Artificial Intelligence in Marketing Is What Customers Want
By Kathleen Garvin
Artificial intelligence, or AI, has grown in popularity as a marketing tool over the last few years. In 2018, O’Reilly Media and data warehouse MemSQL commissioned a survey on AI in the workplace. Sixty-one percent of respondents at companies of varying sizes indicated artificial intelligence and machine learning as their “most significant data initiative” for the following year. Furthermore, 88% revealed that their companies already use or are planning to use AI and machine learning in their businesses.
Many companies hesitate to use AI in their marketing because of how it may be perceived by their customers. They know their customers want to be treated like people — not a number.
However, that’s the beauty of artificial intelligence. It’s a computer or machine that simulates how humans think. As a result, it can deliver customer experiences with a seemingly human touch, but with the scale and efficiency of a machine. It learns from experience to perform tasks like humans do, then uses machine learning to better mimic, and automate those tasks. What it learns, and how it learns it, is based on the data it receives. The more data it has, the faster it can adapt and tailor itself to fit an audience. It’s increasingly capable of more complex functions and is available 24/7. It’s these kinds of capabilities that make artificial intelligence a powerful tool for a marketer.
Consumers Like Artificial Intelligence Marketing — Whether They Realize It or Not
With marketing automation, just as the name suggests, you can automate your marketing and sales engagement. This software gives you the power to generate more leads, close more deals, and measure your marketing success. Automation tools are the key to growth, especially for small companies. When companies invest in this type of software, they upgrade their marketing; the buyer journey is more easily personalized, which helps improve a company’s relationship with its customers.
Marketing is further improved with automation because the platform takes care of repetitive tasks, freeing your team to tackle more complex tasks, such as creating the perfect content or developing strategy. Meanwhile, the platform works in the background to help guide the customer journey.
Customers increasingly expect more personalization from marketers. In fact, 57% of consumers said they’re willing to share personal data in exchange for personalized offers or discounts. Artificial intelligence is a necessary tool to make these expectations a reality.
In a survey of over 6,700 consumers and business buyers on changing customer expectations, Salesforce Research found that 84% of consumers said being treated like a person rather than a number was a priority to them. Respondents also doubled down on personalized engagement: 59% said specific communications built off past interactions were important, as were customized offers.
With artificial intelligence, brands can deliver more personalized experiences to their customers, such as personalized content, product recommendations, and more.
We See Artificial Intelligence in Marketing Today
1. Search Engines
Google and Bing have been using AI for years. In 2015, Google announced RankBrain, which uses machine learning to provide more relevant search results. In late 2017, Bing rolled out Intelligent Search to provide more comprehensive answers and images to user queries.
Semantic search and natural-language processing help users get more relevant information on search engine results pages, even with misspelled or broad queries. For example, if a user searches “brown sandals,” they could experience a variety of results: the top 10 brown sandals under $30, shoe trends for the summer, or ways to save money on their next pair of espadrilles. This kind of knowledge could help retailers optimize their content and products for search so they can be found by potential new customers.
2. Content Strategy and Creation
Content is king, and artificial intelligence plays an important role with informing content strategy. It helps marketing teams pick relevant topics to improve their search engine optimization and perform competitive research.
Artificial intelligence also extends to content creation. Natural-language generation, or NLG, is an AI technology that takes data and spins it into a written story that sounds like it’s by a human writer. Depending on the software, NLG can be used to create content, from articles to white papers and social media posts. The Associated Press and The Washington Post are two high-profile newsrooms that use NLG. Retailers can also use this technology to create more content at a lower cost, generate product descriptions, and customize landing pages.
3. Email Personalization
Artificial intelligence can help personalize email marketing. AI provides useful metrics for marketers and uses past subscriber behavioral data to craft more targeted and relevant messages. Marketers can use NLG technology in email to create tailored:
Subject lines, body copy, and CTAs
Email automation workflows
The Orlando Magic uses Automated Insights’ Wordsmith to send customized email messages to ticket holders, which informs them of upcoming sales and new releases based on their preferences.
Chatbots use NLG to mimic human conversations via text. They streamline conversation, are available at all hours, and save time for social media and community managers so they can focus on more complex communications. Marketers can use chatbots to help:
Provide users with specific content
Assist with customer service
Generate new leads
One boutique skincare seller uses chat technology via SMS and Facebook Messenger to help consumers determine their skin type and offer product recommendations — no human contact required. This technology doesn’t just appeal to younger generations: Millennials and baby boomers alike see the value in chatbots.
5. Product Pricing
AI-based dynamic pricing is becoming a science. Companies are using data to determine demand and competition, and then they influence prices in real time. When you experience a spike in the cost of an Uber after a concert, for example, that’s artificial intelligence-based dynamic pricing at work, or “surge pricing,” as Uber calls it.
This technology can also use data to determine what a customer is likely willing to pay for a product. With this insight, artificial intelligence can compare a retailer’s pricing to its competitors to see where they land in comparison. Ever find a great deal on Amazon? Third-party sellers on that platform often use algorithmic pricing to compete against each other, allowing consumers to seek out the best price.
6. Image Recognition
Artificial intelligence-powered image recognition identifies people and objects in both still images and videos. Image analysis is another opportunity for marketers to engage with consumers on social media — especially influencers — and offer them discounts and welcome messages on the spot. Amazon, Facebook, and Pinterest are just a few examples of large organizations that use this type of software.
7. Speech Recognition and Virtual Assistants
Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa feel ubiquitous today. And the technology is getting better — and more human-like. Customers are getting more comfortable and familiar with this version of AI. Check out this demonstration of Google Assistant making a restaurant reservation.
When it comes to voice-powered ecommerce, trust and privacy remain top concerns with consumers. In an online and in-group session survey of 1,000 Americans on voice assistants, 50% of respondents had used a voice assistant to make a purchase. They also raised issues about privacy, paying safely, and preventing anyone, especially kids, from ordering items without authorization. Amazon is currently leading the charge in voice-powered ecommerce, and other retailers are preparing for it by building trust and personalized relationships with their customers.
8. Augmented Reality
Augmented reality, or AR, advertising is helping retailers engage with consumers in a creative, nonintrusive way. Warby Parker is an ecommerce company that uses AR. The glasses retailer introduced an app that lets users try on a pair of glasses via a computer-generated overlay on their face. Lowe’s is another company taking advantage of AR with its Measured by Lowe’s app, which serves as a digital tape measure.
9. Programmatic Ad Targeting
Data and predictive analytics can help retailers create ad campaigns for individual consumers. Artificial intelligence can determine the best time of day for an ad and even adjust bidding strategies for online advertisements.
Retailers such as Lacoste are personalizing ads based on customer data. Lacoste regularly switched up its creative during one programmatic ad campaign, generating 19,749,380 impressions and 2,290 sales across three markets. Data from programmatic campaigns can also aid your paid search and content marketing strategies.
10. Recommendation Engines
AI-powered recommendations are everywhere, from Amazon to Netflix. Using a combination of past user behavior and personal preferences, predictive algorithms can make content and product suggestions. Retailers can also use AI to help consumers save time by eliminating decision fatigue and the need to manually scroll through product pages.
While some companies are still reluctant to invest in AI-powered business software, today’s consumers have come to expect interactions and experiences that depend on its use. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural-language generation, and other technologies will continually push the boundaries of how companies and customers interact, providing marketers an ever-growing number of ways to reach their audience.