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Marketing and AI: What It Takes to Become a Cutting-Edge Marketer

The hype around enterprise Artificial Intelligence (AI) is real. It’s a staple of the daily news cycle and its disruptive potential is sparking conversations inside the boardrooms of corporate giants.

Businesses around the globe are discovering new ways to integrate AI technologies, driving new efficiencies to autonomously streamline operations and shrink costs.

Enterprise AI landscape

AI technologies are being adopted industry-wide in assorted use cases across the enterprise (Source: Shivon Zilis)

Currently, the use cases for practical integration within the enterprise vary. However, AI, as a blanket term, offers new, cost-effective ways for businesses to solve their challenges.

Business leaders are growing increasingly bullish when it comes to artificial intelligence. In fact, 80% of marketing executives believe marketing itself will be revolutionized by AI come 2020.

Moreover, PWC estimates that AI will contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. Experts agree that significant disruption looms large and work as we know it is on the brink of a transformational shift.

But before we punch our tickets and hop on the AI train, let’s take a moment to level set where we stand today. We hear a lot about “AI-powered” or “AI-driven” marketing, which sounds great, but the devil’s always in the details.

Like with any other next-big-thing, it’s best to first unpack definitions and look under the hood before getting swept up in the mania.

Defining AI

In its simplest form, AI is the mimicry of human intelligence. By processing and analyzing large amounts of information, AI is able to interpret patterns, make predictions, and use these to make decisions to automatically act in accordance with them.

(Source: Intel)

There’s copious literature discussing the differences between AI’s numerous subsets and nuances. We won’t be going that deep today, but will instead be discussing the meaningful ways it applies to major brands.

We like Harvard Business Review’s approach of looking at AI as a way to enhance these three critical operational needs:

  1. Gaining insight through data analysis
  2. Automating business processes
  3. Engaging with customers

These operational needs closely align with what it takes to be a cutting-edge marketer.

1. Gaining Insight Through Data Analysis

Smart data helps power great marketing—today, technology is surfacing data insights and predicting the types of content that consumers love.

Now, by using machine learning and deep learning, technologies can identify and predict patterns within historical data and interpret them on multi-faceted levels.

In a matter of moments, AI performs the heavy lifting and tees up data-derived findings so marketers can make more informed choices.

2. Automating Processes

Process automation is one of the most common use cases for AI within the enterprise. AI plays the role of a hyper-efficient human that processes data from a variety of sources before performing a range of specified actions.

If you’re building a campaign, automating tasks frees up your time. AI can check-off tasks, such as:

  • User identification
  • Segmentations
  • Content recommendations

You can take it one step further by enabling AI to optimize send times, channel preferences, and message frequencies. Simplified logistics means more time for creativity and collaboration.

3. Engaging With Customers

Brands are already adopting AI technologies for basic problem-solving (or escalation for more complex issues) using natural language processing models.

Think of chatbots and data-driven recommendations, in which AI is addressing routine or low-complexity interactions normally performed by human workers. Customers are still being engaged, but now data-derived decision-making leads the conversation.

As with the use cases above, AI’s key value here is not eliminating human jobs outright, but instead removing the routine or repetitive tasks which traditionally plague our time and energy.

Reshaping the Marketing Landscape

There is a massive opportunity for AI to transform the status quo of marketing. Marketers are already celebrating early AI successes in the realms of data analysis, human-esque decision-making, and task automation, but we believe AI has greater marketing potential in store.

This is because marketing as a function hosts an ideal ecosystem where AI can thrive:

  • Marketing is predictive in nature
  • Campaigns are rooted in experimentation, analysis and iteration
  • Marketers operate in data-rich environments
  • Program execution is traditionally process- and task-oriented

Prepare for AI Readiness

When we think about AI, we’re thinking about technology just as much as we are about strategy. AI technology isn’t plug-and-play; in order to start seeing any lift from AI, companies must first align on a data strategy that makes success possible.

Ensuring good data integrity practices is an endeavor in itself—our research found that nearly ⅔ of major retailers struggle with data centralization. We suspect this challenge is industry-agnostic.

This means the road to AI success is likely a long one for most companies, and those serious about integrating it into their technology stack will have to cultivate a unified data strategy as a prerequisite.

Remember, any promises in AI lift are 100% dependent on meaningful data. Heed the warnings of the time-tested adage: garbage in, garbage out.

Why Now for AI?

In today’s Now Economy, consumer expectations are high. Brands must be on point when it comes to keeping all consumer-facing interactions relevant. Consumers live in the now and if brands lag too far behind them, there’s a good chance they’ll abandon them outright.

The only way brands are able to meet this consumer mandate is by truly understanding the depths of their users through data. Unfortunately, citations of high-profile breaches and abuse have spurred government-mandated guidelines which challenge how brands can use consumer data.

The adoption of GDPR, for instance, demonstrates that the rules of marketing engagement have changed. It’s a data-driven world—brands need data, but consumers want it protected. Marketers can expect even higher consumer expectations from brands, knowing that their data is actively in play.

The heat is on and it doesn’t help that promises have been made to consumers for years about only receiving ads, emails, and experiences that were meaningful to them—unfortunately, very few have been kept.

But now new technologies are emerging and championing AI capabilities that fulfill these promises. The marketer’s barriers to gleaning insight, automating tasks, and managing engagement are being removed and ushering in a new plane of marketing potential.

AI’s possibilities are far too great to be considered just another buzzword or fad. Experts predict that organizations failing to use AI in a strategic way by 2020 will lose market value. All marketers share a common goal to do more for the customer and help their brands grow—AI can help us achieve this.

By creating personalized experiences that key in on what customers truly want at all times, marketers have an opportunity to shape how individuals view and identify with brands—a powerful edge that will redefine customer engagement and loyalty.

Interested in how Iterable has entered the AI conversation? Here’s what we’ve announced this year!

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