What is Artificial Intelligence and how will it change the future of marketing?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already having a big impact on the future of marketing. It can help businesses of all sizes focus their advertising campaigns and customer service to win and retain more customers. It is also largely expected to improve returns on investment and optimise marketing spend across the board. AI in marketing is becoming the norm. But what is it and what does it mean for the future?
AI is intelligence generated by machines rather than natural intelligence demonstrated by humans. It has started to hit the news in recent times. This is because it is becoming more accessible. Whether you’re a new startup or an existing corporation with a strong track record, you can now use AI to support your marketing efforts and to really benefit your business and help it grow.
You may have also heard of the phrase “deep learning”. This is an integral part of Artificial Intelligence. Any system needs to be able to make informed and qualified decisions. And deep learning is improving every day. It means your business is better able to predict buying behaviour and what appeals to customers at particular times in their lives. This can be used to improve marketing efforts, sales and customer engagement.
AI in marketing
In the past Artificial Intelligence in marketing involved simple demographics such as gender, age and location data. Now, we have access to large amounts of additional data (big data) and it’s helping to create more innovative and intuitive approaches. AI in marketing means being able to analyse all this data and use it to produce automated responses, so that consumers get what appears to be a personalised service.
There are many real life examples already being used in practice:
You only have to look at a service like Netflix. Once you’ve been using it for a while, it will start making recommendations on what to watch. It does this by combining your own behaviour with large amounts of data from other users. All of which helps classify you intelligently enough to make relevant suggestions.
Many businesses are deploying chatbots on websites to help with customer queries, qualify needs and steer people in the right direction. This is one of the most familiar uses of AI in marketing. Many businesses are using chatbots are to kick off customer support or resolve issues.
AI as the product
Devices to help you manage your home are another example of AI. Nest thermostats learn how long it takes to heat your home. Next does this by considering the temperature inside (via sensors) and outside (via the internet), and how long it has taken to heat up your home in the past. Nest will also learn when you manually turn the heating on or up and adjust future scheduling accordingly. It will even check your location (via your mobile phone). If you are not home the heating will not come on. And you don’t ever have to come home to a cold house again. The smart thermostat can keep an eye on your location and if you are nearing home it will put the heating on for you. In this scenario the marketing message is about the product’s AI and not just about using it to help make marketing decisions.
Can Artificial Intelligence go wrong?
Using Artificial Intelligence in marketing effectively can help your business grow fast, but there are risks.
Here are some examples of where Artificial Intelligence has in fact been unintelligent:
Amazon – September 2017
Retail giant Amazon uses dynamic product optimisation. It recommends additional items with the aim of cross-selling them to you. However, this can backfire. In 2017 this feature began suggesting items that when combined could make a bomb. This was not good PR for Amazon and it led to a full review of this technology.
Mircrosoft – March 2016
In 2016 Microsoft’s chatbot experiment (“Tay”) was set up on twitter. Sadly it took just a few hours before it began tweeting expletive and racist remarks. This is a sad indictment of the content on Twitter, which was the source of Tay’s learning. It was also not a great advertisement for Microsoft or it’s AI technical prowess. This experiment also highlighted that whilst you can program machines learn they lack empathy, a sense of morality and common sense. This is big hurdle for AI tech developers to overcome.
Skynet – August 29th 1997
The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defence. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug. – T800 Model 101
This is of course a fictional event depicted in the Terminator movies. The film highlights risks greater than those posed by ‘some bad PR’. Rather that describe this scenario in detail, I encourage you to watch the films (1 and 2 are the best).
Is all AI bad?
The use of AI in marketing is almost everywhere in the digital world and most of the time we don’t even notice it. Marketers can use it for sales forecasting. Many sites are adopting image and voice recognition. Then there are the range of chatbots and messengers that make customers think they are talking to a real person. It’s highly likely that at some point during each day you will come across something using AI.
If this this is happening seamlessly and improves the customer experience, this can be a positive outcome in my opinion.
I personally believe that the use of AI in marketing and in product experiences has an important future role to play for businesses. However, as with any development that can revolutionise an industry, caution is needed.
Artificial Intelligence in marketing should be used to enhance and improve customer experiences. It should not be used as a way to force particular set of behaviours or beliefs onto a person. Nor should it be used to discriminate. Artificial Intelligence has to power to make our lives better, but it is up to our human intelligence to ensure it is used to this end.
The future of Artificial Intelligence in marketing
Most experts believe there is a lot more to uncover and many great benefits to come in the next decade or so. Already shops and venues like hotels are incorporating iBeacons in their businesses, which can intelligently engage with customers when they are in close proximity. Connectivity between different devices is also becoming more common.
The big change, however, is going to be the democratisation of AI. In other words when it becomes accessible at a competitive and affordable cost. Businesses will be able to use AI to streamline marketing processes and define decision making for marketing campaigns. Automating processes through AI will free up additional resources for other key marketing priorities. This in turn will improve your company’s return on investment dramatically.