The idea of artificial intelligence (AI) elicits different reactions from different people. Some see it as revolutionary. Some (including Stephen Hawking) see it as downright dangerous. But everyone agrees that AI has the potential to drive gigantic changes in the way we live our lives.
For most marketers, this presents a huge opportunity. Over half of CMOs believe that AI will have “a greater impact on marketing and communications than social media ever had”. The vast majority of them (68 per cent) are integrating AI into their marketing plans and strategies.
But how exactly will AI change digital marketing? And is its advance something that marketers should welcome, or worry about?
AI Will Speed Everything Up
“AI is the planet we’re headed to. Machine learning is the rocket that’s going to get us there. And Big Data is the fuel.”
So said Pedro Domingos, an AI specialist. It is these components – Big Data and machine learning – that will ramp current marketing practices up to lightning speed and unprecedented efficiency.
Big Data (using computers to crunch vast quantities of information in order to draw out useful patterns and trends) is already benefiting marketers, allowing them to predict consumer behaviour, identify hot leads and growth spots, and track and influence online conversation.
The downside of such methods is that they currently suck up a lot of time, require constant programming, and can only work off specified algorithms. Machine learning (where computers change their algorithms automatically in response to new data) would eliminate these concerns.
AI computers will shift and adapt to new marketing and consumer trends, producing results in days that would have once taken years, and allowing marketers to react in real-time.
Personalisation Will Increase
Personalised marketing is another well-established trend that is likely to accelerate once AI is added into the equation. Indeed, without AI, it is difficult to envisage how marketers could successfully keep up with customers’ insistence on an ever-more tailored experience.
Machine learning can be used to adapt ads to a user’s personal taste, figuring out what works on an individual level. Recommendation systems, such as those used with huge success by Netflix and Amazon, can convince buyers to invest in additional products and services. And truly dynamic pricing which responds instantly to factors such as a web user’s habits or stock inventory could become commonplace.
It Will Enhance Marketers’ Creativity
Much of the controversy surrounding AI centres around its potential to kill off jobs. There is some truth to this fear; one report found that AI will generate a 7% net loss of jobs in the US by 2025. However, the tasks AI would be a suitable replacement for are largely dull, low-skill and brainless: think updating CRMs or generating analytic reports.
In the field of marketing, therefore, AI could free employees from the boring, routine aspects of their job and allow them to concentrate solely on the creative components (where humans still beat out machines). Indeed, AI is likely to spur the creation of bigger, better concepts and ideas, because it can also analyse vast reams of campaign data and indicate what works and what doesn’t.
In short, AI could have the power to pin down the qualities that make a campaign go viral – every marketer’s dream.
The Customer Experience Will Be Artificially Humanised
Customer experience used to be one of the most human aspects of any business. But with the advance of the digital age, customer experience moved online. The sacrifice of consumer-company facetime seemed worth it: the internet and social media gave companies a 24/7 connection to their customers, while the advance of the smartphone meant that they could grab attention from anyone, anywhere, at any time.
But with AI, the pendulum is likely to (somewhat) swing back the other way. Interactions will still be computerised. But the computers, in the form of humanoid chatbots, Siri-like voices or even conventional robots, will be ever more human-like in their ability to process and respond to customer conversations.
Savvy marketers will insist humans still oversee this process, however. The ability to pass the Turing Test does not mean a machine-learning AI will necessarily be endowed with the professional and moral norms required of a company representative, as Microsoft’s disastrous foray with its chatbot “Tay” showed.
Nevertheless, the sort of computer-human interactions that once seems the exclusive preserve of science fiction now seems certain to become a reality.
Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate jobs are currently available. Or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.