Over the past few years, the buzz about how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact the future of marketing has reached a fever pitch. But what will AI’s role in marketing look like, and how can marketers start to prepare now for the future?
AI is part of a larger wave of digital transformation that’s impacting businesses and consumers around the globe. This transformation can be characterized in three ways. Firstly, technological interactions are becoming multi-device, multi-sensory experiences, with voice and facial recognition-based interactions. Secondly, AI will become pervasive across devices, apps and infrastructure to improve business processes and efficiencies. And lastly, AI will enable marketers to reason over their vast amounts of data, turning it into actionable insights to reach new audiences and assist with personalization at scale.
This new technological paradigm is shaping a new set of consumer expectations. Consumers have come to view businesses as always-on, intelligent entities that should be hyper-focused on delighting and engaging them throughout the entire decision journey. Search will play a key role becoming the centerpiece of customer engagement through intelligent bots and agents.
As marketers strive to ensure deeper engagement in the customer decision journey in this new era, here are three ways AI will assist them – and how today’s marketers can prepare for these new realities.
1.Turning Data into Insights
Advancements in machine learning, predictive analytics and powerful algorithms have enhanced our ability to draw value from data, making a smart data strategy more important than ever. Investing more in technology and data is wise, since the available data signals are multiplying far faster than our ability to integrate them into a coherent marketing strategy. Marketers will need machine learning to organize and prioritize these inputs. Here are a few examples where AI applications can be leveraged for quick wins in data collection, processing and optimization:
- Turning signals into data. AI allows marketers to understand their customers through more natural and conversational forms of input like text, voice, image, video and gestures. AI can pull data from many sources into coherent, insightful and actionable reports to be used for marketing decision making. Get to real time insights by using machine learning for advanced analytics, including capabilities such as big data storage and processing in the cloud, with the goal of helping customers make better, faster decisions to accelerate their speed of business.
- Reaching new audiences. Marketers can leverage Microsoft’s rich data graph to reach new audiences through our advertising platform. The graph includes the knowledge of 2.5 billion entities in Bing and 148 million Cortana users, and the professional profile knowledge from over 500 million LinkedIn members. The graph combined with advertising solutions that utilize AI allows marketers to gain new insights on their audiences and to acquire and reach valuable new customers. All of this is governed by strict privacy and data usage policy restrictions to ensure user and customer data is protected.
- Delivering personalization at scale. According to Bing Ads and PSFK, 44% of consumers are more likely to shop on a site that offers personalized recommendations. Now and in the future, success will depend on building one-on-one relationships with every customer – and that means sorting through large volumes of data to have a better understanding of your audience. Bing, one of the largest AI applications at Microsoft, is delivering personalization at scale across search results, using data and insights to curate answers and offer both content and product recommendations.
- Curating recommendations using machine learning and predictive analytics to eliminate choice fatigue and guide the consumer experience will be increasingly important in the future. Microsoft’s Cognitive Services enable marketers to easily add intelligent features such as emotion and sentiment detection, vision and speech recognition, language understanding, knowledge and search into their apps, devices and platforms, including bots.
- Accessibility and intelligent search. AI technology makes more interaction and accessibility possible through search, as well. Personalized intelligent search across Microsoft 365 allows marketers to search across content and contacts using Microsoft Graph. By integrating AI into Microsoft Office, marketers can unlock content that was hard to search before such as images and video. Now text is extracted automatically from images, including receipts from expenses, business cards, whiteboards and inside video, and speech can be automatically transcribed and translated. Automatic facial detection helps marketers determine when the speaker in a video changes. Building in smart suggestions and discovery of useful content and news become part of your everyday work, rather than a separate function. This helps streamline and simplify routine tasks such as finding the right version of a document, getting back to a presentation you were editing, or learning about an unfamiliar topic by locating experts and content. AI technology is helping search in SharePoint become faster, too – with search results now personalized for each user by the Microsoft Graph, which takes insight from the people, sites and documents each person works with and then produces relevant search results.
On the accessibility front, Office 365’s Presentation Translator add-in for PowerPoint allows you to display live subtitles from 60 languages directly on your presentation, and automatic alt-text for images in Word and PowerPoint helps make image descriptions accessible for the blind.
2. Enhancing Consumer Experiences
Customers are increasingly expecting the brands they interact with to deliver personalized and convenient experiences. A smart consumer engagement strategy is important to connect data to more personalized and engaging experiences. Developing intelligent apps and agents with cognitive services, bots and voice skills allows you to engage more deeply with customers and personalize those interactions.
AI and bots are really important to us on the human level. We are leveraging artificial intelligence to…interconnect the people within our organization to best service our clients and best serve each other and best partner and collaborate. Anything we’re doing with artificial intelligence and bot management through automation is enhancing that user experience. The thing that we’re really excited about with Microsoft Teams is the ability to integrate apps that we already leverage and the ability to create bots.
–Jamie McLellan, Chief
J. Walter Thompson, Global Marketing Communications Agency
AI can help marketers humanize the consumer experience and create more “wow” moments throughout it. Advanced CRM and marketing systems learn a consumer’s behaviors and preferences through repeated interactions to develop a detailed shopper profile that’s used to deliver proactive and personalized outbound marketing, including tailored recommendations, rewards or content. You can also leverage machine learning on top of your CRM system to personalize marketing touchpoints.
Consumers don’t recognize marketing channels – they recognize your brand and anticipate having a seamless experience regardless of where they are. Seventy-five percent of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage (on websites, social media, mobile or in person), according to Salesforce. AI can help you create experiences that represent the face of your brand and integrate your brand easily across channels and into the daily life of your customer.
Consumers also expect to engage with brands on every channel on their own schedule – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Conversational AI in the form of intelligent agents (digital assistants and chatbots) elevate the marketing experience to meet that expectation – it’s not a means of automation, but a conversational way to engage with customers and create a deeper relationship. Forty-four percent of consumers have used a chat interface in a retail store or on a brand’s website, and 43% of consumers say that the overall chat experience positively impacts their perception of the retail store or brand, according to Bing Ads and PSFK. Fifty-two percent of global smartphone users want a voice assistant to help them navigate and find products while they’re in a store, according to Adweek and Accenture Interactive, and by 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse, according to Gartner.
For marketers, this means that you should:
- Empower your customers to connect with you directly through chatbots. Bots can be used to make communication more effective within your marketing department, as well. Microsoft Teams, the communication hub for Office 365, uses bots to help supercharge group chats and online meetings.
- Streamline the path to purchase and the path to action. Think beyond bots as a conversational platform dedicated strictly to question and answers, instead think about how bots can engage on a deeper level to help your customers interact and take actions. For instance, take the information gleaned from bot conversations and integrate it into your marketing campaigns or future customer targeting efforts.
- Humanize your chatbot by adding emotional intelligence, or EQ, to its knowledge IQ. Depending on your brand’s personality, this can mean adding funny phrases or helpful trivia to your bot’s responses. Always remember that there’s a human on the other end of the interaction.
3. Improving Overall Efficiency
Several statistics prove that AI is already transforming the workplace for the better: 77% of companies believe that automation will result in better job performance, according to Bersin, and Gartner predicts that by 2020, algorithms will positively alter the behavior of more than 1 billion global workers.
AI creates more efficiency in business operations through marketing automation and optimization. AI takes in vast amounts of data, detects and predicts patterns more accurately and expedites smart decision making to optimize strategies across campaigns and channels. Within digital marketing, AI has been integrated across elements like audience targeting, remarketing strategies and bidding algorithms. AI also enhances internal communication in the workplace. For example, searching for expertise can be done straight from Office.com, surfacing skill matches by understanding relevancy to your collaborative work patterns. Consistent profile cards that appear across Office applications offer the latest on what people are working on, including updates from LinkedIn, and discovering content you can re-use from your colleagues becomes much easier when you can pull up relevant charts and images directly from PowerPoint and Word. When on the go, Outlook mobile organizes your overflowing inbox by understanding who’s really important to you, highlighting your files and combining that with upcoming events such as flights and hotel reservations.
Overall, AI is set to completely transform the way marketers work with each other and communicate with consumers. By understanding how AI will impact their daily lives, and how it can enhance and speed up their work, marketers will be able to prepare for the future and harness the power of AI to work more efficiently on their own teams and reach their customers in ways they never thought possible. By saving time and making campaigns more efficient and effective, AI frees you up to do what you do best: focus on creativity!
Download the guide “Impactful marketing: How teamwork helps marketers excel at 3 everyday projects” to learn more.