The term artificial intelligence (AI) may bring to mind scenes from a sci-fi movie, but in reality it’s already transforming many industries, including marketing. AI is gaining widespread traction as a way to solve seemingly impossible problems and accomplish tasks that previously could only be achieved with great effort, time and resources. In a marketing context, AI has the potential to make marketers better at what we’ve been hired to do. Here are five common challenges marketers face today and how AI can help.
1. Omnichannel proliferation and digital complexity
Gartner forecasts that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide by the end of 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. That’s a lot of channels for marketers to keep up with, potentially resulting in hastily integrated tools and channels to existing digital ecosystems and unmanageable digital complexity.
Instead of buckling under the complexity of creating and delivering digital experiences across all of these channels, AI helps marketers by streamlining omnichannel processes so individualized content can easily get to consumers, anytime, anywhere in a synchronous manner.
2. Data and a holistic view of the customer
According to Forrester, “Marketers have reached a point where their ability to capture data has exceeded their ability to take data-driven action.”
Data is the great untapped goldmine of the 21st century, and unifying data is the siren song for digital marketers everywhere. Without question, access to data is the biggest challenge for marketers responsible for the customer journey.
AI solves this issue elegantly, enabling marketers to unify data sources from across disparate departments and regions of an organization. AI can surface insights and drive actions by bringing together data sources such as:
- behavioral data (e.g., page views and other digital footprint data by your customers on you website)
- internal data (e.g., CRM); and
- external customer data.
The result is completeness of customer data for more intelligent content targeting. Marketers now have the ability to deliver personalized content in an automated manner to a countless number of micro-segments instead of relying on high level, superficial personas to compel users to action.
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3. Personalized customer experiences
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) asserts that “brands that create personalized experiences by integrating advanced digital technologies and proprietary data for customers are seeing revenues increase by 6 percent to 10 percent—two to three times faster than those that don’t. As a result, personalization leaders stand to capture a disproportionate share of category profits in the new age of individualized brands while slow movers will lose customers, share and profits.”
What does this tell us? That digital experiences are a high stakes game. Personalization is a powerful use case because AI is so effective at engaging customers by individualizing each interaction across any channel, whether website, mobile device, wearable, IoT smart device or app.
4. Real-time customer engagement
One of the hardest things for marketers to do today is understand what’s going to drive that next positive customer interaction, and then to act on it in real time. Data will do marketers no good unless it is available in real time to change a customer outcome. Unlocking your data and using it as fuel to power real-time customer interactions across multiple channels is another one of the great opportunities AI presents. Combined with the power of unified data, AI can deliver winning combinations of content-rich, targeted digital experiences that create micro-moments of influence—which according to Google are intent-rich split seconds when decisions are made and preferences are shaped—vital for marketers looking to influence customer behavior and gain a competitive edge.
5. Time to market and value
In an increasingly competitive digital world, time to market is not only essential, it’s critical. In fact, for many marketers time to market may be the only competitive advantage. Fast time to market is also difficult for marketing organizations to realize due to the time-consuming work necessary to delivering real-time digital experiences. Digital marketers need tools that reduce the time it takes to analyze data and gain actionable insights, as well as other manual, labor-intensive tasks such as preparing reports. AI algorithms delivered as part of software as a service solutions dramatically reduce time to market for common time-consuming tasks allowing marketers to spend their energy on what they do best—strategy, digital experience design, content creation, etc.—and let the systems do the rest.
Although there are challenges to using AI, many marketing pros are using it today and are often seeing an astonishing impact on digital marketing results. Marketers that take advantage of AI today will be able to accomplish exponentially more while expending less effort. They’ll be able to leverage customer data for more intelligent targeting and focus their energy on honing marketing strategies rather than doing work that AI can do better. And in doing so, they will realize a significant edge over their competition. The time to act and take advantage of this emerging phenomenon is now.
This article was first published in February 2018 and has been updated regularly.