In this opinion piece, freelance copywriter, marketing consultant and author Christopher Melotti (pictured below) does some crystal-balling around how marketing will evolve with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is no longer a thing of science fiction – it’s today’s reality, and is creeping into mainstream society far quicker than anyone truly realises. This will have a greater impact on the way we as a civilisation exist and interact than can possibly be predicted, as right now, we are in its infancy. However, all that is certain is that when AI does come into its own, the world as we know it will completely change.
It’s not all doom and gloom like the movies suggest. In the commercial world, AI has the real potential to change our lives for the better, revolutionising the way we interact with technology, information and even each other on a global scale.
What is AI?
In a marketing context, AI is a nexus of models and algorithms combined with the computer power to deliver a human-like experience. What we call ‘behaviour’ and ‘choice’ are theoretically a set of repeatable steps, and so while AI doesn’t technically replicate free will and decision-making, it does map out these steps and uses computer processing speed to make its way through them to come to an outcome similar to a way a person would.
AI is becoming possible today because the speed of computers is growing at an exponential rate, and this is permitting these human models to be simulated at a fast enough level to be intelligently interactive.
The reason why marketing as a practise is interested in AI is because it will revolutionise engagement, customer service and automation – three key objectives of marketing success. It has the potential to be able to deliver content and engage in interaction in a way that has never been achieved before.
What are some examples of AI?
There are two categories of AI: small and big.
Small AI is at the basic level, and includes examples like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Echo. Basically, these programs utilise speech recognition, listen for key words and then look for matching answers in a connected database, returning a solution. These represent a remarkable first step in the AI offering, and demonstrate how technology is being developed to assist customers.
Big AI includes highly advanced examples, such as Google’s DeepMind, which have the potential to actually learn, adapt and apply solutions. They are the programs that can learn to solve complex problems without needed to be taught how. It’s this kind of AI that will have the most impact in the future, turning the world upside-down.
Curiously, what started out as a way to replicate human behaviour has now opened up a niche of research into observing what AI does itself. For example, DeepMind has created its own language without being instructed to. Only time will tell what this kind of AI will do next.
How does this impact marketing?
With its ability to mimic choices and progress through decisional processes, AI can greatly enhance the way businesses communicate with new, current and past customers, as well as automate all of the administrative procedures in the back-end. In other words, it can streamline marketing efficiency and maximise marketing efficacy.
The customer of today demands highly tailored and highly engaging interactions, followed by effective and immediate solutions. AI could potentially deliver this far better and faster than any human person could.
For example, AI could greatly personalise every customer relationship based on the split-second analysis of all data contained within a CRM system, so that when a client called or live messaged, the AI tailored the conversation to meet their exact needs in a very specific way. It could do the same with anticipating demand, predicting behaviour, or even run potential scenarios. It could increase customer service at any hour, day or night, and even search for new demographics and trends by stringing together desirable characteristics. All of these offer exciting advancements in the way an organisation conducts its marketing efforts, and they’re all within very close reach!
Think of it this way: if a customer purchased a new sound system from your business, and that night they excitedly attempted to set it up in their house but failed, how pleased would they be if there was a helpline or instant messenger system they could open at any time on their smartphone, and an AI bot responded with “Hello Natasha. I see that you purchased our deluxe sound system from our Alexandria store today. How can I help you?” Natasha then responded with “I cannot seem to get it to connect with the wall unit, and the subwoofer is too powerful”. The AI bot then connected to her sound system, and proceeded to guide her through an easy solution, so she had a functioning product within a few minutes, all at 1am in the morning. This a basic, but powerful example none-the-less.
A current example: the chat bot
The above is an example of a chat bot, which is an automated service robot. They are entering the marketplace rapidly, and are helping answer customer’s questions at their convenience. Offering your clients this kind of 24/7 service would easily make your business the preferred provider amongst all of your competitors.
Fairfax’s Domain.com.au app is one such example. Via its messenger tool, a person can chat with their robot at any time about a home price evaluation, properties available in their area, more information about particular properties, get updated when new properties within their price range come on the market, and so on.
Or take for instance HubSpot’s GrowthBot, a marketing and sales automation robot tool which can investigate a whole heap of things about your business, and even about your competitor’s business. It will tell you your top 10 inbound content pieces which are driving traffic to your website, therefore indicating what you need to write more of, what’s popular, and what’s driving traffic. It will also watch a competitor, and notify you about important developments. It will tell you the cost per click of any keyword, and make customer profiles based on the way they use your website. It even tells corny marketing jokes too!
AI can increase marketing accuracy
Paradoxically, AI is offering a more favourable human experience through its ability to adapt and tailor messaging, than actual human customer service itself. Recent studies and research into AI’s capabilities has demonstrated its remarkable ability to accurately profile a customer’s personality and then predict future behaviour based solely on their recent internet searches and social media ‘likes’, without asking them a single question. The implication of this for marketing would be completely (or at least significantly) removing the guesswork out of reaching an audience. The marketing strategy could be devised through the comprehensive understanding of each customer on an intricate level, taking market research to a whole new dimension.
This is just the beginning
And think: this is just the beginning. Who knows what will happen next with AI? After all, when the internet was first invented and adopted by commerce, no one back then could have predicted social media, digital datamining, Google Adwords, advertising algorithms and so on, but here it stands today as a trillion-dollar market, being capitalised upon by marketing teams globally, in an attempt to reach audiences in new and better ways.
What should marketers do?
The real danger any organisation faces is not the AI itself, but a failure to adopt and adapt to this technology. It’s the same old story for every large, innovative leap in business, and most get caught out every time by ignoring the shift, only to be leapfrogged by a more open-minded and nimble competitor. Take social media for example – the businesses who embraced it survived, and the ones which ignored paid the price. The revolution of AI is no exception, and organisations should keep a keen eye on its progress, waiting for the right opportunity to get involved.
AI will definitely be the next stage of technological disruption that the global marketplace will encounter, and it’s coming whether your marketing department is ready or not. So, be ready!