Brands and customers both understand the need for advertising; nevertheless, that doesn’t mean they like it. Brands don’t like wasting money on ads with no return and customers get prickly when the advertisements they see are completely irrelevant. Nick Orton, CEO at Grapevine, explains, “Marketing practitioners have long known that if their brands continue to deliver outdated, irrelevant, or untimely digital experiences, they are insulting their customer’s intelligence and wasting their time, driving defections and abandonments.” He adds, “The commercial imperative to deliver a relevant digital experience or offer to the right customer at the right time has never been more important to brands. Depending on the product, between 56% and 85% of a consumer’s purchase cycle occurs digitally, prior to their first interaction with a live sales person.” Google analysts call these consumer digital touchpoints “micromoments.” Ensuring these micromoments are relevant and helpful requires split second decision-making. That’s why marketers have turned to cognitive technologies (aka artificial intelligence) for help. IBM analysts note, “AI-powered marketing comes to life in tools or platforms that are embedded with pre-built AI capabilities. That is, the AI feels like the software itself. This is the breakthrough of AI-powered marketing tools: They shouldn’t require a data scientist to glean value from them. There’s no training needed in order for the AI to learn the discipline of marketing. The AI simply disappears into the tools you use daily, making your customer experiences better — and your day easier.”
Orton recognizes how valuable cognitive technologies can be for advertisers. He writes, “So many brands are still getting this wrong. Why is this, in the face of so much available technology?” He goes on to insist, “Poor marketing automation efforts are generally a result of one of three common practices.” Those practices are:
- Over-messaging, where brands continue to message customers about a specific product or offering even after they have completed their purchase;
- Under-messaging, where a consumer may be involved in a purchasing cycle but the marketing campaign simply isn’t creating enough moments that matter by showing up on the consumer’s mobile screen or in-store; and
- Poorly targeted messaging, which relates to the type of special deal you offer your customer. For example, it’s not a bad idea to encourage purchasing behavior by offering consumers a voucher that gives them a discount for completing their basket purchase. But if you don’t manage this properly you may soon find people simply filling their baskets and waiting for a discount.
His main point is this: “To do the above well without the use of technology is simply impossible. There are too many variables and the response time is so quick that even the best marketer will be unable to respond to opportunities at speed and scale.” In other words, micromoments will be missed and opportunities lost.
Cognitive technologies and automated marketing
Martha Mathers, Practice Leader for Marketing and Marketing Technology at Gartner, notes that the use of cognitive technologies in marketing remains relatively new. “We see a lot of folks experimenting and starting to debate how AI can boost various processes or capabilities,” she states. “What we’ve seen so far is three big areas where marketers are making some strides. The first is use of AI to improve productivity. Second is the use of AI to deepen customer understanding. And third is using AI to improve the digital customer experience.” IBM analysts provide a larger list of activities for which “AI is delivering measurable value at marketing departments across the globe.” Those activities are:
- Capturing and measuring end-to-end customer data
- Attributing ROI to channels and activities
- Saving daily work hours by automating tasks
- Diagnosing customer experience issues and expediting fixes
- Hyper-personalizing and hyper-targeting at scale
- Increasing conversion rates by swiftly detecting and remediating online customer friction points
- Segmenting customer bases by predicting likelihood to disengage so they can enact retention strategies
- Analyzing sentiment in marketing messages to optimize engagement
- Asking questions about campaign performance instead of continually running reports
- Delivering tailored customer experiences based on real-time data
The IBM analysts conclude, “Every day companies across industries realize this value by embedding AI in their day-to-day operations. AI helps marketers work smarter in myriad ways.”
Leveraging cognitive technologies in automated marketing
Michael Bertini, director of search strategy at iQuanti, predicts, “Digital marketing … will undergo major upheaval from AI sooner rather than later.” He also predicts, “Companies will eagerly drive the adoption of AI-powered marketing tools. That’s because AI promises to improve the performance of marketing campaigns across all channels, accelerating the enterprise sales cycle and boosting revenue.” He discusses three areas where he believes automated AI marketing will have the biggest impact. They are:
1. Campaign Optimization. “Digital marketing campaigns are already deployed at scale. Enterprise-grade campaign management tools let marketers place thousands of ads across multiple ad networks — but doing so requires significant manual effort. What will change, as AI becomes infused into enterprise software, is that these programs will effectively run themselves, learning over time what works and what doesn’t. Expect AI to not only uncover new tactics and methods for campaign optimization but also lower the cost of running campaigns.”
2. Personalization. “Personalizing marketing messages is about identifying who the prospect is, what message will resonate with that person, when it should be presented, and which channel should be used. As with campaign and bid optimization, orchestrating all of this demands a lot of input. AI will automate those elements of marketing personalization, speeding decision-making and helping marketers act faster on the data they have available.”
3. Data analysis. “Marketing, website analytics, and monitoring tools provide enterprises with millions of data points to analyze. That wealth of information can unlock better decision-making, but the sheer volume of data makes gaining insights a challenge. AI promises to influence data analysis for the better. It will take over the process of ingesting, cleaning up, and parsing enterprise data, throwing out exceptions and enabling faster, more accurate analyses. AI tools will completely take over journey analysis and mapping, and they will make recommendations to optimize individual journey steps.”
Although there are numerous upsides to automated marketing utilizing AI, Sylvia Jensen (@smajensen), formerly the Director of Marketing for Oracle Marketing Cloud in Europe, cautions there can be downsides as well. She explains, “Consumers are skeptical that artificial intelligence and machine learning will actually improve customer experiences.” She elaborates, “[Consumer skepticism should be] a major wake-up call for marketers. Consumers only become aware of technology and processes when they see them not working, and the brand they are interacting with fails to offer a truly personalized experience. When things are working properly, and the experience is good, consumers don’t care how things work — they’re just glad that they do work. Therefore, it is vital that marketers get to grips with how their martech stack operates together throughout the buyer’s journey, and focus on integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning as invisibly and seamlessly as possible with their existing infrastructure to deliver a better overall experience.” Consumer skepticism is not an excuse to ignore automated marketing — you ignore it at your peril. The message is: Leverage automated marketing technologies, but make sure you do it right.
 Nick Orton, “Stop driving your customers away with poor marketing automation,” Media Update, 8 February 2017.
 IBM Watson Marketing, “AI-Powered Marketing Is Here: What You Need to Know,” MarketingProfs, 20 February 2018.
 John Ellett, “Gartner Predicts 3 Ways AI Will Impact Marketing And Improve Customer Experiences,” Forbes, 15 April 2018.
 Michael Bertini, “The Three Areas of Marketing That AI Will Reinvent First,” MarketingProfs, 13 December 2018.
 Sylvia Jensen, “Marketers — your customers don’t think your AI and machine learning plans will work,” ITProPortal, 31 December 2018.