For all the talk of the “robot uprising,” many forget that artificial intelligence has been with us since the 1950s. And while advances in machine learning and algorithmic marketing are occurring more rapidly than ever before, it’s still humans that wield this awesome power (for the time being anyway).
Where it concerns business and commerce, the most immediate and well-publicized success that brands have been having with AI comes in the form of chatbots. These whip-smart conversation assistants are arguably the most successful of all the AI marketing automation tools in use right now. But what this technology foreshadows for the future of business and artificial intelligence is where marketers should really pay attention.
Experts predict that AI will influence every corner of the consumer landscape in just a few short years. It’s projected to jump from a $36 billion-dollar industry in 2020 to a whopping $127 billion industry by 2025. This will be achieved through more than just chatbots.
For today’s purposes, you don’t need to know anything about algorithms, neural networks or recurrent neural nets. You only need to know that artificial intelligence isn’t limited by memory capacity or data volume. It can process limitless amounts of structured and unstructured data. Think about what that means for market research efficiency, segmentation, and data harvesting. You’ll be able to sift through millions of social media posts in a second and pinpoint tags and mentions that align with your brand. You’ll be able to target not just one ideal customer at a time, but multiple ideal customers all the time.
Of course, there are different ways AI can help you achieve your marketing goals. So let’s take a look at the wide-ranging utilities of artificial intelligence where it concerns marketing automation and the ways in which AI can boost your brand.
AI and personalization
If there’s one marketing buzz-word that’s as hot as AI, it’s “personalization.” And for good reason. We exist in an experience economy now, and no group is more attuned to this than the millennial generation. Millenials prefer a personalized marketing experience and brands are reaping big successes by supercharging their email campaigns with personalized messages.
So where does artificial intelligence fit in?
The real question is where doesn’t it fit in? We’re currently seeing many real-world examples of brands leveraging AI to personalize the customer experience. For example, Air Canada recently enhanced their mobile experience by using AI to personalize their website for visitors. They’ve launched new Alexa skills geared towards updating real-time flight info for customers. They’ve also begun using AI to help further analyze their customers based on email behavior and can now adjust their email campaigns accordingly.
Many industries can benefit from AI personalization. For example, beauty brand Sephora took the idea of chatbots (a virtual helper) to the next level with the Visual Artist feature on their app and website. This tool, powered Modiface AI tech, can map a person’s face and enhance it with augmented reality. This allows customers to simulate trying on the makeup items they have in their virtual shopping cart. That same AI engine can then generate personalized recommendations for the customer. The effectiveness of this tactic speaks for itself, as the tool is prominent on Sephora’s homepage.
So how do you implement these admittedly advanced AI strategies into your marketing plan? Luckily there are a number of AI tools out there. These provide everything from predictive algorithms that harvest data across various platforms, to natural language processing, to personalization across all channels.
You can also hire an AI expert to work directly with your team. The drawback is that this is a specialized field and there is a glaring shortage of talent at the moment. Big brands like Amazon are reportedly spending between $300,000-$500,000 a year to hire an in-house AI specialist. With this in mind, you’ll probably want to experiment with the aforementioned AI tools first.
If you’re still hesitant to automate your personalization marketing with AI, consider this stat: doing personalization right means you can see a five or eight-fold ROI on your marketing spend. Then imagine that you have an AI tool running 24/7 to deliver the targeted personalization your customers crave.
AI and automation
Perhaps your B2B operation is typical in that you deal with high-volume, recurring, routine work. Say you’re a C-level executive looking to automate certain parts of these processes. For you to ignore AI in this scenario would be a cardinal sin. An AI system will be able to identify patterns in your processes that are ripe for automation, thus saving you money in the long run.
That’s why GE is going all in on this technology. One of their AI solutions is to integrate supplier data so they can more efficiently compare the prices of a single product from various vendors. Not only that, but GE is also utilizing AI-based monitoring sensors to oversee their industrial equipment. The result is that they’re saving money by eliminating routine maintenance and instead relying on AI to notify them when machinery requires servicing.
It’s these advanced in machine learning that leads experts to predict that artificial intelligence is not only useful in manufacturing but absolutely necessary for survival. That said, any brand, whether they’re in the B2B or B2C space, can utilize this tactic to eliminate redundancies and boost productivity.
AI and brand advocacy
Crafting targeted social media ad campaigns, or enlisting the help of influencers to advocate for your brand, can be a time and labor-intensive process. You have to analyze various metrics on a variety of social platforms and make sure you’re hiring the right influencer for your particular operation.
AI can help eliminate the guesswork from this process by taking unstructured data and using it to target an ideal ambassador for your brand. For example, KIA was planning a Super Bowl campaign in 2016. This is the Holy Grail for brand marketers, so the car company obviously didn’t want to make any missteps.
Their solution was to use AI to enlist the help of a social intelligence platform designed by a company called Influential. This tech had a single purpose: help brands identify variables in the marketplace in order to predict the effectiveness of influencer campaigns.
KIA used it to identify the ideal social influencers to work with based on specific personality traits. Once recruited, KIA then activated them at the prescribed time to disseminate their branded message to the ideal target audience. The ad became so popular that it was regarded as one of the top Superbowl ads of 2016. That led to a dramatic uptick in Kia’s web visitors and a spike in sales.
Kia Superbowl ad:
AI and creativity
We mentioned unstructured data before. The reason why AI and machine learning is taking the digital world by storm is due to how efficiently they can process this type of data. The utilization of artificial neural networks in marketing has led to advancements in speech processing and image recognition. Like with the Air Canada example, this can benefit your brand in the realm of experiential design. By knowing how precisely to target messages to your audience, it will inform design elements as well.
There are other examples too. Mondelez, the mint, and chewing gum confectioner enlisted the help of an AI creative director that they used to deconstruct award-winning ads. The machine-learned what went into an effective ad, and then applied that knowledge to create a Clorets Mints campaign. They presented the AI generated the ad with another one created by an all-human team, and took a blind poll. The human campaign did win—but only with 54% of the vote. It’s also important to note that many execs actually preferred the AI-generated ad as opposed to the human-generated ad. This just goes to show the power of AI not only on the floor but on the corporate end as well.
The take away from all this is that AI isn’t a niche element and you can apply it in all areas of your digital marketing strategy. To not do so would be to ignore one of the great efficiency and productivity boosters of the modern age.
Author Bio: Ryan Gould is the Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing. An expert search, social and content marketer, Ryan leads Elevation Marketing’s digital strategy department, helping brands achieve their business goals, such as improving sales and market share, by developing integrated marketing strategies distinguished by research, storytelling, engagement, and conversion. With a proven track record of energizing brands, engaging audiences and managing multi-discipline marketing teams.