The word ‘revolution’ is often overlooked due to the associated over-hype and sheer frequency in which it is used. However, when it comes to the impact of AI in marketing, ‘revolution’, may for once be an appropriate way to describe the transformation that will happen in the industry. AI will enable marketers to design and deliver campaigns in entirely new ways, along with delivering a complete change for how the industry has traditionally ideated and operated.
It is well known that today’s narrative around AI is broad.
Therefore, the industry is at a point where simple definitions and tangible examples are required to really understand how AI will transform the industry.
In simple terms, for marketers, AI should be understood as Machine Learning (ML) and AI applications.
ML refers to algorithms that are programmed to learn from data, whereas AI refers to applications that mimic human cognitive abilities, for example apps that can recognise images or respond to customer queries.
The ‘revolutionary’ bit comes when these two technologies combine. ML is like the great revolutionary thinker: it comes up with insights and real-time knowledge, and ways for the AI system to keep improving and growing in sophistication. ML feeds into the AI application—the agent of change—whether that’s a chatbot virtual assistant or a programmatic algorithm.
AI in marketing
If ML and AI are indeed the ‘agent of change’ then what precisely are they changing? One of the most exciting ways that AI will transform marketing is its ability to deliver personalised experiences. Personalisation holds the key to customer loyalty, enabling brands to build real, long-lasting relationships with customers as individuals. Until AI however, true personalisation hasn’t really been possible, because personalisation at scale has been impossible to achieve without racking up the sort of costs that make even the hardiest CFO burst into tears. Personalisation requires sifting through vast amounts of data in real-time—a function that the human brain cannot perform and is executed more efficiently and accurately by an automated system.
This is where AI technology proves its worth. As it’s based on high-powered compute capabilities, AI is a lot smarter than us at certain tasks and can make even the most complex and time consuming jobs seem effortless as it flexes its virtual muscles. Companies are building AI systems that can mimic human conversation and “work” with customers to resolve issues, triage complaints and queries, and provide highly personalised recommendations. Often resulting in the discovery of trends, patterns, and habits that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
Fear not – it is not about replacing humans and you won’t be losing your job, a narrative we have all heard one too many times in the last 12 -18 months. AI will actually help us do our jobs better. One great example of this is Cogito. Cogito’s technology performs in-call voice analysis, providing real-time behavioural insights to help agents better engage with customers. It’s pretty cool to be able to read how your customers are feeling to help ensure you’re giving them the best service possible and is an extension of the huge popularity in AI such as Alexa and Siri. It’s the sort of change that deserves to be called truly revolutionary.
The current state of play
In order to evaluate the current state of AI there are two questions that need to be considered: what’s possible and what people are actually doing. With the former it’s evident of the popularity in AI applications and the various forms it comes in; from integrated surround sound systems in the home to simply the smartphone you have in your pocket.
These applications can draw on massive volumes of content and data assets to gain deep customer insights and deliver highly personalised experiences for customers that are totally unique. HSBC, for example, now has the ability to personalise the order of products shown on a website to draw in traffic based on individual customer preferences. In its trial, HSBC used the technology to boost a product that performed well on its website, leading to a 109 percent increase in customers reaching that product.
Elsewhere in the world of marketing, AI is having one of its greatest impacts in the rise of voice-enabled personal assistants. These “chatbots” demonstrate the power of AI to connect customers with automated personas that use AI-derived insights to make personalised recommendations. Take Pefin’s new AI financial advisor, which was previewed at SXSW 2018. This chatbot is so sophisticated it can help users navigate life’s key financial decisions—everything from getting a mortgage to saving for retirement. This is the sort of highly-personalised experience that once would only have been possible through a (very expensive) human agent, and highlights the power of AI to provide bespoke experiences at scale. Even though it sounds quite intimidating to have a virtual assistant advising on often very important decisions, the simple fact is that this virtual assistant takes the “leg work” out of the process.
To what extent are businesses embracing AI applications? The answer depends on who you ask. According to Forrester, just 11 percent of brands can be considered AI experts, while more than half fall into the “novice” or “laggard” category. But is that really surprising? The technology is still very new, and with such a big change most businesses would be wise to consider exactly how to deploy the technology to get the most value.
What does this mean?
It was after all only a few years ago where the debate raged on whether customer loyalty has had its day. The argument ran that modern customers are too empowered and have too much choice. We’re fickle and won’t hesitate to switch brands. The true power of AI in marketing is that it reverses this trend, making customer loyalty a realistic goal once more. AI allows brands to know their customers as people, and interact with them with the sort of insight you would expect from a best friend. If that doesn’t build loyalty, I don’t know what will.
It therefore can be said that we are at a critical juncture with the deployment of AI. The use cases are firming up and the benefits of the technology are clear to see, but many firms have yet to make a play. My advice is simple: act now and don’t be left behind. Businesses that master AI-enabled marketing first will be at a significant competitive advantage – something that we’ll be exploring at Adobe Summit 2018. Much like a revolution, AI will grow at an accelerated rate and branch out into areas at different speeds. It is up to marketers to keep up – so let’s get busy rebuilding marketing with AI at the forefront.