perceptions towards the AI Self-Care Coach, and their willingness to interact (rationalized and not in the moment) with it, and the likelihood to engage in a retail environment. A blend of social-media-inspired and projective questions allowed us to get deeper and more thoughtful responses.
  • Reaction test: we used in-home video ethnography to observe people’s reactions when they saw and interacted with the avatar for the first time. A paired video format allowed real-time ‘watch and react’, followed by a discussion on the avatar between two participants.
  • Experience test: we brought shoppers to the state-of-the-art GSK Shopper Science Lab (SSL) to run a series of experiments, to get in-the-moment reactions to the on-shelf avatar. This included accompanied shopping sessions in a replicated store environment with changing conditions (music, lighting, shopper traffic), and sentiment tracking through facial and galvanic skin response biometric testing. 

The impact

This project was never about creating a ‘go/no-go’ proposition solution. The avatar was just a very ‘cool’ manifestation of what a ‘game-changing’ technology could look like and achieve in a store. ​

We aided GSK by uncovering opportunities and pitfalls that any implementation of technology faces in this environment today, and offered guidance for future digital initiatives of this type, such as: ​

  • Decision making on future-facing concepts can differ vastly, depending on the context of what people see, where they see it and how they experience it. An iterative approach is essential.​
  • clear call to action and reason to engage is vital to ensure shoppers will notice and utilize any type of digital technology in a busy store environment.​
  • Shelf execution must incite curiosity. The power of ‘cool’ reduces privacy concerns or initial awkwardness in interacting with this type of technology.​
  • Context is everything and will limit or expand perceptions of what the technology can offer depending on where it lives, what surrounds it, and what it is anchored against.​
  • Any technology at shelf must be simple, low effort and solve a specific shopper problem, not all problems or all expectations.​

Our first partnership with InSites Consulting was a great success. The team showed understanding of our category and consumers right from the The project was strategic and smartly put together,  bringing the insights to life, with amazing use of our Shopper Science Lab. It has had a great impact on the business because it touches on so many aspects that can influence our strategy! 

Litthya Burgin, Shopper Insights, GSK USA

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