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How AI is solving marketing’s biggest problems

Artificial intelligence. Once a fixture of science fiction movies, AI has finally shed its unapproachable demeanor and now lives inside your refrigerator. And washing machine. And coffee maker. You get the drift.

While AI may be good at booking your next appointment at the dentist, how far do you think it goes in helping businesses make smarter decisions? How does US$358-million sound? That was the size of the enterprise AI market two years ago; it’s expected to hit US$31.2-billion by 2025.

From engineering and design, to manufacturing and quality control, to marketing and sales, AI has firmly entrenched itself as the new foundational technology on which new businesses and even industries are being built and changed.

When it comes to marketing, AI has implications in different dimensions that nudge customers towards the sale. In fact, Salesforce’s 2017 State of Marketing report found that AI will be the fastest growing technology category that marketers will use over the next two years.

Here’s a peek at the various ways in which AI has addressed some of marketing’s enduring problems.

CRM and one view of the customer

You may have the priciest Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform in town, but do you get any actionable customer insights out of it? You may be a huge proponent of harnessing big data, but as long as you’re unable to piece all that data together to tell a coherent story, you’re basically collecting junk on your servers.

AI helps put the pieces of the customer puzzle together. When customer and product information goes from fragmented, incomplete and inaccurate to a clean, accurate, unified customer profile, marketing magic begins to flow.

Research from the McKinsey Global Institute demonstrates the monetary impact of a 360-degree customer view for a business.

A travel company doubled down to create unified view of their customers with data from multiple sources. This 360-degree customer view fed into a recommendation algorithm “trained” with product and customer data. This intelligent algorithm opened up new insights about each customer and helped them offer additional services, such as hotels and airlines, leading to a 10 to 15% increase in revenue.

In another instance, Salesforce’s Einstein AI helped US Bank (the fifth largest bank in the United States) more than double their lead conversion rate by tapping into insights from their Salesforce CRM system.

Personalized targeting

Personalization has been a buzzword in marketing circles for years now, and justifiably so. Customers demand personalized experiences relevant specifically to them, and marketers are happy to oblige. In a famous study from Infosys, 86% of shoppers who’ve received personalized messaging said that the personalization directly impacted their purchase intent.

This claim is also backed up from the other side of the fence, with a whopping 98% of marketers agreeing that personalization helps them strengthen customer relationships.

In the early days of personalization, businesses were satisfied with simple things like adding the customer’s name in an email subject line or in the salutation. But today, thanks to AI, personalized communication has reached true 1:1 levels of custom messaging. Tools like Movable Ink, allow businesses to insert content into emails dynamically as a customer opens the email.

The tool draws data from the company’s CRM platform, website analytics, transaction data, product catalogs and inserts its own AI-powered content recommendations inside emails in actual real-time. The result? No two emails look the same, with hyper relevant messaging targeted to each individual user.

Marketing automation and workflow management

With personalization now at the 1:1 level, it’s practically impossible for businesses to manage all their communications manually.

Dynamic personalization has also ended the days of “email blasts” or “one-size-fits-all” ads. So how does a business juggle custom messaging to thousands (millions?) of users at the same time? Enter marketing automation and workflows.

Marketing automation platforms like Marketo help you orchestrate hyper targeted, personalized communications across multiple channels — email, social media, your website, paid ads — keeping each individual customer in mind.

These cloud-based AI platforms build detailed customer lifecycles with the exact path that each customer will take to arrive at the final conversion goal.

All you need to do is set goals and define rules for your campaign. Once that’s done, these platforms take over the execution of your marketing vision, at scale to thousands of existing and potential customers.

Digital advertising and search engine marketing

Google’s Rankbrain algorithm was perhaps one of the earliest instances of AI to be deployed on a large scale in advertising and SEO. Rankbrain cemented the importance of natural language processing (NLP) in managing organic as well as paid search results.

In paid advertising too, AI has stepped in to help advertisers with dynamic content insertion into PPC as well as display ads. In the era of automated bidding for paid ads, tools like Marin leverage AI to calculate the most competitive bids for your keywords helping manage paid search costs and ensure enhanced conversions.

Online travel company Trivago leveraged Google’s AI-based Smart Display ad platform with some exciting results.

Trivago defined a clear CPA target and a daily budget and left the nitty-gritties of bid management, optimization and campaign execution to the Smart Display platform. Using just images, a few headlines and hotel listings from Trivago, Google created over 25 000 versions of the ad, tailored for each customer. The result? A 36% increase in conversions at no extra cost.

Social media management

Scheduling social media content for future posts across platforms was once considered cutting edge. Today, it’s nothing more than ho-hum for even individual users.

The social customer is exposed to simply so much variety in terms of smart messaging on social media that nothing short of brilliant makes the cut any more.

Chatbots on Facebook Messenger first nudged open the door to AI based assistants on social media. Highly nuanced bots like Mobile Monkey let you create lead generation campaigns, build new lists and answer customer service queries, all with consummate ease.

Social media content is now intelligently curated by tools like Cortex that not only take care of the mundane jobs like scheduling content, but also decide how and what content to show to users on social media.

For instance, Cortex used AI-based cluster analysis to identify the best performing content for Visit Utah’s ski enthusiast customers on Instagram. They found that images of pine trees boosted engagement through the roof with a 90 to 183% increase. On the other hand, images of families, groups, and blizzard conditions reduced engagement by as much as 23%.

Guess what images Visit Utah posts more of now?

The future has arrived

Stop worrying about how to make sense of AI for your business. AI has come out of text books and is convincing marketers everywhere that it has the power to deliver personalized data to their audiences.

Starting with improving the customer experience, to improving the product itself and increasing customer lifetime value, AI has demonstrated its versatility in business applications.

Clearly, this is the time to loosen that manual grip on your marketing campaigns and let a more scalable power take over for a change.

Feature image: StockSnap via Pixabay (CC0)

Author | Rohan Ayyar

Rohan Ayyar
Rohan is the Regional Marketing Manager for India at SEMrush. He is an experienced digital marketer who has worked both agency and in-house, developing data-driven strategies for SEO, PPC, social media and content marketing. Rohan is also an avid business and tech blogger; his insights are frequently published on... More

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