29 Nov 2017 20:47 IST

Driving agile marketing through artificial intelligence

AI is changing the face of marketing and Amazon is proof enough of its potential

Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be the current hot topic, and it is almost impossible to avoid a discussion on how it will impact the future of business. In fact, AI has already found its way into music videos with Chinese singer-songwriter’s Rainy Day, But We Are Together .

We know AI as bots and whizz-bang machines — like SkyNET, from the Terminator series, a super-intelligent computer that inflicts mayhem on mankind by starting an apocalyptic war. In reality, AI is ubiquitous, though the impact may not be fully recognised by everyone just yet. In this article, I’ll focus on the AI revolution and how it is changing the dynamics of marketing.

AI isn’t new. Coined by Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, AI is something that was first used over half a century ago. It refers to machines performing functions that are considered ‘intelligent’, by simulating actions carried out by humans with their cognitive sense. Take the following example: you can have a conversation with another person. In the same way, AI can talk to 1,000 people at the same time, make decisions based on real-time data from these conversations and understand what’s going on in each conversation.

We are beginning to realise the possibilities AI can bring with it super-efficient, consistent, and superior capability in tracking data. Companies save a lot of time and money by being more targeted in their approach towards chasing those elusive conversions. By improving the consumer experience, AI creates a clear win-win opportunity for companies.

Now that we know what AI is, let’s look at how it is changing the dynamics of marketing.

Creating super smart content

While there have been times it has failed in the past couple of years, there is no doubt that artificial intelligence will play a significant role in creating the right content. This is especially true when it comes to content based on data and analytical information. Way back in 2015, Gartner predicted that “by 2018, 20 per cent of business content will be authored by machines.” With one month left in 2017, the future is already here.

It is quite natural for corporations to automate and improve efficiency, and there is no doubt that machines can do just that while saving a lot of money. Today, artificial intelligence has the potential to become more efficient at writing than humans! E-mails generated by AI, for instance, can outdo those written by real humans. An AI algorithm takes multiple aspects into account to predict how audiences are likely to respond. A real person simply does not have the capability to look at algorithms, data, and potential results the way AI can. And the algorithm does this all while churning out content at the speed of light.

Creating a great retail experience

The use of AI in retail, especially in online shopping, benefits both retailers and consumers. AI is helping digital retail make big strides by streamlining retail processes and allowing online experiences to improve human interactions. AI bots can now predict, analyse and respond to customers’ questions or behaviour. AI in marketing and sales is already being driven by machine learning (ML). Tom Mitchell, author of the well-known book Machine Learning, defines it as “improving performance in some tasks with experience”.

However, this is quite a broad definition, so let me break it down with a more specific description: ML deals with systems that can learn from data.

Machine learning programs are learning more about consumers and their online behaviour; data has allowed some online retail brands to gain a distinct advantage by analysing past customer purchase behaviour. For example, Amazon’s recommended purchases functionality has been widely credited for as much as a full third of the online retail giant’s sales.

Diving deep into data

Big data has a ubiquitous presence in the marketing space, but because of the sheer volume of data that companies can collect, big data isn’t always being put to the best use or its full potential. AI has the ability to extract information and analyse customers’ needs, preferences, and behaviour by identifying the key trends. This information can be used by companies to improve their products and services and deliver both in real-time.

Enhancing consumer experience

With AI, companies can make decisions about their future moves in marketing, much like a human, and enhance the consumer’s experience in real-time. I have mentioned earlier how Amazon is leveraging its AI-powered product recommendations by helping online consumers find the right products, interpret customer requests, and then recommend products for the customer’s particular needs.

At the same time, it also identifies large-scale buying trends within the trove of purchase data it collects over time and uses this information to enhance its approach. This helps provide the customer immediate and efficient service, generate increased revenue and keep the work hours to a minimum.

Do you still think that AI automation is only within the reach of some of the world’s largest corporations? No, It’s not.

Last year, Amazon unveiled the Deep Scalable Sparse Tensor Network Engine (DSSTNE, pronounced ‘destiny’), an open source AI framework that the company developed for its product recommendation system. By virtue of being an open source framework, it is available for anyone to use and build upon. Marketers taking AI seriously are engaged in a multidimensional chess game to collect the data they need in order to compete, and if you are not thinking about competitors you are simply going to fall behind.

Like I said, the future of marketing is already here.