Ask any communications director and they are not going to say that they want less personalisation. Whether it is audiences large or small, personalisation delivers better marketing outcomes and results, in every way: customer intimacy, revenue, customer satisfaction, brand reputation…the list goes on. Even if we can’t all reach, quite yet, the nirvana of true personalisation at scale to large audiences and achieve the ultimate promise of marketing, we all understand the benefits. By becoming more customer-centric and delivering great experiences that are tailored to their interests and delivered over channels that they follow at a time that suits them is the way forward. Right? If you don’t agree, stop reading now.
Human-driven personalisation does not scale
As an engineer and a marketer, my perspective on this is clearly biased, but one thing is clear to me: human-driven personalisation does not scale. Whichever way you look at it, even with fully automated marketing tools and oodles of data at their command, even the best and biggest marketing departments can’t keep up with today’s consumer audiences. There’s just too many channels, too many interactions, too many decisions. Human brains are remarkable, but sadly the interfaces and connectivity are wanting. This is where, I believe, artificial intelligence (AI) marketing can help.
Over-hyped AI marketing?
I am sure that you will agree that AI is massively over-hyped. Gartner’s recent Hype Cycle on Digital Marketing has, for the first time, listed AI marketing as an Innovation Trigger. Nowhere near the Peak of Inflated Expectations, let alone the Trough of Disillusionment and eventual Plateau of Productivity. Importantly though, it does list AI marketing as a transformational technology, so ignore it at your peril. The fact is that in today’s competitive market place, there’s not time to be disillusioned. Marketers must get over the hype and bridge this Trough of Disillusionment to differentiate their organisations. The nature of AI marketing is that it can deliver on the promise of marketing. In fact, only AI can achieve this as it can scale to large audiences by understanding and then learning personal preferences and behaviours, then executing marketing campaigns across multiple channels at a time and place that gets the best result. All in real-time.
However, it’s not that simple. Or is it? Whether you are convinced or not about the benefits of AI marketing and its ability to deliver, it still must be easy to use and find its place within your organisation. There is a lot of rhetoric about people losing their jobs to AI. Like any good technology, it must find its place. We believe that AI marketing can remove the burden of omni-channel execution – human-driven personalisation – and thereby allow humans to focus more on marketing strategy and content. We also believe that AI marketing can enable a new renaissance in creativity. It just has to be easy to use, and focus on marketing and business outcomes. Good technology simplifies, whilst adding significant value. AI will, as Gartner predicts, transform the ability for marketers to deliver true personalisation at scale. This in turn, we believe, will not make marketers redundant, but rather revolutionise their role and, if the brand is progressive, transform the businesses they work for.
For marketers and consumer brands to realise the benefits of AI marketing, they do need to be ready. We have been working with Forrester to look more closely at AI marketing readiness. A study on the subject, launched last month, sought to understand if there is still a gap between the readiness of AI marketing solutions to execute on real-time B2C marketing campaigns, and the readiness of marketing tech users and business decision makers to adopt AI marketing technology.
The study highlighted that marketers and business decision makers polled believe AI-powered marketing will shift the role of marketing toward more strategic work (79 per cent) and make marketing teams more efficient (86%) and effective (86%), as well as enabling them to focus on value-generating tasks as AI automates workflows (82 per cent) and reinventing the way that marketers work (82 per cent). However, it also flagged that 70 per cent of business decision makers believe that their marketing team lacks the technical skills to leverage AI marketing technology, and don’t necessarily understand AI marketing, which are both potential barriers to mainstream adoption of AI marketing technology. This is a misconception, we believe, that business leaders must overcome, or be left behind.
What we believe is also clear from the study and other Forrester reports cited is that AI marketing enhances personalisation of omni-channel customer experiences as consumers interact with retail brands across various touchpoints. This is paving the way for retailers to leverage AI marketing to personalize the customer journey (54 per cent) and better understand customer behaviours (54 per cent). However, this means that nearly one in two retail brands are missing out on the valuable personalisation capabilities that AI marketing offers.
Opportunities for retail and e-commerce organisations identified in the study include the ability for AI to transform the role of marketers; the ability for AI to drive continuous customer experience evolution; and AI marketing maturity providing competitive differentiation. Eighty-eight per cent of those polled agree or strongly agree that AI marketing will reinvent the retail industry and 81 per cent of them believe AI marketing will reinvent what their company does. Only a handful of retail organizations (11 per cent) are considered ‘experts’ in the AI marketing readiness domain, and they are strategically and organisationally prepared to leverage AI technology innovations to enjoy its business benefits, whilst fewer than 25 per cent are considered ‘laggards’. Top objectives cited for wanting AI marketing included driving revenue (number 1) and better serving customers (number 2), whilst the top ways retailers plan to use AI marketing were led by AI-enhanced advanced analytics (43 per cent) and intelligent recommendations (40 per cent)
Harness AI marketing to compete
For retailers to harness the value of AI marketing and combat competitive threats, such as Amazon’s growth into adjacent markets, requires a clear understanding of how AI can revolutionise the marketer’s role, as well them challenging the misconception that adopting such technology requires technical skills. We believe that an easy-to-use AI marketing user experience that is based on tangible business and marketing outcomes and delivers true personalisation at scale, is fundamental to successful mainstream adoption. Also, business decision makers who realize the low-risk, high-return nature of AI marketing, as well as how to prepare their organisations for it, will be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. The question is: are you #READY4AI?
The Forrester study, entitled ‘Building Trust and Confidence: AI Marketing Readiness in Retail and e-Commerce,’ features findings from 717 respondents in retail and e-commerce businesses across US, UK, Germany, France and Australia that have revenues from at least $50 million to more than $5 billion.