Though big hitters such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have warned of the possible negative consequences of our adopting Artificial Intelligence, nobody has come back from the future to warn us about just how catastrophic a robot-dominated future will be for humankind, so we have to assume that this innovative and exciting advancement is going to be around for a while yet.
AI is still very much in its infancy, and many digital marketers may feel slightly nervous about it, whether out of fears of the levels of technology needed to adopt and operate it properly in a marketing strategy, or of being usurped by a smarter, more efficient entity that doesn’t ask for two week’s holidays or to leave early on a Friday.
AI, AI, Oh!
There is some mistrust of the whole concept. However, there is no reason to be alarmed. Not just yet anyway. Firstly, we are already pretty much surrounded by the use of AI – self-driving cars, Amazon Echo, Siri, Google Home, chatbots, even Google’s algorithms. As a recent HubSpot Research Report on the adoption of artificial intelligence revealed, 63% of respondents are already using AI without realising it, and it hasn’t resulted in any major change in how we operate. Secondly, we are a long way away from the point where bots are able to do everything we do. They may be able to decipher and predict intentions, but they are not yet at the stage where they can understand the reasons behind them (or outwit everyday heroes like Will Smith).
While there is that certain level of mistrust, a significant number of digital marketers are facing the realisation that the use of AI is only going to grow, whether we want it or not, so finding out what it is all about and how we can use it is the sensible, if not necessary, approach. That’s why we recently advised going to the Dublin Tech Summit. We don’t need to become experts just yet, but getting familiar with what AI is and what it can do for the digital marketing industry is advisable.
Indeed, some 80% of marketing executives believe AI will completely change marketing within the next three years, according to a survey by Demandbase and Wakefield, even though only a quarter were confident they understood how it could actually be applied to the digital marketing sphere, and only 10% knew they were already using it.
Only 10%? That same survey offers reasons why, ranging from concerns over integrating AI into their existing technology, to staff training, to interpreting results, but a major one is still managing to get up to a level of AI-based marketing communication that will be on a par with human decision-making and engagement. Even the Chief Information Officer, comfortable with the latest technology, may baulk at the prospect of having to get to grips with all aspects of marketing and how it can be applied.
Making sure all data brought in is collectable, usable and understandable is also going to be a big task, with a growing need for a single-platform solution that can collate, assess and act upon the information to form an effective digital marketing strategy, and then dig the ROI out of that.
Another reason for this low uptake so far is perhaps that while marketers have not been keen on AI, consumers are even less so. A study by Boxever revealed that half of their respondents were nonplussed by the prospect of talking to chatbots, an AI-driven tool designed to respond to and engage with consumers based on keywords used. The big mistake some marketers might make here is that they view the market as being ‘not ready’ or lacking understanding of what AI can do, but in truth, it’s probably more down to the fact that people like engaging with other people. They want personalised and relevant content and interactions, and perhaps feel that chatbots or other forms of AI just don’t deliver this.
This is the crux of the matter: in an industry where we are moving more and more towards technology and artificial intelligence, how do we keep that essential ingredient of a successful digital marketing strategy – personalisation? How do we stay personal when we use automation? How do we stay genuine when we use ‘artificial’ methods?
You may have recently got in touch with a brand on your instant messenger, pleased that they were able to respond immediately to you, but pretty soon realised that the ‘person’ on the other end was a chatbot. We don’t need the renowned Turing test here, it’s pretty obvious pretty quickly. They can still provide a service, but the real question is, do people want them to provide that service? Do they feel that they will be given a personalised, tailored service if it comes from a machine? Probably not.
So, the solution for brands and for their digital marketing departments in particular, is to find a way to make AI-driven solutions so flawlessly personalised that people won’t be able to tell the difference. And as was pointed out by that AI-powered host in Westworld, played by Talulah Riley (Elon Musk’s ex-wife, fact fans!): If you can’t tell, does it matter?
It's going to happen eventually, and while we may fear what might happen with the use of AI in areas such as war and science, when it comes to digital marketing, we can (hopefully) say with some optimism that the advancements we make – marketing automation, intelligent analysis, predictive behaviour, etc - and how we use them, will result in better services for both customer and brand.
It’s simply too big an opportunity to pass by, but as this article from marketingtechnews points out, the current role of AI in marketing should be less about all-powerful job-stealing robots and more about gathering and using data effectively to discover who to market to, and how. This is the big benefit of AI right now.
Prediction Is The Future
Predictive analytics using AI can help sales and marketing teams become more efficient by filtering, scoring and prioritising inbound leads to find those most likely to make purchasing decisions, giving a head-start on the conversion path to offer the right content at the right time to the right people to maximise the chances of making a sale.
Those same predictive analytics can show where in the marketing funnel needs more work, what works best, and where to channel resources accordingly.
For the marketing team in particular, behaviour scoring can tell whether a lead is acting like a customer or a wheel kicker, and tailor the right content, offers, etc, to bring them further along the buyer journey, increasing not just the amount of leads brought in, but the amount of qualified leads that will drive increased sales.
The immediate feedback and analysis AI can deliver through predicting key performance metrics such as the cost per lead, lead quality, potential sales value, etc, could mean an end to vanity metrics that show only how many leads were generated, so businesses can see what is bringing in the best deals.
These benefits to the internal workings of a business are clear, but only go so far as to finetune the marketing process, so we still go back to the main issue of the need to make AI-led marketing as seamless and personalised as possible.
Today's consumers want highly personalised content. For example, a study by VentureBeat found that 77% of digital consumers in the lucrative but very tricky to engage Gen Y and Gen Z groups want marketers to give them ‘a truly personalised experience, both on your website and within messages’.
On your website and within messages. Considering the sheer number of current and emerging platforms, that means an awful lot of engagement, and an awful lot of data to gather, assess and act upon. Paradoxically, in order to engage properly and provide a positive personalised user experience, digital marketers are going to need to adopt the use of AI and machine learning, simply to make sense of and keep up with this data, and then tailor content to the individual accordingly.
There’s plenty of value to be gained from adopting the predictive analytics solutions mentioned above, and rather than try to get to grips with the enormous scale of change that the future holds, it might be easier to take it one step at a time, to test the waters of AI in digital marketing with proven solutions like predictive scoring.
The fact remains, though, that no matter what level of AI your business uses, it must keep in mind that giving the right content to the right people at the right time is key, so there is still a lot to be done to maintain an effective strategy that will generate and convert leads.
Until the day when bots can create the content that will appeal to consumers at every stage of their buyer journey, and offer the personalised engagement we humans can, we still need to find the best way to offer this key component of the marketing mix.
That's where we come in. Want to find out how Get Focused can help you achieve your digital marketing goals? Go to the phone booth and book a call with us (and no, we are not chatbots):