What is AI, why is it essential, and what does it have to do with marketing?

Do you remember the late 90s, when simple websites hit the market? At the time I tried to convince leaders how these simple sites could transform their business.

A few years later, e-commerce was the new kid in the town. I still remember the surprised look on the face of the customer service representative when I told her I had gone online to order a pizza with custom toppings. She couldn’t believe that the internet could support that kind of request!

Since then, technology’s growth has brought many innovations that we’re used to the next one. I can’t imagine the same service rep was half as surprised when people started using their virtual assistants to order Deliveroo.

And that is precisely the meaning of innovation. It has to do with a change as it’s defined in the dictionary (Merriam Webster Dictionary, 2015): ‘To make changes: do something in a new way.’

Since the 90s, the fundamental drivers of economic growth have been technological innovations. Applications of digital technology are reshaping our daily life, and most of us aren’t fazed by the change.

Artificial Intelligence will emerge at the centre of this change as it challenges and augments human knowledge.

But what is AI and why is so important nowadays?

Merriam-Webster defines artificial intelligence in two ways:
“1. A branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behaviour in Computers.

2. The capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour.”

In practice, AI is the ability for computers to learn, understand data and take decisions
based on patterns of cognition.

Another approach this time from Harvard Business Review showcases the importance of AI:

‘The most important general-purpose technology of our era is artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning (ML) — that is, the machine’s ability to keep improving its performance without humans having to explain exactly how to accomplish all the tasks it’s given. Within just the past few years machine learning has become far more effective and widely available. We can now build systems that learn how to perform tasks on their own.”

IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty, explained at an investor’s meeting that Machine Learning is at the heart of the $2 trillion market.

But are we informed about AI? Do we have examples of contemporary applications of AI or is it a notion that only really appears in 70s sci-fi novels? According to a Sage survey, 43% of respondents in the United States and 46% of respondents in the United Kingdom admitted that they have ‘no idea what AI is all about.’ (Business Insider, 2017).

Below are just a few examples of how AI is performs today. No doubt these give a glimpse into an exciting future driven by AI:

  • Image recognition (i.e. Facebook uses AI to recognise faces.)
  • Chatbots (i.e. Pizza is in the oven and will soon be ready for you)
  • Online stores (i.e. Recommendations from Amazon.co.uk)
  • Spam e-mails
  • Personal assistants (Siri, Alexa, Google assistant)
  • Online customer support
  • Banking and Finance alerts

It is more than certain that in the near future AI will shape the future of marketing. Here are a few tools that will empower marketers and leaders to take better decisions and improve the positioning in the market:

1. Predictive analytics

Marketers can integrate across tools, datasets and platforms and make a data-driven decision.
Currently, on Facebook, you may target a keyword, and the platform suggests similar keywords that will improve the performance of your advertisement. During the campaign, the platform presents you an ad inventory and you edit, adjust or iterate it by either responding or not responding to whatever media is served. As a result, marketers can improve the performance of their campaigns with minimal intervention.

2. AI generated content

Top-down broadcasting is not as efficient as it used to be. Customers interact with messages that are relevant to them and tend to be indifferent to everything else. Moreover, a constant bombardment of messages, advertisements and suggestion makes them sceptical and highly selective. Content optimisation and curation help deliver the correct personalised message to each customer at the right moment.

3. Dynamic pricing

Artificial Intelligence can build a propensity model which pairs buying behaviour with personal characteristics to trigger an individually targeted offer. It can be an offer for a product that matches your preferences or a voucher for your favourite travel destination. The logic here is that bespoke proposals always convert at a higher rate.

4. Chatbots

Chatbots are a quick, direct and easy way to provide customers with a first level of service. Intelligent digital agents are the answer for providing replies to common questions and save the need for human support workers. Through chat bots, companies can also collect all queries or complaints instantly and view how people interact with their brand in real time.

5. Data-driven intelligent 360° customer view

Companies that pull the data together into a single view are more efficient. They are able to build a better strategy by developing customer segmentation based on actual purchases, customer behaviour and value. This means they’re far better equipped to understand what marketing activity is working, and what can be scrapped. And doubling down on what’s working quicker than any of your competitors is a sure-fire way to lead the market.

Nikos Kokkinos
Digital Marketing & Branding Expert







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