Act-On CMO Michelle Huff investigates the impact of AI on the marketing industry and what marketers need to do to keep up with the times.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is having quite a moment - no longer a wild and improbable plot device in films like I, Robot, but AI-based tools, features and applications are starting to appear with real, demonstrable value. It’s everywhere you look - even in technology Facebook is currently piloting; announced in a recent paper, which promises to revolutionise translation accross the internet; in chatbots now available to us like the ‘robot lawyer’ for instance, which relies on AI to dispense free legal advice. As a marketer, I’m always trying to stay ahead of market trends and new technologies -- but as we wrap our heads around machine learning and predictive intelligence and their impact on our systems and marketing programs, it’s worth asking: what’s the end result for our customers? How will everyday buyers be affected and impacted? And how will the ‘robots’ we use help to further humanise the larger customer experience?
As a buyer myself, I know how off-putting pro-active brand engagement can be. Hundreds of messages from people who want to “connect” with you - but they all sound the same! If you think about it, we even call it “engagement” - but yet, how engaging is an impersonal, bland, one-size-fits-all approach? Or alternatively, how engaging are messages written for stereotypes? As a marketer, we used to be able to rely on the sales rep, customer service rep, or the in-store experience to provide the customer “engagement.” However, today more of the customer interactions are done earlier in the process and via digital channels. But how should markters engage through these channels and what messages should they use? Expectations have shifted, requiring more unique and personalised approaches - one size fits all no longer works!
Look at what the data tells us. A recent study showed that 78% of customers start their buying process with a web search, while half turn to social networks to see reviews from others before they buy. One way to deliver the right message to the right person and evolve and elevate our outreach as brands, is through intelligent offers - key messages, deals and discounts that reflect our buyers’ previous online behaviors and fits to their established patterns. You’ve likely seen this in action already - a sudden discount from an airline after you’ve looked up flights, or recommendations on restaurants and hotels based on those flights. A number of services (like Netflix, for example) are already making things easier by personalising every user’s experience.
Today, with marketing automation technology, we’ve seen marketers map out journeys for their customers - choosing the right message, delivered from the right channel, and based on specific personas and user behaviors. As Act-On’s own vision for Adaptive Journeys™ - illustrate, there is room to apply AI intelligently into an online customer journey, to continuously deliver smarter experiences. When applied thoughtfully to different problems and tasks, AI will help marketers create an overall better experience for the customer, adapting the best message to each individual, at the perfect time, using the ideal channel for their preferred consumption. For example, I have two young children, and tend to do a lot of research late at night, including combing through my emails and doing online research. The time that works best for reach me would be very different from an early riser. Adding AI to the mix will mean marketers can send messages out to recipients and know that the sending practices will continually get smarter over time as more engagement data is collected, ultimately leading to messages being sent to customers at the most optimal times.
Today’s customer wants businesses to personalise their approach to them, making it unique and be there to deliver helpful information when it’s needed the most. In turn, the result of the use of AI for companies will be more delighted customers who feel as if the brand has connected with them in meaningful and relevant ways, which will ultimately translate into better business outcomes like higher win rates and customer lifetime value.
Michelle Huff is Chief Marketing Officer at marketing automation company Act-On.
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