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October, 2017

Enhancing Marketing with AI and Automation

Marketing is evolving everyday as new advancements in technology augment its capabilities, and Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is absolutely no exception. While AI is often considered something of a fantasy, it is in fact, already integrated into Marketing and business far more than most people realise. AI is destined to have a significant impact not only on Marketing, but also on society, business and communication and in the near future too. Right now, we are only in its infancy, but what is certain is that, when AI does come into its own, the world as we know it will change.

But before anyone panics, it’s not a scary future as a lot of the sci-fi movies predict. In the commercial space, AI has 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 Artificial Intelligence?

From a Marketing perspective, AI is an interconnection of algorithms combined with computer power to deliver a human-like experience in the form of a customer-business interaction. What society describes as ‘choice’ and ‘behaviour’ are actually a set of repeatable steps, and so while AI doesn’t exactly duplicate free-will and decision making, it can design a way to mimic these steps and utilise computer processing speed to come to an outcome similar to a way a person would.

AI is becoming an actual reality today because the overall speed of computer technology is increasing at an ever-growing rate, and this is allowing these models of human behaviour to be replicated at such a speed that they appear ‘intelligent’ and interactive to a real person.

The reason why Marketing is so intrigued about AI capabilities is because it offers the potential to transform automation, customer service and engagement- three essential goals involved in Marketing success. It has the possibility to be able to deliver content and be involved in customer interaction in a way that has never been possible before! It’s an exciting time indeed!

What is Automation?

Marketing automation refers to technology specifically designed for businesses to operate more effectively through programming software to undertake repetitive tasks.

As Marketing professionals, we gain economies of efficiency by automating some of the simpler functions, such as data gathering, so we can focus on the bigger picture. While this was the initial use, AI has started to merge with Automation in interesting ways in order to enhance marketing; less for the efficiency, and more for the speed. Automation now is enabling businesses to offer customer service and communication in better ways now that ever thought possible through the planning, coordination, management and measurement of all of our marketing campaigns, both online and offline.

How Does the Evolution of AI and Automation Affect Marketing?

With AI and Automation’s capability to reproduce decisional processes and customer choice, it can greatly augment the way organisations communicate with previous, current and potential consumers, as well as automate all of the administrative processes to support this. What this means is that it can streamline Marketing efficiency and maximise Marketing efficacy.

People today want highly personalised and valuable customer experiences with a business, followed by solutions which are immediate and answer their needs. Paradoxically, AI may soon have the ability to do this faster and more effectively than any human could.

As an example, AI can highly tailor every relationship based on the split-second examination of all information contained within a business’ CRM (Customer Relationship Management) structure, so that when a customer calls or messages through, the AI can customise the conversation to meet their specific demands according to their profile. AI could also do this with anticipating demand, forecasting behaviour, and even predict impending trends. It could facilitate superior customer service 24-7, as well as examine new demographics and market movements by stringing together favourable characteristics into something more comprehensible.

All of these options offer exciting advancements in the way businesses conduct their Marketing activities, and they are all very close on the horizon.

Consider this scenario to demonstrate the impact of AI and Automation on Marketing:

If a customer purchased an electronic tablet device from your business, and that night they excitedly attempted to set it up but came across an error in the software or a defect in the hardware. Think about how delighted they would be if there was an instant messenger or helpline system open at any time on their smartphone, and an AI Automation Bot responded with:

“Hello Vanessa. I see that you purchased our Asus Tablet from our Homebush DFO store today. How can I help you?” Vanessa responds with, “I cannot seem to load the software onto my device and it won’t progress past the opening screen.”

The AI bot could match this problem in its pre-loaded troubleshooting database, and proceed to guide her through an easy solution, so that she had a functioning product within a few minutes, all at 1am in the morning. This is a very powerful example of maximising customer service, without forcing staff to always be on call and look up information manually. The potential for Marketing is huge.

As mentioned, AI’s value comes from an interconnected web of algorithms combined with the computer power of modern advancements in technology. If your business’ CRM system is simply a database full of customer data, then an AI can easily be programmed to use automation to interpret it all much quicker than any human possibly could, then link up trends and make connections to produce educated insights and improve customer experience (CX).

As another example, Sales Cloud Einstein can bypass manual data entry, as well as Lead Score, which automatically groups the hottest leads and feeds them directly to a Sales Team in an order of priority to maximise conversion, or even examine the intricate behaviours of each contact and formulate a strategy on how best to close each individual transaction.

AI is Changing the Whole Marketing Game

Looking at the initial impressions of Marketing, AI and automation, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of the potential this new technology offers us. If an organisation’s activities are focused on generating leads, then your AI system can filter them all into rank order through a series of complex algorithms that go far beyond the scope of a regular person, in order to automatically produce the best return on investment.

These above functions alone demonstrate how effective AI is already today in furthering the power of Marketing and lead generation. AI offers a remarkable addition to content strategy and audience engagement- and this is only just the start of the AI journey.

What’s Next For AI and Automation?

Artificial Intelligence has three stages of evolution:

  1. Diagnosis (AI functions as an intuitive data filtering tool)
  2. Optimisation (the AI can find the best path toward a desired result)
  3. Intervention (the AI can learn, adapt and make decisions for itself)

AI predictive analysis and automation is one thing, but AI Self-Learning is another altogether. For example, beyondblue is an independent not-for-profit organisation working to address issues associated with anxiety, depression and mental disorders. They are testing some of the more advanced capabilities of AI programmes by using predictive analytics to help them redesign services for people who have mental health issues.

The applications with AI even today are innovative and significant, and we’re seeing an implementation now across many different industries, including telecommunications, electronics, energy, financial services, utilities, retail and beyond. The application of AI is completely transforming how businesses approach the market.

Where Do Marketing Professionals Draw The Line?

It is essential that Marketers use their sound judgement in these uncharted times. While it’s still important for businesses to embrace AI and truly consider how this technology will improve their operations, we’re getting into the grey areas of this technology. AI will piece together a lot of informative data, but where do we draw the line?

Just because a person is looking up dieting tips a few times a year, do we want the AI bot starting to send them content about being overweight? There are two sides to AI. On the negative side, we could see customer fear with backlash. But on the positive side, we are empowering our businesses to be able to work with more solid data, so they can maximise customer experience and satisfaction.

It’s a difficult balance to get right, but with AI being inevitable, we need to start considering this sooner rather than later.

The Chat Bot – An Example of AI Automation and Marketing

The example with Vanessa and her tablet was one 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 service at any hour and speed, with accurate results would easily change the face of your industry and make your business the preferred provider amongst all of your competitors.

UBank’s RoboChat is one such example. Via their virtual website tool, a person can chat with their robot at any time about home loans, funding, rates and so on. This virtual assistant within the home loan section of UBank’s website is there to help guide customers through the home loan application form, or help with general questions they may have.

Take for instance, HubSpot’s GrowthBot, which is a marketing and sales automation robot tool which can explore the internet for information about your organisation or about your competitors. It will tell you your top SEO content pieces driving traffic to your website, therefore indicating what you need to do more of, what’s popular, and what people are interested in. It will also watch a competitor, and notify you about important market 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 clichéd Marketing jokes too!

AI can Improve Marketing Accuracy

Ironically, AI is beginning to offer a more favourable human experience through its ability to tailor and adapt 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.

We Are Just At The Start Of The Journey for AI and Marketing

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 data mining, 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.

AI and Automation will have the same impact, not just on enhancing Marketing, but business and even society as a whole.

What Marketing Professionals Should Do

Act, rather than just wait around. This is one of those times.

The real danger any organisation faces is not the AI itself, but a failure to adapt and adopt this technology. It’s the same old story for every large, innovative leap in business, and most get caught out by ignoring the shift, only to be overtaken by a more open-minded and nimble competitor. Take social media for example- the businesses who embraced it all those years ago all survived, and the ones who ignored it 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 digital disruption that the global industry will encounter, and it’s here to stay, whether you like it or not! 


Chief Executive Officer | Australian Marketing Institute