Marketers have long understood their profession has changed significantly from the days of “one-size-fits-all” messaging and manual processes. Yet when the pandemic struck, in addition to taking an enormous human and social toll, it forced marketers to evolve more rapidly than ever. Research in the US indicated that a majority of respondents had changed their spending habits in the previous year, while an Indian study by ETMoney showed that people had reduced their overall spending by 40%.
With spending and engagement patterns upended, being able to deliver a consistent customer experience on-demand and through multiple channels became a top priority. Not surprisingly, there was a tremendous increase in demand for better, more-personalized digital experiences. But technology was suddenly required for more than CX. Almost overnight, Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) came under increased pressure not only to improve their marketing efficiency, but to demonstrate marketing’s holistic business value – a struggle that many are still fighting.
One powerful tool to accomplish both objectives is artificial intelligence (AI). Often considered primarily as a tool to power chatbots and product recommendations, AI can both strengthen an organization’s marketing capabilities and help it transform into a truly intelligent enterprise poised for future success.
Technology’s Role in Marketing Across the Customer Lifecycle
To thrive in today’s digital landscape, organizations must have the ability to innovate marketing to address their customers’ needs. Technology will clearly play a key role: Gartner’s 2020 CMO spend survey reports CMOs across industries view technology as the path to customer intimacy and plan to spend 26% of their total marketing budget on tech.
Marketers increasingly need to address every touchpoint across the customer lifecycle, from display ads to websites to purchasing interface to service to retention. This will inherently require a substantial tech spend. But as CMOs move forward, it’s critical that their investments go to the most-impactful technology tools.
As retail spending has revived and online spending has surged, are organizations leveraging new and disruptive technologies to enhance their overall marketing cause beyond the customer experience? In many cases, they have not. Yet.
Wipro’s recent State of Intelligent Enterprises survey suggests that only 28% of marketing organizations felt confident in the maturity of their AI/automation enablers. Furthermore, while 61% of organizations indicated that AI was critical to improve their customer experience, marketing was not in the top-five functions that had adopted AI.
That may all soon change. As enterprises recognize the potential of AI to drive innovation in marketing functions and promote business growth, AI will see a surge in usage.
AI Drives More than Hyper-Personalization. It Drives Intelligence.
Hyper-personalization is the new buzz word, but using AI to creating personalized consumer experiences isn’t new. For years, AI has helped marketers deliver personalized recommendations (e.g. Amazon’s use of predictive analytics), integrated chatbots, and voice-assisted support systems. AI has even helped improve return on investment through customer segmentation, as demonstrated in Harley Davidson’s use of AI to increase sales in New York by 2,930% via targeted/curated marketing content.
While impressive examples of AI in action, they’re also fairly direct. Where AI can deliver deeper value is through its ability to generate enterprise intelligence. Intelligence is more than knowing customer preferences. It goes beyond presenting simple data. It means capturing and analyzing information to identify new business opportunities, new revenue streams, new ways to optimize existing operations, and – ultimately – new ways to demonstrate the marketing function’s contribution to the overall business.
To be clear, AI gives organizations tremendous capabilities to collect and analyze data that can dramatically enhance digital-marketing strategies and the customer experience. AI-driven predictive analytics can target customers with the right content at the right time. And AI can enable responsive and relevant communication via chatbots, which Gartner predicts will be used by 70% of white-collar workers by 2022 (no wonder CIOs identified chatbots as their main AI-based application in 2019).
But with the accelerated adoption of digital channels amid the pandemic, organizations – especially those with low product differentiation – stand to gain significantly with AI.
The sales and marketing functions of an organization are deeply interlinked, and sales is driven by the marketing team’s responsiveness. AI marketing solutions can (and must) be closely integrate with sales tools to maximize benefits and close business faster.
Similarly, as organizations make more use of 5G and IoT technologies, they’ll encounter even greater volumes and complexity of data. By deploying advanced AI models/solutions, they will be better positioned to respond to changing customer preferences, sentiment analyses, and competitive intelligence.
And AI can enable organizations to quickly navigate and analyze rapid market fluctuations, enabling them to optimize their product mix and predict trends so they can capitalize before it’s too late. Make no mistake, as companies invest in improving their digital marketing strategies, they must evaluate a design-led framework to refine demand prediction, personalize, and optimize offerings based on changing customer habits and sentiments.
With automated solutions, organizations also have the potential to save significant costs. However, it is important that the technology is deployed correctly and smartly. For example, when an airline customer sarcastically tweeted “Thank you for flying me to Delhi and sending my luggage to Hyderabad at the same time,” an insufficient AI tool only noticed “thank you” and replied with “Glad to hear it, keep flying with us.” Marketers will shudder to think about the downward spiral that started with the airline’s brand reputation. Such errors can be avoided by using natural-language processing (NLP) solutions along with AI to create a smarter framework that’s not just responsive, but relevant.
AI can Enable Intelligence and Demonstrate Business Value
The past year has forced marketing organizations to evolve quickly not only to meet changing customer demands, but also the demands of their own company. Where efficiency was once the name of the game, CMOs must now demonstrate their effectiveness and business value to the enterprise writ large.
AI has been a valuable tool for digital marketers, but it holds much more power for the marketing function if deployed beyond the customer experience. AI technologies will enable brand growth and help meet customer expectations. Wipro’s Marketing Sciences Lab, a repeatable and business-outcome-focused offering, can help organizations experiment with data-driven business insights to deliver short- and long-term business value across marketing, advertising, and sales. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how a good design and outcome-led framework can help marketing leverage AI to its fullest extent.