2018 Predictions for AI Powered Marketing
2017 has been a breakout year for Artificial Intelligence (AI). At Absolutdata, we’ve had the opportunity to work with many sales and marketing organizations—and a lot of data. We’ve seen what’s possible when AI is put into action. And it’s impressive.
As a marketer and a career-long early adopter of marketing tech, I’m particularly excited about the marketing applications of AI. We’re going to see a significant impact on how we allocate budgets, prioritize initiatives and set KPIs.
In 2018, AI will become even more accessible to marketing professionals. What can we expect?
In 2018 AI Will Bring…
- Real Time Behavioral Indicators: AI’s ability to quickly find patterns that we mere mortals miss will shine a new light on behavior-based marketing initiatives. With AI, we can pick up signals in digital footprints as that data is being created. This puts us well beyond simple personalization techniques like re-targeting. We’ll be able to see someone follow (or abandon) a trend, change their preferences, or even transition to a new job or role. We’ll know when they make a purchase that creates a new opportunity for our offerings. In short, we’ll have a very current knowledge of individual customers’ buying preferences and needs, which we can match up with where they are in their buying journey — a powerful advantage for marketers.
- Dynamic Segmentation: Interest-based segments and broad demographics are weak foundations for marketing campaigns. Individual consumers and B2B buyers constantly shift their buying patterns, roles, and budgets. When it comes to segmentation, AI can be like a laser. It spots emerging segments, groups buyers in unique ways, and finds promising prospects for specific offers. It’s not blinded by biases or pre-conceived ideas. Well-implemented AI can group engaged prospects into categories based on their actions and behaviors, and it can do it in near-real time.
- Customer Directed Marketing: Customer Directed Marketing will be the single highest-impact movement in 2018. Marketing and engagement paths will increasingly be driven by the customer rather than the marketer. This isn’t by customer choice — it’s by their actions and the use of AI. But how can we follow the customer? When we use AI to predict customer needs based on their current behavior, we’re letting the customer tell us what action to take next; we’re following the lead of their data. Now the power has shifted from the marketer to the customer. Their actions propel the relationship. In turn, we marketers can use this knowledge to develop more compelling and successful offers.
- Fewer Campaigns, Higher ROI: Spray-and-pray campaigns (still surprisingly common) are going away. Few marketers want to spend budget on someone who will never become a customer. On the flip side, no consumer wants to be blasted with irrelevant offers. In 2018 we all win. AI allows marketers to be more aware and agile, focusing on the most receptive audience at a given time. Although AI might generate more actual offers—even a campaign for a segment of one—each offer will be sent to a limited number of very suitable prospects. Overall, better-quality targeting will give us a sizable drop in irrelevant communications and a much-improved response rate.
- More Creative Thinking, Less Routine Work: I’ve also done a lot of routine tasks in my marketing career: sliced target audiences, created personas, managed review cycles, integrated sales and marketing automation systems, performed A/B tests, created pivot tables, drafted surveys, etc. With AI, marketers spend less time on mundane tasks and more time being creative. We can now capture segments as they emerge. Our creative side can be inspired by customer behavior or by crowd-sourced interests. A/B testing ‘happens’ through machine learning. Data replaces endless review cycles. (I’ll toast to THAT!) We get better results — and more data about what works. The incoming data spawns innovative ideas for staying ahead of the game, and it highlights new creative trends that we might otherwise miss.
- Marketing Tech Stack Consolidation: There are thousands of tools now available to marketing professionals. AI will drive the consolidation and (sorry to say) elimination of some of these tools. In their places, we’ll see new categories of high-efficiency marketing tools and solutions. Tech stack spend will start to focus on ensuring that data sources are high quality, especially as real time data will become a key competitive advantage for marketers.
- Higher Quality Feed into the Sales Pipeline: In B2B marketing, the love-hate relationship with the MQL (marketing qualified lead) will become friendlier. A simple lead score or a single trigger action doesn’t necessarily mean a prospect is ready to talk to a salesperson. Prospects can go from consideration to having budget in a flash — or it may take months. How can we tell when a prospect is ready? With AI, movement along the buying journey is easier to observe. Since AI detects additional parameters and dynamics, it turns the classic lead score into a multi-dimensional indicator. This produces MQLs that are more likely to turn into revenue — a boon for both sales and marketing.
- The Emergence of New Buying Journeys: In B2B and B2C transactions, buying journeys are the series of actions someone takes before spending their precious dollars. We can make static maps of these journeys to no end, but the truth is that buying journeys are dynamic and numerous. They vary by group, by consumer, and even by transaction. AI can model and recognize a wide variety of buying signals. It can detect repeat buying journeys and identify new ones as they unfold. Marketers will be able to follow these paths, capture new formulas for success, and quickly emulate those formulas for like-minded customers.
- Better Understanding of When to STOP Marketing: We’ve all been stalked by ads based on last week’s (or last month’s) shopping activity. I bought a car two years ago and I still get frequent online ads from the dealers and brands I was considering. These marketers are wasting their ad budgets and should be investing in finding active buyers or promoting after-market services. AI can detect the patterns produced by inactive buyers, helping marketers focus their budget on revenue generating signals. The flip side of this coin is that there are also loyal consumers who will buy your brand at a premium price, no matter what. AI can spot these as well, and encourage advocacy and loyalty instead of offering deep discounts.
AI has had some less-than-graceful moments in its debut. Some even consider it a bit creepy. But for this consumer, B2B buyer, and marketer, AI will be a big win in 2018 — no matter what side of the campaign I’m on.