“Hey, Siri! Find the nearest sushi restaurant.”
New technologies are emerging and showing up in our everyday lives at a rapid rate. Voice-recognition, like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, and image recognition in our Facebook and Google accounts are just two mainstream applications that leverage artificial intelligence (AI)—one of the newest technologies gaining widespread momentum today.
What is Artificial Intelligence and Why the Increase in Attention?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is defined by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence as “the scientific understanding of the mechanism underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines.” It is one of the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2016 chosen by the World Economic Forum, based on the power to improve lives, transform industries, and safeguard the planet.
Combining artificial intelligence with the advancements in natural language processing (NLP), social awareness algorithms, and big data enables its many applications. In fact, because of these developments, investments in AI startups has risen in recent years—increasing from $145 million in 2011 to $681 million in 2015, according to CB Insights.
AI applications vary in sectors and industries, reflecting the different states of AI research and implementation. From Google’s autonomous cars, iRobot’s Roomba, and Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci Surgical System to Ozobot, credit card fraud, and crime management.
How Does Artificial Intelligence Impact Marketing?
In marketing, we are already seeing the impact of AI—think Amazon’s predictive product recommendations, Estée Lauder’s messenger chat bots, and 1-800-Flowers’ virtual personal assistant “Gifts When You Need.” By extracting insights from both structured or unstructured data, AI empowers brands to produce more enhanced and personalized interactions with buyers.
Demandbase conducted a survey that revealed 80% of marketing executives of companies with more than 250 employees believe that AI will revolutionize marketing by 2020. The main impact of AI in marketing is on improving the customer experience. More specifically, the survey revealed what marketers believe to be the top benefits of AI:
- Better insights into accounts (60%)
- More detailed analysis of campaigns (56%)
- Identifying prospective customers (53%)
- Expediting daily tasks (53%)
Marketing has embraced technology with open arms. Analyst Scott Brinker estimated that there were 3,874 marketing technology vendors in 43 different categories in January 2016—up from 947 vendors in 2014. Applying AI in marketing, through predictive analytics, data science, and natural language processing (NLP), is almost an expected outcome. AI-backed marketing software is now more critical than ever due to the burgeoning amount of big data being produced every day, the huge amount of actionable insights to be driven, and pioneering improvements in the field of data analytics, data science, NLP, data mining, and the like.
Predictive marketing—a new discipline deeply rooted in big data, mathematics, data science, and marketing—transforms the customer journey into a scientific process. It works by recognizing data patterns that prognosticate with a high level of certainty. Predictive marketing enables marketers to identify the ideal customer, the highest likelihood to buy, and the most appropriate way to engage the customer through the right segment, messaging, and channel.
Engagement Marketing Powered by Artificial Intelligence
Leveraging data science and predictive analytics optimizes every engagement point—offering the right offer, the right content, and the right product to the right prospect. Predictive marketing, infused with AI technology, allows marketers to do that at scale and near real-time. An engagement marketing approach through AI would show outstanding business impact, typically 2-6x the improvement in marketing funnel conversion rate, based on our experience with companies that adopted AI.
For example, at Mintigo we use our own Intelligent Customer Engagement to engage prospects with the right message on the right channel at the right time. Choosing between dozens of assets over multiple channels for every prospect is a task that humans are unable to do. However, AI can leverage complex computations to optimize between those millions of permutations. The result is that prospects are more likely to engage with content and trust the brand as compared to when marketers just spray-paint it.
Being able to process big data at scale is a competitive advantage today. Buyers are becoming more sophisticated. With the availability of customer data and the technology to process it to glean actionable insights, marketers can stay ahead.
Make Your Job Robot-Proof
If AI can do some things better than humans, should marketers be concerned for their jobs? The rapid shift from industrial to information-based knowledge and the digital economy presents skill-biased technical changes. A Forrester report, “The Future of Jobs, 2025: Working Side-By-Side With Robots,” suggests that by 2019, 25% of all job tasks will be offloaded to software robots, physical robots, or customer self-service automation.
For marketing professionals, this means turning marketing jobs to non-recusing, high-value creative jobs. By approaching AI with an open mind, marketers can lead emerging technologies in transforming the way business and society works. Here are four ways that marketing can stay ahead of the curve:
- Implement Technology in the Organization
Thinking of new, innovative ways to approach ideas and improve outcomes is part our everyday lives as marketers. As such, it’s important for us to be able to come up with solutions and responses beyond what’s already been established. To stay ahead, be the person that’s spearheading technological changes in your organization. Introduce the possibility of integrating artificial intelligence into your existing technology or applying AI technologies to different stages of the customer journey.
Technology’s very nature increases the demand for highly skilled professional, technical, and management occupations that deal with abstract thinking and changing situations. These are human attributes above and beyond what AI can do. As marketers, be open not only to change but also, and more preferably, be the one leading it.
- Transform Data into Business Insights
In today’s data-driven world, you must be able to translate vast amounts of data into insights and concepts. Leveraging predictive marketing, marketers must enhance their computational thinking skills to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed by the data and model. In a world full of information, you must be able to critically assess the importance of information, and utilize tools and techniques to do this at scale.
Machines and AI models are programmed in a static way, based on approximations of reality. Hence, we have the advantage of making critical decisions and calibrating models based on our unique insights. However, we must be aware that models can only produce insights to the extent of the quality of data being used; so, calibrating and testing is a continuous activity.
- Create and Promote Highly Engaging Content
While it might take AI models a long time to fully automate feelings (if it’s even possible), marketers can assess their audience’s attitudes, emotions, and preferences, which are crucial in building trust. Predictive content can help marketers effectively manage their content, recommending the most relevant assets, but it’s up to marketers to create the content based on qualitative and quantitative data.
Moreover, the development of new channels and media types calls for improving your creative skills. Marketers can combine the ability to feel and perceive reality with advanced creative skills to better engage their customers.
- Collaborate Virtually Across Multiple Disciplines and Cultures
Living in an integrated world, it’s critical to develop skills that foster collaboration. Marketers must learn how to engage and motivate a dispersed group of workers from different disciplines and cultures.
Customer engagement, for instance, needs an omni-channel approach not only in terms of channels and content but also in bringing together multi-faceted personas and industry sectors. AI models, although robust, still have a limited ability to resolve what kind of thinking and approach applies in changing situations and goals. Marketers must develop deep expertise in marketing technology, supplemented by understanding a broader range of disciplines such as data science and cultural settings.
Technology, together with demographic and socioeconomic factors, is a constant driver of change. It will be imperative to learn new skills to stay ahead. Stay up-to-date and vigilant on AI’s potential impacts, as it further enhances or disrupts current practices and models.
Predictive marketing is just one of the many general applications of AI, analytics, and data science. Soon enough, new technologies are going to emerge. As data-driven marketers, we should be open to change both for ourselves and our organization to profoundly transform businesses and improve outcomes.
Have you started using artificial intelligence in your profession? Share your experiences below.