How AI will change digital marketing, and how you can benefit from those changes
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they respond to discussions on artificial intelligence (AI), whether the focus is on how it is being used now, or the enormous impact it will have on how we work in the future. This is as true in marketing offices as it is on stock exchange floors or logistics empire boardrooms, arguably more so.
One group of marketers, although it is an ever shrinking one, still insist that AI will have minimal impact on them individually because computers simply can’t do their job. Some of this group of resistance fighters consider their work to be too creative to be replaced by machines, though even the most in-demand copywriters may feel a shiver of fear when reading this piece from the American Writers and Artists Institute which describes how some organisations are already replacing copywriters with AI. Other members of the resistance are those who have never fully embraced a data driven approach to marketing, and therefore can’t see the powerful impact AI will certainly have in planning and implementing media strategies.
A second group takes a different approach, and reacts with obvious dread to the very mention of AI, fearing that as it advances it will render many of their hard-acquired skills obsolete and – ultimately – do the same to them. Unfortunately, many of those who react with fear adopt the ostrich approach and bury their head in the sand, perhaps hoping that somehow the threat will simply move past them, and not just sweep them away when they are at their most defenseless and unprepared.
A third group takes a much more productive approach. They recognise the important role AI is already playing in digital marketing (after all, every time a person visits your website after doing a voice search, AI has been holding their hand) and fully appreciate that it is only just getting started. However, they also recognise that marketing has always been a canary in the coal mine when it comes to change, one of those frontline jobs where you must adapt to technological advances or keel over dead. As a result this group makes it their business to learn all about AI and how they can use it to their benefit. They, like Business Insider, realise that AI isn’t about the future but about the present, and see that it is “already one of the primary drivers of innovation in digital marketing.”
If you’re in the third group, or simply recognise that you should be, then this article is for you. But if you still feel a bit of anxiety when it comes to this whole topic, let’s quickly consider how much AI is already part of our lives without making us feel threatened. By now most of us will have become familiar with at least one voice activated AI system, such as Siri or Alexa, and hopefully don’t react like they are the start of a terrifying, Terminator style future where machines rule the planet. Even those of us who still shun voice activated assistants will have encountered AI at some point, such as when seeking support or asking simple questions on a website. In fact, most people have adapted so quickly to chatbots that they may feel disgruntled when they are unavailable – a Userlike study found that two thirds of people would prefer to speak immediately to a chatbot than wait for a human agent.
This is a trend that we are likely to see continue in the future, with more and more consumers hoping for – and increasingly expecting – real-time interactions when they communicate with a brand. The days when customers would happily stay on hold while waiting to ask an assistant at a clothes shop about opening hours are over, as are the days when a person would send an email and be happy with a response a few days later. Now a consumer who faces that kind of wait will likely find a competitor who will provide interaction and information immediately. Of course, providing real-time interaction with real-life humans every time a customer needs attention is impossible for even the most well-staffed businesses, which is why AI will become ever more crucial. Startup Grind even went so far as to write a whole article headlined, “How AI will shift customer experience to the next level”.
This isn’t just about customer service – it is also a marketing opportunity, just like any other interaction. AI can help a customer at the instant they want that help and simultaneously gather crucial information from them, on what their problems, needs or hopes are at that moment. If the last decade has proven anything to us, it is the value of data, and this is truly potent data that can help a business get inside the minds of actual and potential customers.
Not only will AI gather better and more accurate data, it will be essential to analysing it, with its advanced ability to combine information from a huge variety of different sources to create sophisticated insights. As customer experience specialists Pointillist point out, AI “can predict the likelihood of future behaviors with high accuracy, while simultaneously finding the drivers and inhibitors of customer performance.” The value of this to marketers should go without saying, allowing us to focus even more of our efforts on those campaigns and tactics which nudge consumers into action through precise understanding of their needs.
Of course – and this is where we return to facts that can alarm some marketers – all of this will lead to greater marketing automation. As online ad targeting tools have become ever more sophisticated and abundant, the ability of humans to master them all has been left behind. For agencies, in particular, AI may be essential if they are to manage all of their ad spend for clients effectively. Robotics Biz says that AI can reduce advertising costs by efficiently shifting budgets “to more effective ad campaigns in real-time while pausing less effective ones… [it also] provides real-time feedback, which can be turned into actionable campaign adjustments, such as in-flight improvements to bid and budget allocation.” While humans will still be responsible for creating and overseeing marketing campaigns for some time, AI will increasingly be essential to implementation.
To return to our resistance fighter writer from above, he is probably right to presume that his skills will be in need for a little while longer. However, if he is a writer who is also responsible for developing his own content strategy, he may find that AI’s ability to analyse data and plan content for maximum impact will soon surpass his own, and will certainly be faster. As Dispruptive point out in a Medium article on AI in 2020, “AI-powered tools may develop content strategies based on real results a lot quicker than a person can.” Happily, some writers will embrace this new reality and the opportunity it provides to spend more time being creative.
After all, ultimately there is very little any of us can do to change the future, and the huge role AI is going to play in it. What we can change is our attitudes. If we feel anxious about the changes coming, we should turn that anxiety into curiosity, and then turn that curiosity into action. The best marketers will become even better with AI assisting them. We want you to be one of them.