It’s a lot quicker and easier to say “AI” than using the term “artificial intelligence” in full, but marketers who want to take advantage of the technology should really be paying attention to some other letters — five Ws and one H.

Unless you’ve already been using AI tools, for example, the technology might seem complex and even a little intimidating. Marketers have already been using cloud-based marketing automation tools to manage e-mail campaigns, mobile messaging or social media, but AI promises something even more transformative.

With Salesforce Einstein, for example, AI draws out the most critical insights from the Salesforce Customer Success Platform and helps deliver recommendations that power all kinds of marketing activities. An easy way to start planning for it, though, might be using the same approach beloved by researchers anywhere: focusing on the Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. These are all questions based around your customers which AI can help you answer.

The Who

When customers walk into a store, they love when they’re recognized as regulars because it means that the associate will remember their preferences and help them even faster than they could a brand new visitor. The same holds true online, but it has been nearly impossible to treat customers like a regular until AI came on the scene.

Here are just some of the details AI can use to build upon traditional marketing automation:

●      The clicks and actions a particular customer takes before they move to the “checkout” phase in an e-commerce process — then predict how an offer, discount or other marketing tactic could accelerate that journey.

●      Segmentation beyond generic personas to more granular, niche-oriented groups. AI could help predict the behaviour of mothers over the age of 40 who love camping rather than cottaging, for instance, and what kind of products or other offers would appeal to them most.

●      Purchase histories that allow you to personalize and offer true one-to-one marketing. Imagine a chatbot that greeted an online visitor with a cheerful, “Hi Mary! Hope you loved the coat you bought two weeks ago. Did you know about the new boots we just got in?”

The What

AI could basically be defined as technology that learns from experience, which is what all businesses need to do if they want to grow. You can’t market products and services effectively without having some sense of what your customers need and enjoy, though, and AI lets marketing automation go much deeper in terms of data to drive recommendations.

A customer’s purchase history might fall into a general category of “camping,” for example, but there are many different subcategories within that. There’s “gear” for example, like backpacks, tents and so on. Within that category there is gear best suited for novice campers and some who go camping for weeks at a time. Then there are the sizes, colours and other attributes of a product to take into consideration.

AI can weed through all these details as though each of your customers had their own specific curator on your team. That means whatever you use to drive demand, you’re more likely to be successful.

The When

Marketers have traditionally budgeted and planned their efforts around specific moments in time: the holidays, the Super Bowl and so on. In some sectors there are more specific days or seasons where customer interest is likely to peak. Of course, brands can’t stay silent the rest of the year, but how do you strike the right balance between driving awareness and letting customers have some time to themselves?

AI should be used to explore trends within CRM and other data sources to see not only when segments of customers are likely to purchase in response to a discount or new product arrival, but when individual customers are most likely to take action -- including the time of day or night. Marketers can not only be there at the right time, but perhaps offer teaser campaigns and other early-bird tactics that keep their brands top of mind, rather than their competitors.

The Where

Brands have come to realize they can’t leave any marketing channel behind. Customers may be as likely to visit a website, an app, respond to an e-mail, walk into a store or ask a question through social media. Being everywhere at once won’t matter much, however, if marketers don’t use AI to better map out the journey customers take through what’s known as the omnichannel.

Based on site clicks, e-mail open rates, hashtag activity and other data points, AI will start to chart the best course for a campaign, or provide indicators where customers could use additional assistance. Before they finalize an online purchase, for example, offering up complementary accessories or additional products that reflect their tastes and interests could maximize a single interaction they may have with a brand.

The How

B2B purchases can be highly customized and complex — far more than simply asking “paper or plastic” when a consumer buys something in the B2C world.

As companies develop packages or bundling options for their products and services, AI will become highly useful to marketers who want to understand the transactional buying behaviour in specific vertical markets. This isn’t just about tailoring processes to the standard needs of those in financial services, retail, health-care and other sectors. It’s looking at how purchasing works in a specific organization and using AI to design a way of offering products in services that will speed up the time to a transaction, and improve the customer experience of making that transaction. 

The Why

It can be hard to read someone’s emotions, particularly when they’re not sitting in front of you but interacting online. That’s why AI will help marketers build upon what they’ve already started to do in terms of “social listening” to platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Instead of telling marketers what will become popular or “go viral” in terms of sharable content, AI will help predict what kind of sentiment a piece of content is most likely to elicit from a particular customer. Those emotions could be positive ones, like happiness or excitement about a new product, or concern about an urgent business issue that deserves their attention.

That’s the real beauty of AI in marketing. As much as it takes technology and applies it in highly sophisticated ways, it’s going to help brand think, feel and act in a more human way than ever before.

Are you prepared for an AI world? A cutting-edge CRM solution can help. Learn more in our ebook, “AI for CRM: Everything You Need to Know.”