Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been the subject of overzealous, grandiose predictions for as long as computers have existed.
It has long been a core component of the financial and manufacturing sectors, and it seems to have its sights set on transportation and health care next. Self-driving cars improve every day and algorithms can already predict heart attacks with a higher success rate than human doctors.
But these are just the applications that make it to the news. AI has been quietly making itself a mainstay in the world of marketing too – and it’s something your business needs to be ready for.
AI vs. Machine Learning
AI has become the latest hot buzzword, so even if a product uses machine learning, you’re likely to see it marketed as AI.
Machine learning is the technology that allows us to analyze vast data sets and produce useful insights. Meanwhile, AI makes independent decisions based on those insights, beyond what initial programming intended. Machine learning is present in all the systems we will talk about, while AI isn’t.
One of the primary technologies that make machine learning data analysis so effective in marketing is natural language processing (NLP). This is what allows a system to look at a body of natural text and extract data fit for processing. It’s also the technology that allows a system to output natural-sounding text.
The recent wave of chatbots is just one of the ways in which NLP, combined with machine learning, is impacting the marketing landscape. It’s the combination of AI, machine learning, and NLP that has some people convinced the holy grail of marketing can be achieved. How?
Imagine every one of your customers had their own personal marketer; someone whose sole job was to market to that single person. They could spend hours poring over each bit of data available on your customer and handcraft all correspondence, making sure it’s perfectly tailored to them. Better still, imagine they integrate all the data available from previous interactions with similar customers.
That’s essentially the end goal for AI in marketing. And it’s enough to make some people think the impact of AI will rival, and perhaps a dwarf, that of a TV or the internet.
AI and customer relationship management
Effective customer relationship management takes a lot of work. You need to constantly update your strategies based on the data you receive and provide a multitude of communication channels that are each time-consuming to run.
An AI system can automate much of your customer support work by introducing a chatbot. Modern chatbots can communicate in a professional tone that makes them almost indistinguishable from a human author. Since customer support queries tend to be quite similar, it’s a natural place to introduce AI, and to pass it off to a human if it becomes uncertain of what the customer wants.
If you’ve built your business website using a CMS like Shopify, then you will be able to add a chatbot easily by integrating one of the many available apps and reap the customer support benefits that it provides. Ako Chatbot is one such example – watch this video to see how it can help your business:
One feature that’s uniquely possible for AI is churn prediction. Churn refers to a customer ceasing their relationship with the company. So the ability to predict churn, and take steps to retain the customer, represents a significant potential increase in revenue.
Churn prediction uses machine learning to analyze user data and learn the signs that suggest a customer is disengaged and at risk of churning.
Churn prediction can be applied to maintain players of your game, users of your app, or customers of your store. It’s all the same to an algorithm. The AI then learns from its experiences with previous churning customers to attempt to re-engage them. This is often more successful with long-term users than those who sign up and churn rapidly.
Automated email marketing
Another area in which AI shines is managing your email marketing. Using the strengths of machine learning and data analysis, you can identify different interest groups within your audience. From there, with the help of your human team, you can create a segmented newsletter with parts relevant to everyone.
The AI can then distribute the most effective version of the newsletter for each individual. This is a great way to increase reader engagement, which is sure to lead to more sales for your business down the line.
If you ever buy from Amazon, then you have probably received automatically generated emails containing recommendations for similar items you might be interested in. Their system can also identify when you search for an item and don’t make a purchase. It will then send you a follow-up email trying to help you find what you were looking for.
This is an excellent application of AI’s strengths in content suggestion, which we have seen companies such as Netflix take advantage of to keep customers engaged with their streaming service.
The biggest risk associated with these recommendations and follow-up messages is that they could become annoying. In that case, you might actually be discouraging people from making a purchase, which will likely lead to them unsubscribing from all email messaging.
Services such as BrightEdge and Curata use AI to optimize much of your content marketing day-to-day work. Machine learning is used to identify the topics that will perform best, and manage many of the more mundane tasks, such as finding appropriate keywords.
This is another feature that relies heavily on NLP since it’s more common these days for people to perform searches in natural language – partly because of the number of searches performed via virtual assistants and voice search.
This increased automation allows your human team to focus solely on creating engaging, quality content. While AI is capable of independently writing articles based on pre-sorted data, in its current state, it’s only really good enough for writing financial reports.
However, BrightEdge is capable of working in conjunction with a human writer by offering live, on-page recommendations regarding SEO best practices, and suggestions to optimize content performance. In short, your business’s content marketing team isn’t redundant, yet…
This is just the beginning, for AI current technologies will continue to be refined, new technologies will be pioneered, and the computing power available to power it will increase. Technology is not something that you can pick and chose; technology announces its value, either becomes adopted, replaced, or fades away, and your business must adjust to meet the changes to your industry that come as a result of it.
It’s time to start planning how you will integrate AI into your business if you’re not already taking advantage of it.
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Also published on Medium.