AI marketing uses techniques such as machine learning to improve customer experiences by making individualized offers in real time. The organizational benefits of AI marketing come from automating large-scale, repetitive tasks allowing leaders to refocus resources toward areas such as planning and creative messaging.
How will AI marketing change your company’s marketing approach? I recently had a chance to ask Brian Solis, a Principal Analyst at Altimeter. He is widely viewed as a futurist and business strategist who has helped companies create new media strategies and frameworks. I hope you find our exchange below as compelling as I did.
In the TDWI Checklist Report, Marketing Analytics Meets Artificial Intelligence, you'll find strategies for using AI and analytical marketing to enhance customer experiences through better personalization.
How will marketing evolve in the age of artificial intelligence?
SOLIS: AI marketing is the next big thing. It will shift brands away from marketing automation toward personalized experiences (finally!). But there’s a great irony here in that artificial intelligence is needed to humanize marketing. Thanks to mobile, social, real-time tech, consumers are always on. With the prevalence of on-demand apps and services and the influence of social media in how people connect, share and communicate, consumers are also becoming more demanding and (accidentally) narcissistic. They want things now. They’re increasingly impatient. They want engagement personalized. And they want new and exceptional experiences.
This is nothing new. Digital marketers have witnessed this incredible shift over the last 10 years. Experts have long talked about the need for personalization, cross-channel and omnichannel integration, responsive/adaptive design and dynamic engagement. But after all of this time and progress, there’s been little innovation in marketing to better engage consumers in ways that they expect and prefer.
Even though every new technology trend offers marketers new and powerful capabilities, marketing is largely still operating from the same old playbook. If anything, over the years, disruptive technology has made marketers more risk-averse. Marketers have sacrificed personalization for martech and marketing automation. Essentially, new technology perpetuates legacy-based mindsets and approaches rather than inspiring groundbreaking means of reaching, guiding and nurturing customer decision making and overall brand relationships.
The difference though is now, AI and data is now readily available to change the game.
Marketing, now more than ever, needs a new playbook, and AI (and machine learning) will serve as the catalyst to spark overdue marketing transformation. We will finally realize the shift from automation to personalization and eventually anticipation and prediction.
Welcome to a new era of AI marketing, where machines help make marketing more personal and human.
AI marketing combines intelligent tech and human creativity to learn, understand and engage with consumers at the individual level with hyper-personalized, relevant and timely communications, making them feel compelled to remain engaged. Brian Solis Principal Analyst Altimeter
Will AI marketing reshape traditional marketing?
SOLIS: These are things that you will never hear a modern customer say:
“I love seeing generic branded marketing messages!”
“I love it when products I looked at online follow me across the web.”
“I love getting mass emails and texts from brands!”
“Marketers produce my favorite content online!”
We would never say these things, yet marketers are guilty of losing touch with real people in all they do all too often. And that’s the challenge facing marketing and why AI/machine learning represents a tremendous opportunity. The real challenge is human. Yesterday’s standards, mindsets and checklists still overly influence marketing and thus hold it back.
Marketing strategies are broadcast to the masses across every possible channel. We talk at people without taking the time to understand who they are, what and who they value and love, their goals and aspirations, what they disdain and more importantly, how, where and why they make decisions.
Customers are in complete control of their journey from discovery to consideration to decision making to sharing experiences. The devices they use, how and when, are also reshaping how they go in and out of their journey. Connected consumers expect personalized experiences, real-time engagement, utility and simplicity.
AI and machine learning takes the guesswork out of marketing. It helps marketers understand modern customers in ways that weren’t part of the previous playbook. AI marketing combines intelligent tech and human creativity to learn, understand and engage with consumers at the individual level with hyper-personalized, relevant and timely communications, making them feel compelled to remain engaged. AI also guides marketers to craft extremely personalized messages, with relevant content in the channel and on the device they prefer and at the time they prefer to receive it.
How will AI marketing change roles and expertise requirements?
SOLIS: One-to-one personalization at scale isn’t just possible; it needs marketing architects who understand the capabilities of AI-driven platforms and customer data, context and insights to bring personalized experiences to life. This opens the door to contextual and personally relevant engagement that enhances the entire customer journey. Said another way, intelligent marketing can and should move beyond awareness, reach and conversion. Marketing should now consider the entire customer journey and design touchpoints and engagement strategies that enhance the customer experience throughout their journey and life cycle.
Marketers must learn how customers are evolving and behaving and how AI marketing can help. This means that marketers need more than creativity. They also need more than data. Marketers must be ready to disrupt what they know and how they measure success. They need open and curious minds to challenge conventions and assumptions to perform against evolving standards.
This starts with asking different questions, using the right data to get the right answers and then creating relevant engagement programs, content and paths to deliver against and exceed maturing expectations and values.
Last year, I had the opportunity to work with my good friend Sameer Patel in developing a guideline for AI marketing. We based our model on the five W's of journalism (see sidebar).
The five W's, combined with integrating AI tools into the marketing stack, drive marketers toward a new modern marketing foundation.
Marketing will also evolve beyond assumption or creative-driven processes. It will now be driven by intelligent insights and outcomes that focus on customers and the business. To do so, the role of measurement, too, must progress in an era of AI marketing and machine learning.
Often, the goal of marketing is to reach as many consumers as possible with the hopes of recruiting en masse and converting at better-than-average ratios. But part of the challenge for marketers is that many of today’s strategies are driven by metrics that don’t link to user targeting and growth.
AI marketing will usher in a new mindset that focuses on growth, engagement and experiential metrics that go beyond vanity and tie into mutually beneficial outcomes.
Will AI marketing be a differentiator, or will it level the competitive playing field for personalized experiences?
SOLIS: The future of marketing is already here. Now modern marketers have access to intelligent, automated and human-centered platforms for genuine, value-added consumer engagement. Doing so earns an incredible competitive advantage by giving consumers the personalized, productive and enchanting experience they expect.
The five W's of AI marketing
Here is an example of how to combine your current approaches with existing and emerging AI technologies to improve your analytical marketing efforts. Brian Solis and Sameer Patel based their model on guidelines that journalists have used for decades for information gathering.
Who are the people who express intent and how can we better target them rather than broadcasting to a segment or all subscribers?
What content would they value based on their preferences and behaviors? Create highly personalized content for them instead of generic messages that could apply to anyone.
When is the ideal time to send relevant messages? When are customers likely to take key actions and most likely to respond?
Where should the message go (channel and device) to align with consumer preferences and spur engagement?
What are the ways to learn precisely how customers prefer/expect to engage with your brand?
AI marketing represents the ability for marketers to almost instantly make up for lost time, leapfrog competition and more effectively engage customers in ways that they prefer, value and reward.
The modern marketing checklist places the consumer at the center of everything. It is data-driven to adapt and react to consumer preferences in real time. Strategies are informed based on the digital breadcrumbs consumers willfully leave behind, crucial data such as location, device, intent and activity, in exchange for improved experiences.
The good news is that marketers can immediately integrate machine learning and AI marketing tools into their existing marketing automation stack, including leveraging their existing email service providers. AI marketing can deliver exponential accuracy and better results, which immediately impact their bottom lines.
Imagine using intelligent insights to better engage customers to deliver greater value. But it’s not just about driving revenue. Modern brands deliver value by using new technology (and informed creativity) to better engage customers, improve satisfaction, earn loyalty and grow communities. Over time, machine learning and AI marketing will help modern marketers mature to personalize offerings as customers discover and shop, optimize their journeys and click paths, better predict what they want next, present more personalized recommendations to them, and drive innovation on all fronts.
Will a shift to AI marketing mean that data becomes even more of a competitive advantage?
SOLIS: AI marketing and machine learning can convert data into customer insight without cognitive bias for those ready to learn and unlearn. AI offers a competitive advantage to those who not only extract important insights, but more so, those who can execute, measure its effects and react, again and again. The more the system learns, the more it optimizes opportunities. The question is, are marketers ready to break new ground?
Marketers often say that legacy technologies are major barriers to their customer personalization experience efforts. At the same time, marketers contend that these efforts are also hindered by their incapacity to extract useful insights from their consumer data. Without extracting these useful insights, developing consumer segments and personalizing content for those segments is impossible.
AI marketing changes the game.
AI marketing platforms convert customer data and activities into actionable, personalized insights, which leads to more relevant and personalized cross-channel consumer engagement. In addition to modern marketers getting smarter about customer experience and personalization, AI can interpret digital breadcrumbs, replacing manual guesswork with automated decision making.
Now, marketers can use available data to strategically deliver productive customer experiences that ultimately drive greater business profitability at every step in their journey.
This means that marketing will also need to employ new models where data science works in lockstep with all facets of design, execution and measurement. Eventually, this will expand the role of marketing from the awareness, acquisition and loyalty parts of the traditional funnel and create an infinite loop where AI marketing engages customers and adds value at key moments of truth throughout the journey.