Data mining is undoubtedly transforming marketing as we know it. Artificial intelligence (AI) is not only automating some of the most mundane and time-consuming processes, but it’s also solving the once unsolvable issue of how to turn terabytes of consumer-generated interactions into personalised experiences for each individual. AI does this at a scale beyond a marketer’s wildest dreams.
Digital native brands such as Netflix and Spotify are setting the standard: using AI to curate perfect recommendations for their users, and consumers now expect the same personalisation from all brands. Consumers are data-savvy and will only entrust brands with their information when it’s being used to improve their experience, not to interrupt it with irrelevant content.
Businesses now know their customers inside-out but many are risking alienating them altogether. How can marketers harness AI and the customer insights it brings without offending today’s empowered and connected consumers?
One strike and you’re out
Ask anyone about online personalisation and they will tell you about a time when a targeted ad has been off-key or downright disturbing. The issue often isn’t the personalised nature of the ad, but rather its lack of relevance.
A third of people expect brands to anticipate their needs before they arise and a whopping 70 percent agree that it’s important that brands understand a consumer’s individual situation – but timing and context is crucial.
Imagine this: a consumer is in the middle of an interesting article and suddenly sees an ad for an item they briefly looked at days before, they are interrupted for something that is most probably irrelevant at the particular time. Not only does this affect their present moment, but they then begin to feel like they’re being watched, which alters the way they browse and the links they click on, for fear of being bombarded with targeted ads for days and weeks afterwards.
In a post-GDPR world, consumers know the value of their data and are quick to withdraw it if brands misuse it. And this goes beyond unsubscribing from a newsletter or turning on an ad-blocker; PWC found that 32% of customers would abandon a brand altogether after one bad experience.
From irrelevance to long-term relationships
This is where the recent developments in AI come into play: true 1:1 personalisation across channels (such as email, website, mobile push, SMS, social networks, print) is becoming possible without the effort and investment it required a few years back, all thanks to the advent of machine learning algorithms and the marketing data and insights they compile. For many modern brands, the intelligent use of personalisation technologies is becoming a strong differentiator in their marketing technology strategy as it allows them to create a personalised, relevant experience to each of their customers.
Using AI to serve relevant content is a prerequisite to building long-lasting relationships with your customers. Personalised recommendations increase engagement and conversion by adapting the content of your emails, mobile push notifications and website to each individual user using machine learning. This native form of personalisation can increase marketers’ conversion rate tremendously and offer a great experience to their customers.
However, nowadays, content personalisation alone is not enough: Serving this content at the right moment, and on the right channel for each individual also has a strong impact on engagement and loyalty. Again, machine learning algorithms exploiting consumer data can help to automate these complex operations and find the best channel and the best time to send a message to a specific user.
The technical aspects related to the science and algorithms used for implementing such features is not something you want to spend time on. These features should be available out-of-the-box in your marketing cloud, which should constantly collect data and make it actionable on all channels brands communicate on. Adapting content, automating audience segment creation, fine-tuning communication time and channel at scale and finally ensuring that each consumer perceives a brand’s communications as relevant and interesting holds the key to keeping customers on side when it comes to AI.
Maintaining the human touch
The brands which will truly excel with AI will be the ones who understand the importance of the human element. Machine learning does not have the ability to understand human emotions and the vagaries of consumer conversations. The purpose of AI is not to replace people but to work alongside marketers and enable them to work faster and smarter. If companies are to avoid the risk of alienating and losing their customers, maintaining human relationships will be critical.
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