What every marketer should know about AI

These days is hard to open the internet and not read something about artificial intelligence (AI). One of the topics tech journals like to cover is how will AI impact our jobs as marketers in 5, 10, 20 years time.

Some say we’ll all be replaced by far more intelligent machines in just a few years.

Others are more optimistic and say bots and AI can’t replace the human touch and that this new technology is here to make our world a better place.

On the most part, I tend to agree with the optimists. Here’s why.

AI is not just another buzzword

If there’s something we should all agree upon from the very beginning is that AI is here to stay.

“We have to think of AI as we thought of mobile years ago. If we don’t learn about it and apply it, then we are destined to be out of a job”

Cynthia Johnson, Search Engine Journal, How to integrate AI into your digital marketing strategy

So let’s take a look at how AI started in the first place.

Remember that movie Enigma?

It was about this awkward, yet brilliant computer scientist namesAlan Turing who helped crack the German Enigma code during World War II.

The movie was actually inspired by true events and Alan Turing not only played a significant role in WWII, but he also invented something called the Turing test — an attempt to define “intelligence” in machines.

According to him, a machine could be considered “intelligent” after an interaction, such as a conversation, with a human; if the human could not tell if he or she was interacting with another human or a machine, then that would be an “intelligent” machine.

If we think about it, there are now countless AI-powered machines who provide information, feedback, and even comfort and friendship to humans around the world.

Just take a look at Microsoft’s AI chatbot, Xiaoice.

“[Xiaoice] may be the largest Turing test in history”

— Yongdong Wang,Your next new best friend could be a chatbot

Thankfully, we don’t have to travel all the way to China to find AI-powered bots.

Our friend, Google, has built AI into pretty much every product us, marketers, use on a daily basis. Facebook also that relies on AI to provide personalized experiences in the news feed.

What does that mean for us as marketers?

It’s time to build some super-powers

Think about it.

Our “traditional” channels have increased in complexity.

On top of that, we’re faced with an avalanche of performance and user behavior data — there’s more data than we can process.

It’s hard to respond to this new technical complexity with just … more work.

We can’t out-hustle machines.

That’s why we need to start using AI to approach more efficiently channels like:

  • Paid Search
  • Voice Search and SEO
  • Content Creation
  • Image and Video Tagging Automation

That’s what successful teams do.

A recent study shows that, among marketers who already use AI, 64% say it has greatly or substantially increased their overall marketing efficiency.

The same study goes on to show that most marketers expect that AI will have a significant impact on everything from productivity to campaign analytics, hyper-personalization and more. (details in the table below)

Salesforce State of Marketing Research 2017
Salesforce State of Marketing Research 2017

Leaving operational efficiency aside, we have an even bigger reason to double-down on AI in the near future.

Clients expect a different conversation

People no longer want to be “spoken” to.

They want a 1:1 conversation that’s tailored to their needs and happens where they want, when they want.

As marketers, we need to be able to provide that at scale, at a relatively low cost for our organization.

Some marketers are already leading the way with outstanding chatbots.

Speaking of which, I think you should check out this video:

The rise of the new best friend

The AI technology that powers chatbots is still in its infancy, but it’s promising. Right now, most chatbots are built using a list of if-then rules. Based on a certain input, they returned a canned response.

In other words, they are very basic. But even so, they are very efficient.

Spectrum of Messaging
Spectrum of Messaging (Source)

Take the case of Epson America.

The printer and imaging giant decided to use an AI assistant to better qualify their sales leads before they would be sent to the sales team.

Before, Epson’s sales team was struggling to qualify and serve the flood of leads (40k-60k/year) the company was receiving every year.

After the implementation of the AI assistant, the company representatives reported outstanding results:

  • 51% response rate
  • 75% increase in qualified leads
  • $2 million in incremental revenue in just 90 days

Read more about the Epson story and other similar case studies in HBR.org: How AI is Streamlining Marketing and Sales

The increase in performance Epson experience comes to confirm what other studies show:

  • 47% of shoppers are open to buying items from a bot (source)
  • 52% of consumers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t personalize communications to them (source)
  • 89% business buyers expect companies to understand their business needs and expectations (source)

Businesses aren’t blind to this shift in the market.

We can see this by looking at the number of bots we can find now on Facebook’s Discover platform – their hub for finding new bots to engage with. Recently the company reported that they hit an important milestone: 100 000 bots.

What we’ll probably see in the near future are chatbots that:

  • understand a user’s context
  • “speak” more like a human, and less like a robot
  • have humor, wit and other human characteristic

Basically, we expect them to have a level of sophistication that will make a conversation with a chatbot as pleasant as one with a human. And not any human though.

A new best friend.

So let’s recap

  • AI-powered machines are not a thing of the future. They have been used by tech giants, like Google and Facebook, for a while. Now they are making their way into our day to day lives as marketers.
  • Studies show that top marketing teams are very tech-savvy and they foresee using AI more and more in the future to make their work more efficiently and better serve their clients.
  • AI-powered chatbots are booming. They are relatively easy to build and they help companies serve their clients and prospects where and when they want to be served.

Going back to the initial statement, I think what any marketer can take after this article is that AI is here to make our life better, more efficient. Used well, AI-powered machines will take away our daunting tasks and will make our bosses and clients happier.

For now, it’s like we have a new superpower that we’re just starting to learn how to use.

My only personal concern is that we don’t break this new shiny toy by over-using it. In the end, us marketers, have a bad reputation for ruining nice things.

What do you think? Are you thrilled or more reserved about the rise of AI?

Featured Image | Photo Credit: Alex Knight

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Irina Nica

About Irina Nica

I’m a SaaS marketer always happy to read & talk about all things inbound, SEO, storytelling, design, and literature. Currently based in Dublin, Ireland. Working @HubSpot.