This is the first part of a two-part series. Catch the next edition on our website. The latest buzzword comes to Marketing in full force. Artificial Intelligence or A.I. There's nearly a million items that come up when you search Artificial Intelligence Marketing. The idea of A.I. has been around for 40 years with numerous false starts. However, today's computing power and advances in natural language are enabling us to make A.I. a reality.
In the words of author Malcolm Gladwell, A.I. is reaching a tipping point, "that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire." According to data from CB Insights, the number of companies and the amount of funding funneling into A.I.-based companies continues to rise. International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts a 54% growth in Marketing spend on AI software over the next four years, from $360 million in 2016 to more than $2 billion in 2020. Why? Efficiency and transparency are the promise of A.I. – where a machine takes over a repetitive but vital task.
What tasks? A.I. is being used by Marketing both behind the scenes and on center stage. A.I. and Machine Learning (ML) are already mainstays within the realm of customer experience. Chatbots are replacing face-to-face interactions in brick-and-mortar stores. Most of us are familiar with the data-fueled algorithms used by Amazon, Netflix and other to make personalized recommendations based on prior purchasing behavior. Behind the scenes, A.I. supports data analysis and automation. It won't be long before we can use A.I. and ML to support A/B testing experiments. A.I. can be applied to support media purchases, program analysis to enable faster course corrections, mix planning and predictive modeling.
Before worrying about being replaced by a machine, it behooves us to realize that there are important and valuable uses for AI in Marketing that allows Marketers to be less stuck in the weeds and to play a more strategic role.
How To Truly Utilize the Power of A.I.
So far, Marketing organizations are experimenting with using A.I. on programmatic issues. The challenge today for most Marketing organizations isn't accessing data as much as it is interpreting and using it. It is a tragedy when Marketing doesn't use its data well, or worse, uses data incorrectly. The volume and constant flow of data is bringing many of us to our knees, actually increasing the analysis-paralysis syndrome. Gleaning information and identifying patterns is increasingly more challenging for the human brain. Before long we will reach the point when the value of the insights fails to increase in proportion to effort and investment.
There is a true opportunity for Marketing to use A.I. to help identify patterns in data and guide better Marketing decisions and performance. A.I. and ML enables Marketing to uncover rich and new insights worthy of action – accurately and quickly. It will still require us to take these insights and apply our experience and expertise to make wise and meaningful business decisions about customers, markets, and services/solutions. This is the real power of A.I. - supporting strategic direction.
Three actions every Marketing organization can do to tap A.I.:
- Take an integrated approach. There is tremendous power in being able to quickly understand the relationship between all the channels, touch points, and content, and sequence them to create a whole that is greater than the individual parts. This is the domain of A.I.
- Inventory your repetitive tasks. The immediate value of A.I. is the ability to automate repetitive administrative tasks that sap Marketing's time and energy. Determine how much time each task takes. Decide if some of these tasks are candidates for A.I.
- Establish performance parameters. On the performance management front, machine learning can help quickly detect when performance is outside of acceptable parameters and help reduce the increasing Marketing Performance gap.
Understanding and harnessing A.I. and ML isn't something Marketing is going to do overnight. To be effective, we need to do more than beat the drum. We need to get smart about A.I. and how to use it to drive better decisions. Watch for Are You Ready To Make The Shift to A.I.? on our MeasureUp blog.
In the meantime, everyone in Marketing needs to understand the fundamentals of A.I. and how we can use it, for example to improve customer experience, Marketing processes, Marketing performance management, and Marketing data management. For me, that means turning to trusted resources to come up to speed. For example, I'm checking out the latest book by my friend and colleague, Jim Sterne's: Artificial Intelligence for Marketing: Practical Applications. Have some other resources and books to recommend? Hope you'll post and share them in the comments.