AI in Digital Marketing: Mystery Decoded

Jun 07, 2017

By Ali Alkhafaji, Vice President – Digital Technologies

For many marketers that have spent years in training and professional experience working through personalization, analytics, segmentation and recommendation tools, AI is still a mystery. When they hear AI, they immediately begin to imagine Skynet or Jarvis. While Skynet is fictional, Facebook is doing its level best to make sure that Jarvis becomes a reality in one of the most interesting TV-to-Reality adaptations in recent memory. But at the end of the day, most marketers feel and fear that AI is way beyond their capabilities.

I am here today to tell you, don’t.

  • Does your company already think in terms of contextual multi-channel experiences?
    • It’s likely that you’ve deployed -or are deploying- some form of AI technology already.
  • Do you have an e-commerce platform that automatically recommends products to customers?
    • Most of the newer and more robust recommendation engines utilize AI recommendation algorithms.
  • Do you have an automated marketing platform that chooses which marketing flow to apply based on the way in which a customer has interacted with your brand?
    • Predictive analytics and personalization isn’t a thing of the future, just look at the Gartner marketing leaderboard and you will see traces of AI everywhere.

However, we are nowhere near being able to unlock the full power of AI in digital marketing. It is a mistake to think of AI as a capability that is not present in humans, in fact, machine artificial intelligence is millennia behind the human brain in intelligence and critical thinking. The right way to view AI is the computerized automation and processing that comes cheaper and faster in AI than the human mind. Multichannel marketing has grown so much in scope and complexity that it has become almost impossible for humans to keep up. Consumers expect more out of businesses today than ever before. Think about all the things that your organization does to appeal to and engage customers:

  • Multiple marketing campaigns and channels, each linked to their own automated nurturing flows
  • Customer activity tracking and journey mapping for hundreds of interaction patterns
  • Rule-based content and offer personalization to create context-aware experiences over all the channels that customers use when interacting with your brand

If you can just develop more content, create more personalization rules and build more marketing flows to account for all the different paths that your prospects take before they finally become buyers, you’ll unlock your company’s hidden potential and enter a new phase of rapid growth. Customers can interact with your brand in millions of possible ways, though, and there is a limit to the amount of information that one human (or even a team of top-notch marketers) can process. Can AI and machine learning help?

Power of AI

If you’re like most marketing professionals, you may feel a bit of apprehension when you consider the possibility of handing decision-making power over to a machine. The truth, though, is that utilizing AI in marketing doesn’t mean that you’re letting the computers make all the decisions for you. Instead, utilizing AI makes it possible to add some amount of automation to the complex tasks that outstrip your ability to process extremely granular information.

No two customers have the same journey. You can manually define broad personalization rules for large customer segments based on a limited set of interactions, but you’ll never experience the results that you’d get from a system that truly personalizes offers and content for individuals. To achieve that level of personalization, you need help. Machine learning can:

  • Automatically record every customer interaction that occurs on any channel
  • Process the data to derive deeper insights about customers and customer segments
  • Act automatically based on the insights collected
  • Quantify the results and improve future actions

With each interaction, machine learning gains a better understanding of what is relevant to an individual customer. An AI-powered system can also increase the chance of a positive result by finding statistical similarities between a present interaction and the interactions of previous customers.

Making AI Work for Your Company

To harness the full power of machine learning, you’ve got to start thinking about big data. Machine learning helps your company build a relevant, contextual experience for each individual customer. To do that, you need an integrated system that gathers the data from all the interactions taking place on every channel. When you have a fully integrated system that gathers data from all your customer touch points, you’ll begin to get a clearer picture of who your customers are and what motivates them. That’s the foundation for an AI-powered marketing system that removes your team from the tedium of creating new automation rules or discerning basic flows and allows them to focus on what they do best: marketing.

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