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Use AI for marketing to build stronger customer relationships.
To say that artificial intelligence, or AI, has grown in popularity as a marketing tool over the last few years would be a serious understatement. In Salesforce’s sixth State of Marketing report, a whopping 84% of marketers reported using AI for marketing — up from 29% in 2018. These same marketers are also finding more ways to apply AI in their work and reported an average of seven use cases — up from six in 2018.
Many companies hesitate to use AI for marketing out of fear it may replace human jobs or become a barrier to connecting personal connections with their customers. But it can actually pave the way for more creative career experiences and a deeper understanding of who you’re serving.
How does AI work?
AI simulates how humans think to deliver personalized customer experiences 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 and how it learns is based on the data it receives. The more data AI gathers, the faster it can adapt to fit the needs of an audience. It’s available 24/7 and increasingly capable of more complex functions over time. It’s these kinds of capabilities that make artificial intelligence such a powerful marketing solution.
There are four common applications of AI for marketing, and they fall into two categories — the amount of human supervision required to complete tasks, and the adaptability of the system to learn from interactions and adjust for the future.
Customers like AI for marketing — whether they realize it or not.
Customers increasingly expect more personalization from marketers. For our fourth State of the Connected Customer report, we surveyed more than 15,000 consumers and business buyers across the globe and learned that 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations and 52% of respondents always expect personalized offers. Yet only 34% of companies generally treat customers as unique individuals.
These are tall orders for marketers, especially when you consider that 52% of customers say companies are largely impersonal. But you don’t have to do it alone. Marketing automation technology can help you manage marketing processes and campaigns across multiple channels automatically. This technology absorbs repetitive tasks and works behind the scenes to guide the customer journey. Meanwhile, you and your team are free to tackle more complex work, such as creating compelling content or finetuning your marketing strategy.
Automation tools are key to scalable growth, especially for small companies. They unlock your ability to generate more leads, close more deals, and measure your marketing success. When companies invest in this type of technology, they upgrade their marketing efforts and have more opportunities to personalize the customer journey.
Like marketing automation, artificial intelligence is another important tool for delivering the high-touch experiences that customers expect. Brands that use AI for marketing are in a better position to provide personalized customer experiences around content, product recommendations, and more. AI can also help you predict optimal send times to ensure you’re delivering the right messages at the right time.
10 Examples of AI for Marketing
Whether you’re just getting started with artificial intelligence or you have years of experience, it’s not always easy to see AI at work. Here are 10 common use cases for AI for 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 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 users search “brown sandals,” they could receive 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 can help retailers optimize their content and products for search so they can be found by new customers.
2. Content Strategy and Creation
Artificial intelligence plays an important role in informing content strategy. It helps marketing teams pick relevant topics to improve their search engine optimization and perform competitive research.
AI for marketing also extends to content creation. Natural language processing, or NLP, is an AI technology that takes data and organizes it into a written story that sounds like it’s from a human writer. (This practice is also referred to as natural language generation.) Depending on the software, NLP can be used to create content ranging from articles and white papers to social media posts. The Associated Press and The Washington Post are two high-profile newsrooms that use NLP. Retailers can also use this technology to create more content at a lower cost, generate product descriptions, and customize landing pages.
For more NLP applications, check out this graphic:
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 NLP technology in email to customize:
Subject lines, body copy, and calls to action
- Email automation workflows
- Drip campaigns
Chatbots use NLP to mimic human conversations via text. They streamline conversation, provide 24/7 coverage, and save time for social media and community managers so they can focus on more nuanced 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? Their third-party sellers often use algorithmic pricing to compete against each other, allowing consumers to seek out the best price.
6. Image Recognition
AI-powered image recognition identifies people and objects in 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. Plus, 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.
That said, when it comes to voice-powered ecommerce, trust and privacy remain top concerns for 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. But 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 has an app that lets users try on a pair of glasses via a computer-generated overlay on their face. Lowe’s incorporates AR into 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 to display an ad and even adjust bidding strategies for online advertisements.
Retailers like Lacoste are personalizing ads based on customer data. Lacoste regularly switched up its creative during one programmatic ad campaign and generated 19,749,380 impressions and 2,290 sales across three markets as a result. 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.