Artificial technology is not a new concept, but its use in marketing and other industries has expanded greatly due to increased sophistication. Algorithms can sift through more data in a second than humans can do in a month. Facial recognition in photos, voice recognition, and targeted ads that know your favorite brand of sneakers are just a few examples of marketing transformation led by AI technology.
There’s no denying it: AI is cool. And it can make your job 100 times easier by taking dread tasks such as data analysis out of the equation, allowing you to focus your creative energies on doing work you love. Remember why you wanted to work in marketing to begin with? AI can bring you back there—for the benefit of your team, yourself, and your company alike.
But the idea of one more piece of technology, never mind an intelligent piece of technology, in your marketing stack kind of reminds you of a nightmare you had last night. Not only will it fall on you to align your teams around the idea of artificial intelligence and integrating it into your workflows, but you also need buy-in from your senior leadership—and right now, they’re not budging. Meanwhile, the work keeps piling on: your managers want efficiency and creativity, but they don’t have the budget for something that “probably” will work.
Yesterday afternoon, your boss swung by your desk. He wants to know your plan for the company’s digital media properties, and he has questions about how you’re going to increase time on site and improve your overall user experience. Your pulse increases as you optimistically offer to follow up with him in your next one-on-one meeting. Artificial intelligence is definitely the answer, but you’re not sure specifically where you want to apply the technology or exactly what it can do.
Fortunately, there are tons of pragmatic use cases for the seemingly futuristic AI-is-the-answer mentality. Here are the top five.
While AI-created content may not be mistaken for Pulitzer-Prize-winning work any time soon, artificial intelligence can shape the beginnings of compelling content and save time in the creative process. From turning raw stats into a narrative or generating headlines, AI can—over time—fuel a marketing transformation.
Take a look at these stories about Apple earnings, a minor league baseball recap, and McDonald’s exceeding Q3 expectations due to its all-day breakfast offering. The first two are a bit dry, but convey all the information you would want from a news article. The last one even adds context. All the articles were generated by Automated Insights using what’s called “natural language generation” to sift through available data and create written content. According to Automated Insights’ definition, natural language generation is “a software process that automatically turns data into human-friendly prose.”
AI also gives marketers the opportunity to be more effective. “One of the most compelling uses of content automation with natural language generation is positive impact on SEO, particularly for the e-commerce space,” said Laura Pressman, marketing manager at Automated Insights. “Instead of the standard copy/paste and simple mail merge systems out there, Wordsmith allows you to codify your writing decision process so that you can automate content generation in high volumes without losing the high level of quality you’d want a human writer to produce.”
A narrative can also become personalized with AI technology. “Natural language generation helps marketers create compelling data-driven stories leveraging the power of personalization,” said Narrative Science‘s vice president of marketing, Katy De Leon. “If the story is specifically written for you and only you, don’t you want to read it? Additionally, providing customers with a relevant story that only they care about—describing what’s happening, how they are doing, and what they can do next—is exactly what people expect when a service provider has access to their personal data.”
Recommendation systems are already popular in the creation and distribution of content. Companies such as Outbrain use AI to place content on sites that are most likely to read the articles. That means less work and speculation for marketers while receiving premium results. As a marketer, you know your content will be placed on a respected site with a chance for high engagement with your target audience.
That’s beneficial for the content you already have, but what about the content you’re about to create? AI can deliver recommendations worthy of a lifelong friendship. You’ve seen this type of product recommendation with Amazon and Netflix selecting products and films based on your history and customers just like you.
IBM’s Watson, former Jeopardy champion, is also recommending products and content through cognitive computation. From gaining insights to determining tone from text, Watson can be used in a variety of ways for marketing. For example: Under Armour recently partnered with IBM to create UA Record, a health and fitness app offering customized recommendations based on a database of near-identical users. Other divisions of IBM are using recommender systems for marketers to create personalized offerings for their clients.
“We’re already seeing AI being applied in very tangible ways like automated web design and content creation, personalization of campaign copy based on individuals’ brand preferences, and the identification of patterns in social media data to make helpful product recommendations,” said De Leon.
Chatbots were unleashed with varying degrees of success in 2016, and that trend will continue next year. Bots can be a boon for marketing transformation if used properly.
Perhaps you remember the valuable lessons we learned from Microsoft’s Tay, an AI chatbot that developed through interactions on Twitter. It was, and is, a great idea. With millions of users and the potential for millions of daily interactions, Tay could quickly grow into a sophisticated bot capable of answering diverse questions with nuance. Tay could be the future of customer support, provide recommendations while you shop or act as a guide for your activation.
Except, Microsoft failed to put any parameters on Tay leading to pranksters on Twitter to corrupt the bot. Tay was retired, but Microsoft has not said goodbye to social chatbots just yet. In fact, they just released a beta version of Zo on Kik. Unlike Tay, Zo will not be talking about politics.
Remember how Target was able to determine whether a customer was pregnant based on her shopping habits? That was close to four years ago, and customer targeting is even better with AI.
Algorithms can sift through even more data to provide insights, develop a lookalike customer based on the habits and data of hundreds, or thousands, of customers who are just like you. That leads to more personalized ads, better deliver and improved performance for your campaign.
AI technology can be used to optimize product descriptions to attract and keep customers, according to De Leon. These descriptions have included SEO and tailored to desktop and mobile delivery.
Usually self-proclaimed soothsayers are charismatic cons looking to make a quick dollar before their lack of predictive ability is revealed. If there was a proven way to predict the future, chances are we would be playing the lottery.
Forecasting in marketing is especially difficult considering the many channels where campaigns live and the mercurial nature of people. Sometimes it’s easy course correction to better promote video content on a particular social channel or a few months researching the latest millennial platform to learn best practices. That’s where predictive analytics can lead to an incredible marketing transformation.
We’re in a digital age, which means a proverbial avalanche of data from a diverse array of sources. Considering the top analytics currently driving your marketing strategy, you can understand the power of data. Think of predictive marketing less as a fortune teller and more of a forecaster, and you’ll be on the right path.
An algorithm will collect insights on hundreds of thousands or millions of data points to gain insights on customers, the industry and your company. From there, a model is created to determine potential outcomes within a certain level of accuracy. It will not be foolproof, but it can be a powerful tool for growth. Predictive marketing can lead to new customers best-suited for your campaign or better target your existing database.
Predictive marketing is already leading to increased growth in revenue according to Everstring, a predictive marketing and sales company. In a survey conducted by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by Everstring, 41 percent of B2B marketers using predictive technology reported growth above the industry average compared to 14 percent of traditional B2B marketers.
In 2017, consider embracing AI technology to improve performance and gain the most from your team and campaigns. In a practical sense, De Leon recommends becoming familiar with AI and understand how the technology can be used to solve problems. “Figure out what processes in your organization are candidates for automation. Understand the business questions you want answered that require massive amounts of data to answer them. Identify potential opportunities to monetize or squeeze more value out of your data.”