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“Well, you seem like a person, but you are a voice in a computer.”

Theodore noted this during his first conversation with Samantha, his artificially intelligent OS. While Spike Jonze’s Her explored the changing interactions between humans and technology, it also generally depicted the potential of artificial intelligence (AI).

From helping us sort emails and proffering dinner recommendations to more dynamic functions such as evolving by learning, and having feelings and intuition, time will tell the rate at which things we only encountered in science fiction have become our reality and are getting faster than ever.

The digital economy is indeed growing exponentially at breakneck speed. In fact, by 2020, there will be over 26 billion Internet-connected devices and over four billion global Internet users. What this means is unlimited production and flow of data. The combined advancements in cloud computing and big data is the foundation for AI’s rapid development and burgeoning applications today.

More businesses see the benefits of AI

As AI becomes more embedded in our lives, businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the many ways AI can be leveraged to boost revenue and reach goals. In the 2017 Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report, “Artificial Intelligence in the Real World,” 75% of the 203 executives surveyed said that AI will be actively implemented in their companies within the next three years.

To be specific, a Forrester Research report, “The Promise and Potential Peril of AI,” revealed that marketing and sales lead 50% of AI spending today. Moreover, 57% of the respondents identified improving customer experience and support as being the biggest benefit of AI to their business.

There are many predictions for AI in 2017. While applications are still limited to specific tasks, any developments in AI, such as those listed by MIT, are going to impact marketing. For instance, better language-learning technology can improve present customer service functions as machines understand human languages better.

For 2017 and beyond, AI will deliver many opportunities and challenges to marketers. Here are three trends exploring the connection between AI and marketing, and how marketers can leverage AI to stay ahead:

1. Intelligent automation for more powerful insights

Consumers are increasingly demanding more personalized experience. With the glut of data being produced every day, manually analyzing it to create a more gratifying customer experience has proven to be a task way beyond the grasp of human marketers. AI technologies can mine large sets of data and derive actionable insights for marketers to leverage.

Marketing automation is useful for individualized content curation, channel campaigns, and product recommendations which marketers can use to engage customers across platforms.  

Other than the popular ones today like IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein, there are smaller and more specific AI platforms compiled by Deloitte that marketers can tap, for example, the following:

  • Webpage.ly helps web developers make sites more searchable, by suggesting the most searchable keywords. This is useful for targeting the right customers through content marketing;

  • Snips learns and analyzes the smartphone habits of users. By learning consumer behavior patterns, marketers can provide a better omnichannel approach to customers in a more tailored and fluid way; and

  • The Grid analyzes content and structures it in a beautiful and easy-to-read layout. It is a powerful tool especially for small companies planning to enhance user experience, which is crucial in marketing products and services.

A Forrester Research report, “Predictions 2017: Artificial Intelligence Will Drive The Insights Revolution,” said that 2017 will be the year when businesses gain direct access to powerful customer insight via AI. Moreover, it also revealed that deriving insights from contextual customer data via mobile and other internet-connected devices will become mainstream in 2017.

Salesforce Einstein

Your CRM is full of insights and Salesforce Einstein helps you leverage AI in order to improve your sales and marketing processes. Which leads are the highest priority and which opportunity is most likely to close? You probably have your gut feel, but AI lets you augment it with the power of data. In addition, Einstein helps you make sure that you’re on top of all of your deals by using AI to remind you to send proper follow-ups to prospects.

Intelligent Customer Engagement through Predictive Marketing

One of the applications of intelligent automation is predictive marketing. For example, Mintigo leverages data- and AI-powered models to come up with customer insights based on indicators of the highest value targets. With Intelligent Customer Engagement, engaging prospects with the right message on the right channel at the right time becomes an easy task. The result is that prospects are more likely to be engaged as they are offered the most suitable approach, products, and contents.

Intelligent automation allows complex computations to optimize among millions of permutations. Powered by this, predictive marketing enables marketers to choose between dozens of assets over multiple channels and at the optimum time for every prospect. An intelligent customer engagement approach through AI shows outstanding business impact, typically 2x-6x improvement in marketing funnel conversion rate.

2. Augmentation, not replacement, of workers

Many are disquieted about recent technological advancements ultimately causing mass unemployment. However, a Stanford report explained that there is no cause to be concerned that AI is an imminent threat to humankind. But it will cause disruptions to employment in general.

The same EIU report stated that 79% of the 203 global executives believe AI will make their job easier and more efficient. On the same note, a Harvard Business Review survey participated by 1,770 managers from 14 countries listed five skills that managers must master to thrive in the age of AI:

  • Leaving administration to AI;

  • Focusing on judgment work;

  • Treating intelligent machines as “colleagues”;

  • Working like a designer (by harnessing others’ creativity); and

  • Developing social skills and networks.

In marketing, chatbots and virtual assistants can do the repetitive tasks, while marketers and salespeople focus their time and energy on other relevant duties that involve creativity and judgment. As actionable insights are easily generated, marketers can focus on understanding customers even more, and creating powerful engagements through inimitable human interactions. From the same Deloitte report, the following AI technologies do just that:

  • Automate Insights turns spreadsheets into written, personalized reports. This is very useful for analyzing and comparing sales reports, among other tedious tasks that marketing and sales do.

  • CircleBack manages users’ address books, filling in missing details, and updating records when their contacts’ information changes. Marketers highly value updated information about leads so this is a welcome tool for keeping the database clean and reaching targets.

  • IPsoft’s Amelia is a customer service agent that can accurately detect the mood of the customer. Doing so, it can better deal with customer’s requests. Leveraging virtual assistants reduce the burden of customer service teams, letting them focus efforts on requests needing more human capabilities.

Moreover, AI platforms are not 100% accurate so negative outcomes, which will call for a human’s ability to reason, are always lurking around the corner.

Given this scenario, 2017 will be the year when marketers learn not only to live with, but also leverage AI to be more productive and innovative. Because of AI’s complexity, trainings will be in place for workers to learn how to use and trust AI.

3. Diffusion of innovative capabilities to more people and industries

AI technologies are becoming more accessible not only to businesses but also to customers. In fact, consumers around the world have a generally optimistic view of AI’s potential. The Weber Shandwick report “AI-Ready or Not: Artificial Intelligence Here We Come!” revealed that consumers “are six times more likely to see AI’s impact on society as positive than negative (45% versus 7%, respectively).”

The same goes for businesses across industries. Quoted by the EUI, Gerri van Wingerden, managing director of Tora Trading Services, said, “After Google’s AI success with Go, a lot of businesses who were not especially looking into deep learning are now doing so and will be piloting with it soon.”

What this means is, as AI continues to go mainstream, more industries will have the potential to grow and innovate further. In the same way, as more people participate in the digital economy, more data feeds businesses’ AI-powered systems. The outcome? New products and services will be introduced to the market, and existing ones will be constantly improved at a faster rate based on ever-changing customer and societal needs.

For marketers in any industry, this presents both a challenge and opportunity. AI is a game changer like any new technology. It prompts marketers to stay on top of their game and maintain competitiveness by leveraging not only quality data but also quality algorithms. And 2017 is just the beginning.

In conclusion, AI will continue to cause disruptions. Like the Internet, AI will lead to the creation as well as the destruction of industries at the macro level and jobs at the micro level. Products and services will also be relentlessly reinvented.

In marketing, AI is generally geared towards understanding customers better. Because at the end of the day, customers will always form emotional bonds and loyalty to businesses that understand them the best, and accordingly, provide the best products and services that meet their needs. AI may be the most powerful technology today, but achieving brand loyalty from customers in a manual way is still possible. Also, who knows what new technologies the future has for marketing?

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Jacob Shama is the CEO at Mintigo