By now, it’s clear that artificial intelligence is no longer the dreams of science fiction writers.
Not only that, but the AI technology of today is far superior to what was available just a few years ago. As Forbes pointed out in 2019, we’re steadily reaching the point where artificial intelligence will be able to develop a “theory of mind” — meaning it will soon be able to “better understand the entities it is interacting with by discerning their needs, emotions, beliefs, and thought processes.”
With that in mind, it’s clear the AI revolution will continue to have a major impact on the marketing world as time goes on.
Still, the majority of marketing teams are a bit hesitant about adopting AI technology into their processes. As a 2019 study from ResearchGate found, only 41% of marketing professionals believe AI is “the future of marketing”. While only 7% completely disagreed with this statement, 52% were unsure of the role AI will play in marketing over the next few years.
Oddly enough, 65% of respondents agreed that an AI-assisted approach to marketing is more effective than traditional methods. What’s more, 81% of those who had adopted AI to some degree say they’ve benefitted from the changes made to their more traditional approach. Finally, 93% of AI adopters say they now have an edge over their competition.
So, it seems that most marketing teams understand that using AI can be beneficial — but they aren’t exactly ready to move on from the tried-and-true approach to marketing they’ve always relied on. And, in many cases, marketing professionals seem wary that AI will end up replacing them altogether.
While it’s an understandable concern, it misses the big picture about artificial intelligence technology:
AI isn’t meant to replace marketing specialists; it’s meant to enhance their ability to provide a top-notch experience to their customers.
(In many ways, AI will actually enable marketers to get back to the root of what it really means to be a marketer. Keep this in mind for later.)
That said, let’s take a closer look at three key ways AI is being used to supercharge marketing teams’ efforts across the board — and making talented marketing specialists more essential than ever.
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AI Continues to Enhance Data-Driven Processes
Becoming data-driven is one of the keys to success as a marketing team.
Of course, the processes involved in becoming truly driven by data are quite time- and resource-consuming…and can be pretty mundane, too.
Which is why today’s marketing executives see artificial intelligence as an essential part of data-driven operations.
In fact, Statista reports that most marketers using AI do so to enhance their data-related processes from start to finish.
To begin with, AI can enable marketing teams to collect more data — from more sources — than ever before. This is incredibly important moving forward, as worldwide data is expected to grow 61% to 175 zettabytes by 2025.
One important way AI is changing the data-collection game is through automated social listening. This enables teams to collect important information about their brand, their audience, their competitors, and more — immediately as said info becomes available. As this technology evolves, the process of discovering new channels to listen in on will become more automated, as well.
Processes revolving around data cleansing, organization, and maintenance will also become more automated and efficient, too. What typically takes a human marketer anywhere from three to five hours per week currently takes an AI-based tool all of one to two seconds.
This, in turn, allows marketing teams to focus more on actually interpreting the data they collect.
Incidentally, AI also continues to evolve in this area, as well.
For one thing, AI tech is becoming better able to recognize information and data within images and audio/video files. Again, this enhances your team’s ability to quickly collect and digest information from an ever-growing list of sources.
Technologies such as natural language processing, sentiment analysis, and predictive analytics also continue to evolve. These tools can help teams better understand the context of the on-paper data they collect — making it much easier for your team to decide what to do with the information they’ve gathered.
As much as AI enhances and automates these processes, human marketing specialists are still needed to make it all happen.
(At least for the foreseeable future, that is.)
Firstly, humans are needed to create the initial rules for their AI-based tools to follow when collecting, organizing, and interpreting data. Though AI can currently “learn” from these rules (and can automatically improve their data-collection abilities thereafter), they can’t start from scratch. This means your team needs to have a clear idea of which data points their tools should focus on from the get-go.
Your marketing team also needs to assess the validity of the data coming in via artificial intelligence. Again, while AI continues to evolve in this regard, the technology is nowhere near perfect. That said, your team can serve as a “second set of eyes” to ensure the data they collect is accurate, comprehensive, and valuable.
Finally, though predictive analytics (& etc.) can point your team in the right direction based on the data it collects, the “human” element often won’t factor into the conclusions being drawn. So, your marketing team will need to use their knowledge, experience, and expertise along with this data to truly understand the optimal way to proceed.
Speaking of using AI to improve your marketing efforts…
AI Helps Teams Optimize Marketing Campaigns
As AI continues to evolve, organizations will become more reliant on it to create high-performing, successful marketing campaigns.
Again, AI comes into play in a number of ways, here.
First of all, the comprehensive data-related processes we just mentioned leave teams better equipped to create marketing initiatives that resonate with their audience. This data-powered creativity can help you determine the right content to create and topics to focus on to keep your customers engaged and moving forward in their journey with your brand.
Predictive analytics also helps marketing teams map their customer journey more accurately and precisely. By identifying key moments (and micro-moments) along the customer’s path, you’ll know when and where you’ll need to reach out to your audience members — and what to offer them when doing so.
Going along with that, AI can also be used to automate and optimize the delivery of the right content or offer for any given moment. Behavioral triggers, coupled with dynamic content, can allow for real-time personalization based on a near-infinite number of circumstances. Again, once your AI-driven tools know what rules to follow, they’ll be able optimize the delivery process from there.
More and more marketing teams are also starting to rely on AI to manage their campaigns from a financial perspective. Programmatic ad buying and real-time automated bidding are helping many teams ensure they’re allocating the right amount of money into their various initiatives — and are never spending more than necessary to accomplish their goals.
Once again, though, AI can’t handle everything that needs to be done with regard to creating and optimizing your marketing campaigns.
As we said earlier, your team will need to create rules for your AI-driven tools to follow when optimizing your automated, behavioral outreach initiatives. These tools will “learn” how to improve in time but will need guidance that only your team of marketing specialists can provide in order to get moving in the right direction.
And, again, AI technology hasn’t been perfected as of yet. There’s always a chance your predictive analytics (& etc.) tools could miss or misinterpret the information being collected — which could lead your team astray if they aren’t manually double-checking for accuracy
Most importantly, though, AI is nowhere near ready to handle the creative side of marketing. Sure, creativity may be the next big step in artificial intelligence’s evolutionary path. But it’s a long way off before content created entirely by computers will be acceptable for use in your marketing campaigns.
That said, technology such as artificial design intelligence can provide granular insight into the foundational principles of design to help guide your creative team’s efforts. From there, your team will be able to develop the best content and overall customer experience possible for your audience — while also having the creative license to push the envelope as needed to generate more engagement from your customers.
AI Paves the Way for More Personal and Personable Engagement
In an ironic twist of fate, it turns out that adding more automation and artificial intelligence to your tech stack can actually allow your brand to better humanize your customer experience, overall.
For starters, AI-powered messaging via chatbot and the like creates simulated conversations with your individual customers, addressing their individual needs in the process. This makes the process of requesting and receiving support a bit more user-friendly and engaging — which is why so many consumers prefer chatbots to more formalized, one-sided means of engagement.
As sentiment analysis and natural language processing tech continues to evolve, we’re bound to see chatbots become even more dynamic and intelligent moving forward. Again, this will continue to blur the lines with regard to “authentic” human engagement — but, if the customer walks away happy, this may end up being a moot point.
In addition to simulating conversations between your audience and your brand, AI can also help enhance the actual conversations your team has with your customers.
Here, it all comes down to keeping your team as informed as possible.
For example, should your AI-powered chatbot not be able to help a customer solve their issue, it will “know” when to pass the individual along to your service team. From there, it will also pass along any pertinent information it collects from the customer — as well as any other information your organization may possess to assist your service reps.
Here’s where the use of AI leads to more — and higher-quality — human engagement:
Because your team will have everything they need at their fingertips, they’ll face much less downtime when helping the customers they serve.
The obvious benefit of this is that they’ll be able to spend the extra time they’ve saved actually engaging with the customer. You’ll have much fewer instances of “hold on, let me pull that up,” or “I’ll need to look into that for you” …and will be better equipped to deliver value in the most streamlined manner possible.
What’s more, your team will also be better able to create and maintain a conversational flow when engaging with customers. To be sure, even actual human-to-human engagements can be too “mechanical” if your support team is unprepared for the situation at hand. But, when they have everything that they need to solve the customer’s issue, it’ll be easier for them to take a more personable approach to every engagement they face.
It’s a simple fact that the larger your audience grows, the less able your marketing team will be to interact with each of your customers on a personal level at every touchpoint.
And that’s okay; there’s no need for every engagement to be so personable. Really, this would just end up detracting from the convenience of modern ecommerce — which your customers certainly wouldn’t appreciate.
That said, AI technology allows your team to simulate the human aspects of your CX when it’s acceptable to do so — and to focus on delivering a truly human-to-human experience when it will benefit the customer and your company to do so.
There’s no doubt that AI-driven marketing technology will continue to evolve, likely at an ever-increasing rate.
But this doesn’t mean marketing will become a completely automated, hands-off process.
Rather, AI will work to alleviate marketing teams of the more time- and resource-consuming “grunt work” that goes into creating powerful campaigns and initiatives. And, as AI evolves to become more capable in the areas of creativity and conversation, marketers will be more free to take these initiatives to completely new and uncharted heights.
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