Exploring the opportunity of an AI self-care coach

How a multi-method approach guided Haleon to take the next steps in the development of its AI and voice strategy for healthcare advice in a retail setting.

A person holding some products looking to the left
A person holding some products looking to the left

How it started

In 2019, as part of a Technology Incubator initiative, the Haleon (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 it was essentially an avatar you can ask questions and receive advice from, on various healthcare needs. ​Little did we realise the profound implications this could have for shoppers today in our ‘pandemic’ state of being, where there is a preference for contactless, instantly accessible and affordable healthcare advice. ​​

Before considering progressing and developing this technology, Haleon 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 Haleon’s future retail strategy.​


How we inspired change

We designed an innovative and tailored research approach:

  • Perception test; we engaged with the Health Hub Square, our always-on digital community, to get a foundation-level understanding of people’s attitudes and perceptions towards the AI Self-Care Coach.
  • 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, followed by a discussion on the avatar between two participants.
  • Experience test; we brought shoppers to the state-of-the-art Haleon Shopper Science Lab (SSL) where we ran a series of experiments, in order to get in-the-moment reactions to the on-shelf avatar, including sentiment tracking through facial and galvanic skin response biometric testing.


How it lives on

We uncovered opportunities and pitfalls that the implementation of technology faces in this environment today:

  • A 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. So, 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.​
  • The technology must be simple, low effort and solve a specific shopper problem, not all problems or all expectations.​

“Right from the start 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 Baez
US Portfolio Insights Lead at Haleon USA

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