Nov 08, 2016
By Andy Simmons
Customer Journeys, Marketing Automation
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Let's face it: Artificial intelligence is an intimidating topic for most of us. Perhaps that's due to Hollywood depictions or doomsday prognosticators, but I suspect it's mostly attributable to a lack of understanding. It all seems so, well...futuristic.

But what if I told you AI is already happening all around you? Chances are that you experience it every day.

Ever play a game of chess, or any video game for that matter, where your opponent is a computer? That was AI.

Did you tell Siri to set an alarm last night before bed or check the weather when you woke up? AI for the win.

Secretly happy that the new Justin Bieber song turned up on your Spotify Discover Weekly or Pandora Station? You can thank AI for that too, (you Belieber you)!

Whether it's a simple product recommendation or a self-driving car that will pick you up, we as consumers have come to expect and even depend on AI to improve our lives.

For marketers, this begs a question: What will AI mean for business and the employees responsible for delivering customer experiences?


How AI is Transforming Business

The importance of AI has not gone unnoticed, as evidenced in one study by Narrative Science where 80% of executives believe artificial intelligence improves worker performance. But the reality is, it's still out of reach for many due to general complexity, lack of data scientists, expense and more. Brands are left to traditional processes, often hamstrung with data that is days behind and backward looking, resulting in customer journeys and interactions that are reactive in nature.

But there's good news! Companies, like Salesforce are democratizing artificial intelligence technologies through platforms like Einstein. In doing so, it removes the upfront complexity related to data management and augments existing processes and applications that business users rely on everyday to connect with their customers and communities.

Put more simply, it empowers users, helping to:

  • Discover new insights about customer behavior related to marketing goals
  • Predict outcomes to make decisions with confidence
  • Recommend next actions that make the most of every engagement
  • Automate tasks so they can focus on customer success


The Impact of AI on Marketing

In the beginning of this post, we shared some examples of how AI is being integrated across consumer experiences, dramatically improving their lives. As this is a marketing audience, let's talk about some examples of how AI, and more specifically Salesforce Einstein for Marketing Cloud, might be applied to the decisions all marketers have to make for every campaign and customer journey.

Audience

The first decision every marketer must make in executing a campaign or journey is who will be their target audience. Historically, this has been done by selecting segmentation criteria to approximate the right audience based on a marketer's goal - awareness, engagement, retention, revenue, etc. Now, thanks to AI and predictive analytics, marketers no longer have to approximate who is their optimal audience.

An example of this is how Predictive Scoring from Marketing Cloud Einstein will automatically surface the factors that lead to certain customer behaviors - like engaging with an an email, unsubscribing from communication or converting on the web - and give every user a score for each modeled behavior, representing their likelihood to take that action. Now, a marketer can simply take that single score and define their audience for a campaign or launch a customer journey to connect with their customers in entirely new ways like:

  • Improving opt-out rates: target customers with a high likelihood to unsubscribe from your emails with an opt-down campaign offering less frequent communications and/or calls to action to update subscriber preferences.
  • Testing channel mix to increase engagement: Target customers with high open scores, but low click or conversion scores on different channels, like social ads, where they may be more engaged.
  • Finding new, high quality customers: Create an audience of customers with high conversion scores and use to build a look-a-like audience that you can target using social and display advertising.

Channel

Another important decision that follows who to target is what marketing channel to engage with them on - or said a different way, where they are most likely to engage with your message.

To be fair, there are already ways in which marketers can dictate where customers receive their marketing messages. Testing is always an option, though this would have to be rather extensive and ongoing; or, you could simply ask the customer their preference, but there's no guarantee they reply, not to mention, preferences change over time.

The beauty of AI is that it will be able to do all of this analysis on behalf of the marketer, discovering the ongoing patterns across each individual's engagement preferences and even routing customers down the right path based on those preferences.

Timing

In the same vein as where to deliver your message, is determining when is the right time to send it. Use a channel other than the customer's preferred one and they may just ignore it; send at the wrong time and your customer may never even see it.

Message timing is not a new challenge for marketers, as evidenced by the fact that there are existing solutions for send-time optimization to aid marketers. The challenge there though is that these solutions look across customers engagement - opens and clicks - in aggregate, so marketers are still left sending messages at a time that isn't optimized for each individual. Oh the missed opportunities!

Enter AI. Similar to how send-time optimization works today, artificial intelligence will comb through the billions of customer interactions to uncover the patterns in engagement. The difference is that it's doing it on a 1-to-1 basis. All you'll have to decide as a marketer is what goal you want to optimize for - opens/views or clicks - and the system will automatically queue your message to send to each individual at the time they are most likely to engage.

Content

Last but certainly not least, no message is effective without compelling content. You may have heard the adage, "relevancy is king"? Well there is a reason it's an adage - it's 100% true.

But what do you do when your messages will reach potentially thousands or even millions of customers at one time? Marketer's don't have the time to hard code content for each individual or persona. Nor is writing the rules for hundreds or thousands of dynamic content permutations a particularly effective use of time. So, what's a marketer to do...batch-and-blast?

Fortunately, AI has you covered here too. With platforms, like Salesforce Einstein, offering content and product recommendations solutions, you don't need a huge data science team help deliver the next best offer. Allow the models to do the heavy lifting to learn customer behaviors and preferences, then, when you're ready, simply choose the location on your website pages, mobile apps, even in the emails you're sending and sit back as the system delivers the right content or product for each individual.

What's so exciting about these examples of AI, as it relates to marketing, is that this is just the beginning. It's merely the dawn of a long day to come, but one thing is clear, AI will empower marketers to work smarter and create customer journeys that meet the customer wherever they are on the path.

Interested in learning more? Check out how Marketing Cloud helps marketers build 1-to-1 customer journeys to connect brands and customers in a whole new way.

 

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CROSS-CHANNEL, CUSTOMER JOURNEYS, MARKETING AUTOMATION
CROSS-CHANNEL, CUSTOMER JOURNEYS, MARKETING AUTOMATION, MARKETING CLOUD