But First . . . Who Should Leverage AI?
According to a recent study from Techmergence—Machine Learning Marketing—Expert Consensus of 51 Executives and Startups—companies are widely using AI to help generate new revenue, secure competitive differentiation, and enhance marketing efforts. The data, compiled from the responses of over 50 executives with their eyes on AI and how it affects their current and future business models, pointed to specific opportunity areas for the next five years.
Figure 1 shows that the retail industry—specifically ecommerce—leads the opportunity pack, followed by online and social media. Breaking that down even further, Figure 2 shows the projected ROIs of leveraging machine learning—a subset of AI in which computers take and learn from data autonomously—across different types of businesses. As you can see, digital media and ad firms, ecommerce, SaaS, and social all lead that list. Interestingly, brick and mortar retail scored highly on both tallies, too, proving both retail and digital media are leading the AI charge.
Figure 1. Source: Techmergence
Figure 2. Source: Techmergence
Sensing a pattern? Good. Let’s take a look at five specific ways you can capitalize on (and prepare for) the rise of AI:
- Prepare to personalize. As Michael Gerard wrote in an earlier article for The Marketing Scope, our marketing-focused media property, AI is now a foundational building block for personalization. And, as we all know, personalization is the crux of successful marketing in the digital age because it allows brands to enhance the customer experience in new and exciting ways. One of those ways is through customer segmentation and targeting—a field that, according to survey respondents, has the second-highest five-year profit potential. (See Figure 3 for a full breakdown.) Why? Machine learning can improve the algorithms behind these technologies in real time with real data, ultimately increasing the number of conversions.
Figure 3. Source: Techmergence
- Make customer service better and faster. Customer service and marketing are not islands; they’re clearly connected. These days, consumers expect an omnichannel customer experience in which they receive the same level of service and communication across a variety of platforms and touchpoints, and that’s where marketing comes in. AI marketing tools enhance customer service because they don’t just find the answers to questions—they collect data (from social media, phone numbers, etc.) and improve processes along the way, making things better (and faster) for the next customer. Sometimes, questions are handled entirely by AI-enabled chatbots, making customer service that much more efficient.
- Leverage social sentiment. With so many digital platforms available to consumers, it’s impossible for marketers to read every comment and mention, let alone use them as opportunities to better connect with consumers and sway campaigns. AI tools can do the legwork for you, collecting and analyzing social sentiment to give marketers a good picture of what’s working—and what they need to change.
- Reexamine SEO in the age of AI-backed voice search. In my article How AI Will Change How We Buy [And Marketers Market], I touched on the evolution of voice search and how AI is getting in the game. Now, for example, some refrigerator manufacturers have incorporated Amazon’s Alexa technology into their designs. If you think you’re out of milk, for example, you can ask Alexa to check and even order it for you. This proves an important point: As we become more dependent on voice assistants like Alexa or Siri, the way we search is changing. You don’t exactly have to speak Boolean qualifiers to find what you need anymore. Keywords are becoming more conversational. Just like Google’s RankBrain changed search in the not-so-distant past, the rise of voice search and AI-backed virtual assistants mean it’s time to rethink your SEO strategy—and pronto.
- Collect better data, produce smarter ads. Machine learning allows brands to collect exponentially more data with less time and effort. For example, if a customer engages with an AI-powered chatbot to ask a customer service question, the data they’ve provided becomes part of a profile. Like profiles are grouped together into segments that feed targeting initiatives I discussed above—all in real time. The result? Better, more highly personalized, more highly targeted ad campaigns, higher engagement, and—in the end—more sales.
Have you included any AI initiatives in your marketing budget? We’ve seen what the data says, but I want your opinion—what AI opportunities do you see coming down the pike specific to your business or industry? How do you plan to get out in front of them? For our clients in the B2B space, we are integrating AI into our lead generation efforts and know that for us, and for them, that’s a key point of differentiation. I’d love to how you are using AI and/or thinking about applications for AI in 2018. What are the biggest challenges you see?
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This article was first published on The Marketing Scope.