To keep thriving, businesses need to constantly provide value to consumers. In the last few years, we have seen a shift on how this is done. Recent technological advancements created new channels, introduced new competitors, and modified consumer behavior. By removing barriers across sectors and between businesses and customers, digitally enabled tools and processes formed new complexities in the market. Staying competitive became more challenging, making innovation and exploration of new opportunities even more important activities for businesses today.
One emerging technology that has a significant potential to transform industries, businesses, consumers, and governments around the world is Artificial Intelligence (AI)—an encompassing term involving all technologies that can understand, learn, and act based on the information provided.
Because of AI’s many use cases that are applicable to any industry, it has the potential of significantly changing current business processes while simultaneously generating new ones. The market intelligence firm Tractica forecasted that the revenue generated from applications of AI will grow from $1.38 billion in 2016 to $59.75 billion by 2025. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 52 percent.
In fact, in a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 72 percent of business executives believe AI will be a business advantage of the future. More than half, or 55 percent, believe that AI can boost productivity, support strategy, and generate growth. The same also believe that using AI solutions outweighs the potential downside of employment concerns. In particular, 54 percent of businesses already implementing AI have experienced an increase in productivity.
WARC, in a report produced with Deloitte Digital, identified AI as one of key marketing trends for 2017. Fifty-five percent of global CMOs expect that the impact of AI on marketing and communications will be greater than the impact of social media. Here are five key areas and ways on how AI will overhaul sales and marketing:
- Generating valuable insights
Paving the way for the creation of vast wealth of data is the rise of many internet-connected platforms and social media. To be effective, business and consumer data gathered from various resources need to be analyzed and turned into clear and meaningful insights. The process can be done in a faster pace using AI through data mining and analysis. The results are informed outcomes and quicker actions to address ever-changing demands of the market.
Better analysis of insights can improve marketing return on investment by 10 to 20 percent and drive average profit growth of 14 percent, according to McKinsey & Company. Moreover, Forrester identified the use of cognitive interfaces in complex systems, advanced analytics and machine learning—all of which fall under the scope of AI—at the forefront of what it calls the insights revolution.
One of the recent companies that adopted an AI-based data analyst is Pfizer Australia. Using Complexica’s What-if Simulator, Pfizer can test scenarios based on internal and external data sets. Pfizer is also planning to use AI to “simulate the impact of sales and marketing strategies, investigate assumptions and hypothesis difficult to test in the real world, and compare the outcome of various what-if scenarios in order to understand what’s contributing to business results.”
- Managing customer relationship through predictive marketing
The customer journey today is complex. Consumers are constantly exposed to noises throughout the purchasing funnel. At the same time, the need to support cross-channel initiatives, customer activities analysis, and better segmentation overwhelm businesses. It is no wonder then that customer data management projects will increase by 75% this year, according to Forrester.
With AI, the customer journey can be turned into a scientific process through predictive marketing. A new discipline deeply rooted in big data, mathematics, data science, and marketing, it recognizes data patterns that predict with a high level of certainty. Using this technology, businesses can identify the ideal customer, the highest likelihood to buy, and the most appropriate way to engage the customer through the right segment, messaging, and channel.
Leveraging actionable information from predictive marketing, businesses can identify ideal segments for every customer, bolster account-based strategies, and explore upmarket initiatives with promising leads.
Intelligent Customer Engagement Powered by AI
An AI-optimized customer engagement process enables businesses to not only provide the right offer, the right product, and the right content to the right prospect at the right time, but also to do it at scale and near real-time. Mintigo is doing just that.
Intelligent Customer Engagement, powered by AI, results in prospects who are more likely to read contents and trust the brand as compared to when marketers just spray and pray. Choosing between dozens of assets over multiple channels at the right time for every prospect is a task that humans are unable to do. AI can leverage complex computations to optimize between those millions of permutations.
- Closing the gap between sales and marketing
Marketing and sales have a similar goal of business growth. However, both departments have different ways of achieving it. This difference often spurs conflict and wasted efforts. On one hand, marketing has a broader approach, covering things such as branding, research, advertising, product development, and lead nurturing. On the other hand, sales focuses more on managing customers who already showed interest in the business’ products and services. Sales makes sure that customers end up purchasing.
Seventy-six percent of executives at 168 large companies with at least $500 million in annual revenue said they are targeting higher sales growth with machine learning—a subfield of AI—according to a survey conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review. The survey also revealed that machine learning is applied to create a more data-driven experimentation within both sales and marketing environments.
AI fosters marketing and sales collaboration through the identification of the right buyer persona. With the right buyer persona in place, marketing can produce customized collaterals that attract and engage customers that fit the persona. Simultaneously, sales are provided with quality leads that fall on the same persona—leads that are certainly interested as evidenced by meeting the persona criteria and showing high level of interest as nurtured by the collaterals that marketing makes.
- Innovating and exploring new opportunities with automation
One key strategy of businesses today is process optimization to enhance responsiveness to increasingly changing market demands and conditions. Leveraging automation increases efficiency, executes business processes successfully, and achieves long-term goals and vision.
For instance, the same PwC survey revealed that 70 percent of executives agree that AI has the potential to enable humans to concentrate on meaningful work. Moreover, 34 percent say that using digital assistants allow them to have time to focus on tasks requiring deep thinking and creating.
In marketing, AI solutions can automate manual activities like doing research, setting up process-based workflows, and updating CRM, such as with Salesforce Einstein. With these monotonous tasks handled by software, marketing and sales people can focus on more important responsibilities such as creating meaningful connections with buyers. Innovations can also take place in the time freed by using AI and automation.
- Enhancing customer experience in key touchpoints
The interaction of a customer with a business or product is crucial from the beginning of the buying journey up to the end. Integrating customer experience across multitude of available channels and methods to interact with customers is vital for effectiveness.
One of the most recent touchpoints being used today is chatbots. Through AI, chatbots software automates customers’ conversions with businesses. It identifies the question and provides the relevant replies with no human input. Consumers from the same PwC survey see AI, whether in the form of digital assistants or chatbots, as adviser, teacher, friend, manager, confidante, and adversary in the next five years.
Another example provided by Deloitte Digital is the use of machine learning in programmatic media trading. AI optimizes campaigns based on what is working, or adapts campaign creative based on new information. With near real-time modification of campaigns, there is a high chance that business interactions with customers in any touchpoint are more relevant and enhanced.
A strong AI software empowers marketing and sales by increasing their awareness of the context and outcomes of customer interactions as customers move from channel to channel, product to product, or business line to business line.
AI is a paradigm shift. “This whole arena that we are broadly calling artificial intelligence is actually a sea change, it’s not a bolt-on; it’s more profound—it’s the culmination of the information revolution; just like assembly lines became a paradigm in the industrial era, artificial intelligence will become a paradigm in the information era”, noted Ernst & Young’s Robert Zampetti.
In marketing, the trend is becoming more customer-centric, personalized, and data-driven. As technology continues to progress, current marketing practices will continue to evolve. It is AI today; Tomorrow, it might be something different. In the end, it is about creating real customer value. No matter how businesses achieve that, being open and adaptive to change is one step closer to staying competitive and relevant in the face of new challenges, whether brought by humans or technology.