E-Book: 5 Ways Marketing Pros Are Using AI For a Digital Experience Edge

Innovation Personalization B2B - B2C E-Commerce Marketing
by Heidi Unruh

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is without question one of the hottest trends today. When we think about AI, futuristic scenarios more science fiction than computer science often come to mind. We’re not there yet, but there are practical AI applications available today and the best marketers have already tapped into the many benefits. For those that haven’t yet made the leap, AI can help solve seemingly impossible problems and accomplish tasks with ease that could previously only be achieved with great effort, time and resources. AI offers marketers an unprecedented opportunity to start getting more from their marketing efforts while expending less effort. It helps you analyze more data more quickly, uncover deeper insights, and it continuously learns and adapts to changing customer segments for more personalized digital experiences. In a nutshell, AI makes marketers better at what they’ve been hired to do. In this blog post we’ll explore the 5 places digital marketers can use AI to accomplish very challenging, time consuming and often unpalatable tasks in a fraction of the effort and time, and increase revenues in doing so.

AI: a definition

What is Artificial Intelligence? Artificial intelligence simply means technology that mimics human intelligence. The term “AI” was originally coined by John McCarthy in 1955. Since that time enthusiasm about AI has gradually increased. Many agree that artificial intelligence is the future, but only the most effective and successful marketers know that the future – which includes computers and robots that can think for us, anticipate us, outperform us, and some fear will even replace us – is now. Today many of those AI applications are years from being fully realized. But the 2017 State of Marketing report from Salesforce indicates that marketers are paying more attention to artificial intelligence than ever before, with 51% of marketing leaders already using AI in some form or another. And Gartner predicts that by 2020, artificial intelligence will be used by at least 60% of organizations for digital commerce. Clearly, it’s time for all marketers to get on board or risk being left behind.

The AI Opportunity

Before we dive into the specific marketing problems AI can solve, let’s take a look at the common challenges marketers face today and the opportunity AI presents for each.

1. Omnichannel proliferation and digital complexity

There has been a 95%+ compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in marketing technologies over the past six years according to Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic. At the same time, channel proliferation has also increased. Gartner forecasts that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide by the end of 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. That’s a lot of channels for marketers to keep up with. But, the consumer gets what the consumer wants which will force marketers to add new channel experiences to the mix whether they like it or not. The outcome will be hastily integrated tools and channels to existing digital ecosystems resulting in disjointed marketing stacks and unmanageable digital complexity. Instead of buckling under the complexity of creating and delivering digital experiences across all of these channels, AI helps marketers thrive by streamlining omnichannel processes so individualized content can easily get to consumers, anytime, anywhere in a synchronous manner.

2. Data and a holistic view of the customer.

According to Forrester, “Marketers have reached a point where their ability to capture data has exceeded their ability to take data-driven action”. Forrester ads that “Even though more than 60% of B2C marketing organizations believe they have too much data to process in order to gain actionable insights, more than 80% of marketing technology decision makers say they currently are working or would work with technology partners to apply AI and drive more value from data”.

Data is the great untapped goldmine of the 21st century, and unifying data is the siren song for digital marketers everywhere. Without question, access to data is the biggest challenge for marketers responsible for the customer journey. Disjointed tools and channels that don’t work well together lead to disconnected data silos preventing marketers from gaining the holistic view of the customer they need to satisfy them at every step in the customer journey. What digital transformation has promised to solve, AI solves elegantly now with the ability to unify data sources from across disparate organizations, as well as internal and external channels and technologies. AI can for example bring together data sources such as behavioral data, website traffic data and CRM data to surface insights and suggest actions based on those insights. The result is completeness of customer data for more intelligent content targeting – an important step in the delivery of real-time, highly optimized and personalized content delivery.

3. Personalized customer experiences

Experience is the new competitive battleground according to Gartner. After a bad digital experience, a person will tell 26 people about their negative experience. Conversely, a person will tell 9 people about a good one. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) asserts that “brands that create personalized experiences by integrating advanced digital technologies and proprietary data for customers are seeing revenues increase by 6% to 10% – two to three times faster than those that don’t. As a result, personalization leaders stand to capture a disproportionate share of category profits in the new age of individualized brands while slow movers will lose customers, share, and profits”. BCG adds that over the next five years in three sectors alone – retail, healthcare, and financial services – personalization will push a revenue shift of some $800 billion to the 15% of companies that get it right.

What does this tell us? That digital experiences are a high stakes game. Personalization is a powerful use case for AI because it is so effective at engaging customers by individualizing each interaction across any channel, whether website, mobile device, wearable, IoT smart device or app.

4. Real-time customer engagement

One of the hardest things for marketers to do today is understand what’s going to drive that next positive customer interaction and act on it in real time. Data will do marketers no good unless it is available in real time to change a customer outcome. Unlocking your data and using it as fuel to power real-time customer interactions across multiple channels is one of the great opportunities AI presents. Combined with the power of unified data, AI can deliver winning combinations of content-rich, targeted digital experiences that create micro-moments of influence – which according to Google are intent-rich split seconds when decisions are made and preferences are shaped – vital for marketers looking to influence customer behavior and gain a competitive edge.

5. Time to market and value

In an increasingly competitive digital world, time to market is not only essential, it’s critical. In fact, for many marketers time to market may be the only competitive advantage. Fast time to market is also difficult for marketing organizations to realize due to the time-consuming work necessary to delivering real-time digital experiences. Digital marketers need tools that reduce the time it takes to analyze data and gain actionable insights, as well as other manual, labor-intensive tasks such as preparing reports. AI algorithms dramatically reduce time to market for common time consuming tasks allowing marketers to spend their energy on what they do best – strategy, digital experience design, content creation, etc. – and let the systems do the rest.

AI in Practice

Now that we know the common challenges that AI solves, let’s look at the places AI can or is being used, and the often astonishing impact it has on digital marketing results.

1. Websites

AI can do a lot for websites. What it can’t do is build entire new websites from the ground up – yet, but it comes darn close. What AI can do is help you deliver highly personalized website experiences, optimize for better performance (sales, clicks, conversion rates, etc), and build highly targeted Account-Based Marketing microsites and landing pages dynamically and at scale. Best, it helps you accomplish these feats in a fraction of the time. While AI’s full potential is still revealing itself, it can already help you enhance the visitor experience with intelligent personalization on your site. Intelligent AI algorithms can help:

  • Make recommendations – AI recommendations make marketers better at recommending products that customers are more likely to buy. For example, Hallmark Channel increased video views per user by 43% using AI-powered recommendations. According to Business Insider, “Personalized recommendations can stop shoppers from bouncing to Amazon. If a brand doesn't recommend a customized list of products in marketing messages, 47% of consumers will move from the brand’s website to Amazon. This suggests that personalized product recommendations that include previously viewed products and items that may appeal to consumers could do wonders for those struggling to combat Amazon”. Amazon is (of course) already onto the AI fast track, estimating that 35% of its revenues are from its own AI recommendation engine.
  • Monitor traffic – AI tools such as Hunch help you analyze website traffic so you know what’s happening on your site at any given time using real-time reporting helping you respond to anomalies and opportunities as they arise.
  • Increase conversions – Online sports retailer Bild Shop used AI-powered insights and personalization to increase conversions by 20% and boost click through rates by 69%.
  • Personalize experiences – By analyzing hundreds of data points about a single user (including location, demographics, device, interaction with the website, etc.), AI can deliver the best-fitting offers and content for more personalized digital experiences. Adventure retailer Fjallraven boosted revenue per user by 30% and iconic Italian retailer LUISAVIAROMA increased average revenue per user by 15% by personalizing digital experiences.
  • Deliver push notifications – Thanks to AI behavioral analytics, push notifications can be specific to individual users, delivering the right message to them at the right time. Johnston Press aggregated behavioral data from across 13 sites and used it to deliver targeted push notifications, increasing visits by 10% for a 31.8% CTR uplift.

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Heidi Unruh
VP Marketing North America