We all relish the chance to “turn our brains off” and let something or someone else tell us what we want. In fact, Netflix users pay a nominal monthly fee for just this kind of service.

The streaming platform doesn’t just feature a bevy of movies and TV shows that zap into whatever productivity someone conjures up on a given day. It takes those viewing choices and, via an artificial intelligence algorithm, aggregates similar shows and movies to keep individual watchers coming back for more.

The procedure has paid dividends, saving Netflix $1 billion annually. Research done by Parks Associates notes Netflix is present in 52 percent of U.S. broadband homes — more than its competitors — and had just a 5 percent cancellation rate at the close of 2015.

Futuristic, science fiction extremes in pop culture, such as HBO’s “Westworld,” give AI a bad rep. But the age-old struggle of power and ethics between creator and creation doesn’t need to be so complicated.

As Netflix’s example shows, AI in its simplest form is machine learning. And while we aren’t currently striving to create robots that are indistinguishable from humans for entertainment, we are working to build machines that identify trends in mass data sources to give us a marketing edge in real time.

With an estimated $5.05 billion in revenue by 2020 and the support of large industries, including advertising, retail, and healthcare, adopting AI into your strategy is in your company’s best interest.

AI Can Produce A-Plus Marketing

Performance summaries with open rates and user behavior from digital ads and targeted emails are beneficial. They don’t, however, allow marketers to act immediately. With AI’s assistance, emails, SMS messages, offers, and outreach are delivered in real time, reaching the consumer at the most opportune moment.

Converting data into action provides complex challenges for marketers. Relying on software solutions such as 1010data, Amazon Web Services, or Hortonworks, marketers can clearly understand and react to insights presented by current and potential customers on company platforms.

As personalization becomes more commonplace, data privacy is a concern marketers must take seriously. A study conducted by OnePoll suggests nearly 87 percent of consumers would be less likely to conduct business with a company if it didn’t protect their data.

Even with AI advancements, the technology still requires a human touch. Data scientists are necessary to interpret the machine data and apply it to your business. However, the use of AI tools may reduce your need for as many data scientists in the future.

In fact, according to the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, AI automation will eventually fill positions that could not be automated previously and generate more productivity and wealth creation. Freeing up budgets will allow you to spend more on unique data elements to drive further insights.

Apply AI to Get an Edge

As AI continues to evolve and expand into new industries, marketers will need to know how to work around its challenges to use it effectively to grow their customer base. Consider these strategies as you program your way to the future:

1. Open the options. Anyone who ventures online knows privacy issues exist, yet they still go online and are fine with it, knowing companies are using it to deliver a highly personalized approach to each customer.

Macy’s recently tested an AI-powered in-store app that provides customers with store-specific answers to questions so they don’t have to seek out a sales associate. Sephora also launched a chatbot app to serve up personalized makeup tips.

Offering customers a choice is the first step in building trust and confidence. Using focused data and information to present those options to the customer better positions a company to maintain or add to its customer base.

2. Use data for insight and retention. Marketers tend to focus primarily on the acquisition, but they should also be focused on growth and retention.

Using AI information from millions of experienced customers helps marketers gain an even clearer glimpse of existing customer patterns while also helping in the growth of their existing customer base. Look for ways to use AI to improve your embedded base customer strategies.

Gilt knows its customers so well that it implemented a preemptive shipping experiment using data science. Based on customer interest, it anticipated purchases and began shipment even before the product was in the cart. This allows for quick delivery and diminishes the lack of in-store purchase gratification.

3. Focus on real-time prospects, not future prospects. Demandbase keeps its mind in the present with an eye toward the future. With DemandGraph, it compiles readily available business records and other data in hopes of sizing up potential clients and crafting their approach.

Demandbase’s example is one to follow. Work on gathering data and information on your current customers because the next step is using AI to find prospects who look like your existing customer base.

You’ll be able to find them in real time and become much more precise and timely with prospecting. AI will do the heavy lifting by using predictive algorithms to identify where customers are in the purchasing process and send them direct, relevant, and personalized communications.

4. Hire salespeople to build highly targeted relationships. AI will make your salespeople much more effective at their jobs. Historically, they waste so much time doing research behind a desk and trying to educate themselves on companies and client pursuits before reaching out.

As they say in sales, “You’re not going to sell anything if you’re sitting behind your desk doing research.” Arming them with data provided by AI will give them all the knowledge they need, relevant messaging, and more freedom to build relationships in the field. Staying relevant is vital to retain customers, as evidenced by 34 percent of shoppers telling Oracle they separated from a brand because of irrelevant marketing messages.

The benefits of AI are tangible now and will increasingly affect the way brands and customers interact. Adjusting your marketing strategies to incorporate this technology will bring you and your customers well into the future.

Let AI do the grunt work. It’ll allow you to take that information and craft it into the best marketing strategy possible.

Author Photo
Judi HandJudi Hand is chief revenue officer for TeleTech, the award-winning company that helps brands create incredible experiences, deepen customer engagement, and drive hyper growth. She previously served as president and general manager of Revana, TeleTech's Growth Services division. Judi’s background includes 20 years in sales, operations, and marketing at multiple global firms. She more than doubled the size of Revana, growing its revenue from $45 million to more than $150 million and increasing profitability by more than 4,600 percent.
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