February 28, 2018

Want Personalisation Through AI? Keep Things Simple

View author's profile

By Raj Balasundaram, Global Head of Solutions at Emarsys

What exactly is personalisation? Every marketer seems to have their own definition. With the tools now at their disposal, customer expectations are evolving, and we believe that personalisation is all about treating customers an as individual with unique traits, using their personal information. As marketers, we need to provide the information that customers want, in the right place and at the right time.

Right now every brand out there, whether B2B, B2C or otherwise, claims they have embraced personalisation to the benefit of their customers. To a certain extent that is true, but they are operating to a very basic level. Personalisation isn’t just about inserting their first names and offering consumers a product they’ve looked at before based on a cookie. It’s about using every aspect of their interaction with a brand to serve them with exactly what they want to see when they click on that screen.

AI Is Changing The Game – But Only When Deployed Correctly

AI is being widely celebrated as the game-changer to provide consumers with a uniquely personal experience, and justifiably so. But only when deployed effectively. In some cases, if you don’t have all your ducks in row, its recommendations can fall wide of the mark. Many then question what is behind them, and blame faulty back end software. And that is a problem. Because ultimately if your customers notice that you’re using AI, then you have failed. Their experience doesn’t feel personal, but rather, impersonal and misleading.

Some critics argue this situation arises because the technology is in its infancy. Let’s be clear – AI is not new. The processes it incorporates have been around for some years, but it’s only surfacing now because it has become fashionable to talk about. A large part of that is down to ecommerce retailers, many of whom have experienced great success when introducing AI into their marketing strategies. It’s become something of a David and Goliath story, with these challenger brands often overtaking established high street names.

Now that established names are beginning to get on board, the two are going head to head, aiming to use AI as a ‘slingshot’ to reach the next stage in their evolution. Many are still blind to its benefits however, wondering whether they are ready to adopt AI. And they are right to do so: it’s not always the right time to take the next step and deploy AI. First and foremost, businesses must have the basics aspects of an effective ecommerce strategy in place, and all the building blocks in place to ensure AI can be a success. Deploying before they are ready may cause the software to draw false conclusions from analysis of CRM data, present an irrelevant recommendation and ultimately put a customer off the brand.

Are You Ready For AI?

Brands therefore need to review whether they are ready for AI. Our global Forrester study found that many marketers are enthusiastic about the potential benefits: 86 per cent think AI will make marketing teams more efficient effective, and 82 per cent believe it will reinvent the way they work. And yet, 70 per cent of business decision makers don’t think their marketing teams have the technical skills to leverage AI marketing technology – leading many to question whether they are ready.

So what should you do if you’re considering taking the plunge with AI? If you are buying it simply for the name, or because competitors have done so, then don’t. You won’t be able to use it properly, and it will harm your brand resonance.

For those who are already using AI and struggling to enjoy the benefits, you need to look where you are going wrong. You might be using a solution that isn’t sophisticated enough. Some solutions only rely on machine learning algorithms, which establish patterns in a customer’s purchase/interaction history but don’t assess their full purchase potential for each item because they aren’t looking at the whole picture.

Or, you may not be making full use of your CRM data. Make sure you are feeding every single interaction with your customers into your CRM database. That way, you can let your AI to find out not only what product or service they want to hear about, but when, and on what platform. Personal preferences – whether for morning vs evening browsing, or mobile vs tablet – have a huge impact on conversions.

Keep It Simple To Reap The Rewards

AI has the potential to solve a problem which is fundamental to every marketer’s existence – making every individual’s relationship with their brand personal. The best way to use it is to implement it as a problem-solving solution, which works from the bottom up. By letting it assess each and every reason why a consumer isn’t engaging with the brand, it can establish the best format to interact with them and secure their continued business. When used correctly, the technology helps improve customer experience, drive revenue, increase brand loyalty and create consistency across channels. So it’s essential you take the time to get it right.

It ultimately boils down to one thing. Use it right, or don’t use it at all.


Written by

Raj Balasundaram,
Global Head of Solutions at Emarsys