I usually shop for books on Amazon. And whenever I visit the website, it already has a list of search items “inspired” from my browsing history – a typical example of Amazon’s artificial intelligence (AI) recommendation system in action. But this is a fraction of what the budding technology has to offer the digital marketing sector. In addition to recommending products that are similar (e.g. in size, shape or brand) to the products we search online, we now have machine learning technologies that can recognize voices and faces.
Think conversational interfaces. A decade ago, who would have thought we could book a flight just by talking to a screen? Now, we have chatbots that can recommend the cheapest or fastest flights offered by different airlines.
This makes me wonder.
If AI is already influencing our buying decisions without us knowing it, what does it have in store for marketing in the future?
The effects of AI powered marketing itself are astounding. A 2016 report by marketing intelligence firm Tratica estimates that revenue in artificial intelligence will reach $36.8 billion worldwide by 2025.
On that note, here are some key areas where AI can boost digital marketing:
1. More personalized sales support
According to a global AI survey, 37% of consumers prefer buying products on social media. Consider chatbots, which sit natively on apps like Facebook Messenger. They can recommend products based on data of previous interactions and simple search. For example, search for a snow jacket and a store’s chatbot might recommend socks to go with it – a dynamic form of 24/7 customer service that also encourages people to buy more. In the future, the technology might lead to these innovations:
- Faster self-service: The future of customer support might be conversational interfaces. Instead of becoming trapped in decisions, FAQ pages and community answers, customers will be able to simplify their own shopping experiences. In the future, customers will be able to jump within topics by talking like we usually speak (e.g. through emojis, slang terms, etc.) and expedite sales.
- Reducing customer effort significantly: The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that measures how much effort customers put in getting an issue resolved. It focuses on creating effortless experiences. In the future, AI might make it easier for businesses to achieve this metric by automating the resolution process. For example, by providing automated answers based on previous similar queries in chatbots, the friction between the customer interaction and resolution can be reduced significantly which can increase customer loyalty.
2. Web user experience and ad placement can become more customized
With attention spans as short as they are it’s now integral for marketers to take an even more personalized approach to ad placement and who they target. AI algorithms in programs like Google’s RankBrain have made this possible, to a degree. Statistics reveal that website visitors who are retargeted with display ads are 70% more likely to convert. In the future, AI might just enable digital marketers to:
- Improve ad relevance: Programmatic ad buying is the use of technology to buy or sell ad inventory through a data driven process. However, while the process largely depends on variables like location and search histories, the ads selected are still impersonal. With AI, ads can be personalized according to a more accurate profile of user histories. For example, ads can learn to avoid users who don’t respond to specific types of advertising.
- Improve on-site experiences: Since AI might target ads and users more precisely, user engagement may improve for the websites that display or host these ads. User engagement can be improved since a visitor won’t be exposed to ads that are totally irrelevant to them.
3. Real time offline marketing might become a reality
Artificial intelligence might come into its own as an optimization tool for offline marketing.
And considering that AI has shown potential in optimizing and automating ads the assumption might not be too far from the mark. Marketing campaigns can be optimized in real time sparing marketing teams from the manual aspect.
With this in mind digital marketing might look like this in the future:
- Translations in real time for international marketing: Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing translations. Consider Facebook’s AI powered translation tool which it has been training to understand how intent works in different languages. If artificial intelligence takes off, technologies like these can give marketers new opportunities for distributing content internationally and for local marketers to expand their efforts across borders more seamlessly.
- Monitoring and optimizing content on non-business days: Currently, SEO and digital marketing teams have to monitor popular web searches on the weekends when traffic is highest. Unfortunately, this also means working on non-business days. With AI monitoring web traffic, optimizing content and interacting with visitors can be possible during days when marketers are at home.
4. Image recognition may be an option for searches
Image recognition is a hot topic in discussions involving AI. In the context of machine vision, it is the ability of software to recognize faces, objects, actions, writing and even places. To illustrate, consider Apple’s new TrueDepth camera system on the iPhone X. It uses facial recognition technology to recognize a user’s face to unlock the phone.
But Apple’s new technology is just the beginning. In the near future, machine vision may enable marketers to create products that enable consumers to search for products with images. For example, if you need a new pair of pants to go with a top, you can upload a picture of the top you have and have pants matched to it.
Current innovations in image recognition software paint a very promising future for AI. As an example, consider the Smartify app which uses image recognition to identify scanned works of art and provide users with more information on them.
5. Voice recognition will be the new CTA
Gartner predicts that more than 30% of searches will be done without screens by 2020. Considering how popular voice based interfaces like Siri and Cortana are now, this prediction seems to be coming true. More consumers are using voice controlled interfaces to as a genuine channel for daily browsing activities.
Before I explain further, keep in mind that reducing customer journeys from customer acquisition to point of sale has always been a marketer’s true goal. Ecommerce brands do it every time. Everything from site navigation to experience is meant to make the journey to call to action (CTA) as smooth as possible. With this in mind, it seems that voice might just be on its way to becoming the be the CTA of the future.
Judging from the trends mentioned, artificial intelligence is set to revolutionize the way marketers reach and engage audiences. If harnessed, it could give rise to technologies which enable marketers to do what’s currently impossible like distributing content 24/7 without human intervention, make targeted ads hyper relevant, use image recognition for searches and improve customer journeys through voice recognition.
Do you think AI has a future in digital marketing? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.