How Intelligent Marketers Can Unlock the Potential of AI in Marketing
We are in the age of artificial intelligence and it won’t be long before we see it completely disrupt how businesses function across every industry. AI continues to be a hot topic that dominates every discussion centered on what’s next for the future of digital marketing and something we, as digital marketing recruiters, continue to pay close attention to. The future of AI is exciting, to say the least, and is just as much unpredictable.
In the marketing world, we have advanced AI tools and technologies that enable us to completely transform the way we approach marketing and the way we engage with consumers. Although its capabilities are starting to bring real results to marketers, AI is still in its infancy stage and is an unfamiliar territory for most marketers – for now, at least. That’s why marketers can never be too prepared when it comes to digital transformation and revolutionary technology like AI.
We’ve previously discussed how AI will change marketing skillsets and jobs and the top AI training courses marketers can use to become more skilled in artificial intelligence. But, how can we look beyond the hype and truly unlock the potential of AI in marketing in 2019? We must first have a practical understanding of its impact on marketing and what AI can actually do.
We recently spoke with subject matter expert Bill Moffett, a Global Industry Senior Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft Corporation to get his perspective on this topic.
What is the current impact of AI on businesses and how can marketers start to leverage it?
Bill: When most people think of AI, they get scared and think of these sentient beings that are out there and ready to take over the world. But that’s really not what artificial intelligence is about. It’s an interesting thing – there are so many things like Google’s DeepMind solution, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Watson that are really driving the AI area as far as big enterprise uses. However, those aren’t necessarily available to people at hand but you do have different personal assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana that people use every day to help improve things.
If marketers can take advantage of computers to do little things for them as far as aggregating data, gathering information, and making it more powerful and usable in smaller chunks of information, I think that’s the first step in leveraging artificial intelligence.
Do you see the possibility of AI taking over or eliminating certain marketing jobs?
Bill: I don’t see jobs or per se people being put out of work. I see how people are doing their jobs change, or new functions and roles emerge within organizations. AI is a learning piece. What’s going to happen is that instead of people being data crunchers and trying to organize data into palatable information that can be used to gather insights, that’s where computers are going to come into play. To help gather that data, put it all together from different data sources like social information, IoT information coming from machines, inventory, and different systems.
Putting all of those pieces of information together and gaining insights to make decisions – that’s where the people will be coming into play. I don’t see people losing their jobs. I see people needing to understand the importance of being more sophisticated than ever to be able to make better business decisions based off of the collaboration that they’re going to have with AI tools that are available.
Should marketers be honing in on their ability to translate data?
Bill: There are people out there that love to crunch numbers, but I don’t think marketers have to become data scientists by any means. What I do think they need to understand is that this is an opportunity for them to get closer to their customers, understand their buying patterns, and build a closer relationship.
For example, Disney is using AI to monitor people’s facial expressions in the Walt Disney Theatre. After ten minutes of analyzing these facial expressions, they can determine whether or not those people will enjoy the rest of the movie. So, if you’re a marketer, you can take that technology and monitor people to gauge who is exactly going into that specific theatre for that specific movie. You can look at their faces, check out what mood they’re in, and make predictions based off of that to tailor and customize previews to positively improve experiences. Think about the impact that could have on concession sales and brands like Pepsi and Coca-Cola. That kind of technology is there. Netflix uses it to make recommendations, along with Nest, and music apps. That kind of AI puts you better in touch with the buyers and users than ever before. It’s really a customer enabler in my mind.
How can marketers leverage the insights from AI to truly stand out and offer an exceptional customer experience?
Bill: Marketers need to understand all the potential touchpoints that they can have with the customer within the business. If I’m closer to the customer and I understand their buying patterns, I can now potentially impact the types of products that we’re offering them and the level of innovation that our customers receive; even if they aren’t demanding it or think that they need it at the current moment. But you have the potential to identify that, ‘if we offer this specific feature on our products, our customers are going to go through the roof from using this product.’
Now, you’re able to go back to your own internal product R&D company, and make some innovation recommendations and get those out into the market before your competition does. Understanding the customer as well as your own internal business – that’s where successful marketers are going to be able to really make that next step.
Marketing Artificial Intelligence: Marketing in the Machine Age
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Which applications of AI in marketing are going to be the most important to focus on in 2019?
Bill: I think understanding the concept of consolidating data and bringing in information from different sources in machine learning would definitely help. Do you have to know how to actually program the technology in? No. But being able to understand who the key players are in the industry would go a long way; whether it’s IBM, Microsoft, or Amazon, and how these AI systems can work within the existing tools that you already have. You don’t have to re-create the wheel as far as those connection points and you can find a provider that has the scalability to work across multiple platforms, which most organizations have. So, knowing which tools that are flexible enough to meet your needs is key.
I think there are big computing capabilities that you want to understand. A lot of marketers think they need to all of this number crunching when in reality, the numbers, data points, and information are so significant that marketers should start taking advantage of cloud computing and big computing capabilities. For instance, if I want to go to China, I likely don’t have a clue about what’s going on. However, I do have access to a lot of different tools about the new market, the demographics, the social and retail behavior. I can leverage data points already out there, for example, on Microsoft’s Azure site, and then start putting inputs. Once I crunch these numbers based on certain aspects and key filters that I want to find information on and use the cloud computing power, I no longer have to go out and buy all of these servers in-house just to be used for a one-time application. I can leverage the power of the cloud to use thousands of servers all at once to do burst computing to get the information that I need at that point in time. With the right technologies, you can have real data inputs and be able to make decisions in real-time.
I think big computing is huge but also market simulation when you want to introduce a new product. You can say, ‘what if I want to go out and see what happens with this type of campaign based on some certain percentage of accuracy that I might have?’ I can actually do a simulated campaign without ever having to do it, find out the areas I need to work on, and then continue to do those type of simulations. Much like how the automobile industry does car accident simulations. They can gauge, ‘with the likelihood that this goes bad, I know I need to re-engineer this product.’ You can do the same thing with campaigns. I think that’s a huge saving as far as time and can really impact the business. The last thing you want to do is invest a lot of money into something and realize that halfway through it, you need to shut it down. And if there’s a new player in the market, what if you stimulate a new idea in advance? That’s what I think is a key tool piece for marketers to leverage.
Do you believe there are any barriers for marketers who want to enable AI and use it to enhance their performance?
Bill: I don’t think it’s common practice yet. I think marketers are going to have to get closer to their internal IT organization. Many organizations are set up where you’ve got this one guy that controls all of the computers in the organization. The real IT resources that are providing value are the ones that are getting involved in business decisions. You can find a way to collaborate and build a justified investment. Whether it’s through computer software, hardware, or adding new resources to your organization in the form of expanding your salesforce, there always has to be a business justification. So, if marketers can think about things in a business value proposition type format, I think that is going to be the key because that’s what AI is going to be able to provide. But then again, you have to understand where you can get this information. That’s where marketers are going to have to take the time to work with their internal IT and information systems organizations to start thinking about how we can leverage AI not just from a marketing perspective, but from R&D.
For instance, if you’re with an automobile company, and you’re marketing for them, you’re most likely going to have the R&D part of that organization already using rendering capabilities to design cars without actually having to go through and build them. They’re going to do that in advance – they’re going to use rendering capabilities of Microsoft’s big compute capabilities with their Azure system. It’s just another subscription, another person, another bit of time to add on to that, to have the marketing team start using that. There are significant economies of scale if you’re already using these resources.
Instead of having to go out and recreate the wheel, reinvest in a new system for AI, I encourage marketers to understand what AI means for the entire organization. Don’t think of it in a silo – think about the different areas that you can impact with that toolset. It’s literally a personal assistant there that doesn’t get tired, doesn’t make mistakes, is able to work 24/7; so why not take that and use that across the entire organization versus just one silo within it?
The more that you can think about all of these technologies that are out there, how they can be used from a business behavior proposition perspective – that’s really where a marketer can set themselves apart because they’re providing value across the entire organization and no longer just focused on marketing. If you find a way to innovate another function, you can build that partnership internally. Any time you can increase collaboration within an organization, and build that relationship between you and the customer, that’s a win for everybody.
The opportunities of AI for marketers are exciting. But in order for it to be leveraged properly, marketers must understand how it can help enhance their efforts, not replace them. Artificial intelligence should be used as a tool (instead of a mere concept) to help us better understand customers, optimize processes and deliver the most optimal experiences.
As digital marketing recruiters, we expect the applications of AI to make a significant impact in 2019. With a foundational understanding of how AI can truly impact marketing, we will be able to unlock the potential of AI for a new (and improved) marketing world.
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