4 Ways AI Is Changing Online Marketing and the Role of Marketers
Artificial intelligence, or AI, refers to a myriad of computer software applications distinguished by their ability to improve how they function without input from humans. Using AI, we can employ machines to perform work that requires thinking and decision-making. Increasingly, AI is infiltrating our lives and affecting our choices in widely diverse areas, whether we realize it or not.
AI is easily identified when it’s part of the product being sold to us, such as in self-driving cars, but less noticeable when it’s doing the selling. Yet, AI tools have been deployed in marketing for years now and are becoming more sophisticated. So what do consumers and marketers need to know about AI’s effect on the future of digital marketing? In an October 2021 Forbes article, international best-selling author Bernard Marr addresses what he sees as the four key ways in which AI technology is changing the online marketing landscape.
1. Improved targeting means higher ROI
With the correct data, machines can assimilate more variables and make decisions faster than humans. For example, they can identify the most likely prospective purchasers of products and where to catch their attention.
Previously, marketers would run expensive adverts in newspapers, television, or radio, knowing full well only a tiny percentage of the audience would be interested in their offering. Now, targeted advertising platforms like those offered by Facebook and Google can specifically target audiences based on location and other lifestyle indicators for a fraction of the cost. Meanwhile, the machine-learning technology applied to them means they’re improving all the time.
2. AI-driven content marketing
For many organizations, content-based marketing is their dominant, if not only, form of advertising these days. AI is assisting here, too, by identifying what content prospective customers are interested in and how best to distribute it. For example, AI-powered tools can generate and tweak headlines based on criteria such as open rates and shares. The technology can even learn from viewers’ behavior what stage of the buying process they are in. Based on whether they are still shopping around for options or closer to making their final purchase decision, AI tools can personalize their experience with recommendations or “buy now” incentives.
Marr notes that personalization is a popular trend at the moment and says it’s even being extended to the generation of content. AI can create and collate the text and images that targeted audiences will most likely respond to. It can also personalize content for individuals by inserting relevant reference points into the overall messaging.
3. Identifying micro-influencers
AI is continually refining the concept of niche marketing, and part of that means identifying which influencers filter into the social media feeds of prospective customers. Marr predicts that it will soon identify and work with “micro-influencers.”
Unlike big celebrities, micro-influencers are ordinary people whose knowledge and opinions have gained them niche audiences in the thousands instead of millions. AI will make data-driven decisions about whether it will be better for marketers to contract with multiple micro-influencers or with a single, costly celebrity.
4. AI in customer relationship management (CRM)
Regardless of how effectively AI wins new customers, retaining existing customers will generally remain the cheapest source of sales. So, it only makes sense that AI is also being applied to support and retain existing customers. It can, for example, reduce customer “churn” by identifying behaviors that indicate customers are looking elsewhere. Personalized incentives can then be automatically offered to the potentially straying customers to maintain their loyalty.
Marr discusses how “chatbot technology powered by natural language processing” is becoming increasingly prevalent within AI marketing. Customers expect real-time responses to their inquiries, which chatbots are capable of. They can also potentially learn and adapt quicker than human employees. More efficient CRM means sales become more predictable, which means more efficient inventory and resource planning. Knowing what inventory to maintain, how much will be required, and where to distribute it can save retailers millions.
AI can also be used to maintain the quality of CRM data by identifying and correcting errors and duplicates — something that most marketers will agree is a costly challenge that has required human intervention up until now.
So, does AI mean the role of marketers will soon be redundant? Marr says no. In fact, he predicts that AI will create more jobs than it destroys. Interestingly, future marketers will spend less time on technical work like revenue forecasting and customer segmentation and more time on strategy and creative tasks. In addition, marketers with the ability to work with technology and identify tech solutions will be doubly valuable.