For years, Artificial Intelligence was the domain of Sci-Fi enthusiasts and futuristic film directors. Suddenly, it’s knocking on Marketing’s door with the promise of better customer intelligence and more opportunities for personalisation.
Ever-curious marketers are embracing its potential, not least because AI is fed by data and there is an enormous amount of that around.
Leveraging data and AI will ultimately allow CRM specialists achieve true personalisation in all communications, both online/offline.
There’s no doubt that AI will help us create cohesive and collaborative engagement strategy across both nurture and retention phases to increase and maintain consumer loyalty.
However, AI is an inaccurate term. Firstly, it smacks of ex-Machina-like trickery, but also Alexa, Siri and your self-parking car all contain AI. Do you want Siri running your marketing campaigns? No, but you do want Machine Learning to play a part.
When we call AI ‘Machine Learning’ we get closer to the truth about how this technology can help us and how it will change the face of marketing.
Simply put, Machine Learning (ML) is when algorithms find patterns in data and analyse probable outcomes.
The “learning” part comes into play when the algorithms learn and adapt outputs in real time, based on new information.
Machine Learning can make sense of unlimited amounts of data, learning from all variables and continuously improving predictions and modelling. Using machine learning we can extract deeper insight from data, with faster data-mining and greater scale, benefiting almost every area of a business.
The AI expert
Marketing leaders will need someone on their team who understands AI inside out. They’ll need to understand what it’s built on, how it operates, it’s potential opportunities and potential dangers. They’ll need to be an advocate for the technology.
Andrew Stephens, writing for Forbes, says that marketers will need a “higher level of digital literacy than the current workforce has.” We agree, and given that marketers are a tech-savvy bunch, that’s saying something.
What’s interesting here is how the role of IT is evolving in parallel with marketing technology advancements. IT is no longer a back-office function. It sits on the board and is responsible for commercial, competitive and productivity gains.
Will the AI Expert be sanctioned to Marketing from the IT department? Will they sit within the Marketing function alone? Should we imagine a future where IT and Marketing work hand-in-hand, speaking a new common language that bridges the gap between traditional tech and marketing roles?
The Data Scientist
In this new landscape, data scientists are increasingly vital for any business that wants to get the most from its masses of data – and they’re in especially in demand for businesses utilising machine learning and AI, (so in demand in fact, being a Data Scientist has been dubbed the Sexiest Job of The Century by the Harvard Business Review).
As data is the fuel that powers machine learning, it must be of the highest quality to get the best results (experts warn the quality and depth of data must be sufficient for algorithms to learn), but it also needs the best Data Scientists to wrangle it.
Our Data Scientists ensure our Machine Learning processes run at full speed. A good data scientist has a unique set of skills – they can take raw data and marry it with analysis to make it both accessible and valuable.
To do this well takes a grounding in advanced maths and analytics, training in market-leading techniques, access to cutting-edge Machine Learning tools, sector knowledge and a deep understanding of consumer behaviour.
It’s rare to find people who can do all of this and present their findings in a clear, relatable way. Luckily, we’ve not only found some, we’ve doubled the size of our data science team.
Yet, it’s anticipated by 2020 there will be 200,000 unfulfilled data scientist job postings. For marketers, the choice may be to outsource your Machine Learning to experts or to start your hunt for talent now.
Very soon AI for face recognition will deliver personalised customer rewards when you enter a store. For the early adopters and the early majority, this technology will offer great market differentiation, boosting loyalty and the bottom line, but it could quickly shift from being a money-making innovation to a necessary overhead.
Adaptable leaders must keep an eye on the technology, harness the insights from their AI experts and data scientists and the wisdom of their intuitive marketers. As ever, it’s vital to see the bigger picture and where and how AI can have impact.
Strategic planning with AI
The role of the marketing strategist has always been that of someone who needed to look forward and make informed decisions for the best strategic return. Machine Learning has already become an important asset within planning, and the future looks like the integration and application will only get stronger.
As email marketing, for example, continues to show its value, machine learning has helped develop and understand the ‘true’ worth of Email Service Providers (ESP’s) and what results they are achieving.
Previously, laborious segmentation work and testing could be used to optimise open rates and engagement metrics. AI within ESP’s can instantly deploy scheduled emails based upon individual modelling of optimal open times as well of what is optimal content for the consumer.
It’s this type of instant learning that is demonstrating how AI can complement the work of planning and all strategic marketing – true personalisation.
Brands are using online behaviour across multiple channels to segment customers and create personalised workstreams based upon previous interactions and engagements – delivering truly relevant and dynamic content. This allows more time and energy to be put into thinking about the bigger picture.
Chat Bots have become more than pre-programmed triggered messages. They are now used to autonomously engage with prospects and identify hot leads which are flagged for sales teams to pick up. As AI evolves to engage with consumers, the integration will become a powerful asset to further humanise the customer experience. This is a tool which has previously felt rigid in its real-world application, but the future looks promising as humans and machines can communicate in a way which could help provide meaningful and seamless interactions.
The application of AI can cover all stages of the customer journey, from acquisition to retention. Thanks to better insight tools, marketers are learning more about how consumers engage with their products and AI is helping understand what message to contact consumers with, as well as when. Modelling behaviour is becoming an essential tool to any business and providing insight into each customer individually, helping develop refined segments to target with bespoke messages.
AI is upon us. Marketing roles are evolving and so too are the tools that we use. And no matter how outlandish AI becomes, marketers must continue to do what they’ve always done best: put the customer first.
For more on how AI can unleash the power of your data, please contact us.