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How AI is Forcing Marketers to Reinvent the Industry The age of artificial intelligence in marketing is already here. However, there is a dark side to using machines in an industry previously dominated by human creativity.

By Mark Pierce Edited by Ryan Droste

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

From customer support bots to social media bots that respond to comments and questions automatically, the age of artificial intelligence in marketing is already here. However, because of how ingrained AI has become in our everyday lives, marketers now have to think about things slightly differently. Instead of looking at customer journeys, the focus has shifted into how to teach AI about customers. AI came about as a means of developing a way to give consumers a streamlined experience in their dealing with a company. As the February 2021 CMO Survey notes, this goal has become one of the top priorities for the world's largest marketing firms. Because of AI's introduction into the mix, marketers now have to rethink and reinvent the industry from the ground up.

Tech and the customer life cycle

Most businesses started adopting AI in the form of chatbots. The intent was to deliver a personalized experience while limiting the number of human resources taken up in answering rote questions. Automation was the first step towards this goal, but users shied away from rote responses to answers. The next great leap forward came with the development of automated chatbots that would interact with humans and answer their questions much as another human would. In the past, CMOs would look at tech spend as an investment in hardware and software that they would eventually need to replace. However, when it comes to AI, there may not be a reason to replace them.

AI is one of the disruptive technologies that have become mainstream in their adoption. Where hardware and software need to have money placed into ever-depreciating software, an AI appreciates over time. As it learns, it can do the same job as multiple people far more efficiently. Investing in this technology has the potential for a massive shift in how marketers interact with consumers. Unfortunately, the numbers on the maturity of this technology are still lagging behind. Wipro mentions in their State of Intelligent Enterprises that only 28% of businesses feel confident in how far their AI/automation enablers have matured. However, as companies realize how priceless AI can be in the marketing game, this lack of development may soon shift in the technology's favor. Already, companies are considering ways to adapt their existing AI engines to do more than just answer customer questions.

Related: How Machine Learning Can Help Your Business

From hyper-personalization to intelligence

When marketers started using AI to deal with customer management, they thought that the AI would gather data about consumers more effectively. Their assumption proved correct, and with that data, marketers could focus on delivering a highly customized experience for the user. User experience remains one of the most prominent metrics in determining whether a business will retain a customer or lose it to competitors. But even though AI was adept at developing a hyper-personalized user experience, there was still something missing. AI delivered unique insights into customer data that would have taken a human team months or even years to spot. By the time the humans had realized what they were supposed to be seeing, it may have no longer been relevant. AI could offer those insights in near real-time.

Most businesses are aware of how fast consumer tastes change. Trends can flip on their heads and become irrelevant from one week to the next. By leveraging AI to figure out these trends and see what customers are looking at in real-time, businesses can adapt their marketing to suit. However, advertising without sales is like a bucket without a base. Sales and marketing departments would have to become even more interlinked, as sales give tangible feedback as to whether marketing is working or not. Businesses need to use the feedback loop to determine whether they should tweak their advertising strategies, revamp them altogether, or simply adopt a new one. With improvements in algorithms, AI can quickly pick up on these trends and even predict them before they become relevant.

Not all upside

While AI does have the promise of a bright future with marketing, there are still a few details that remain unresolved. Businesses already have AI engines in their chatbots and customer management software, but they need to be taught what they're looking for. Unlike traditional programs, where a coder can work with structured data and get results through processing, AI uses unstructured data and derives the results itself. The coder has no direct input, meaning that training is of the utmost importance to get the results a business expects. A perfect example is an AI bot reading comments and not detecting sarcasm in a reply. For humans, it's second nature to spot when someone is sarcastic, but an AI bot would need special training to do so. Luckily, developments in natural language processing have made AI bots much more astute in dealing with nuances of human speech and conversation. AI is not a plug-and-play solution. It requires some investment in time and money from a business to achieve its goals.

Related: Watch Out for These 5 Artificial Intelligence Problems in HR

The business value of AI

The last year has seen businesses shift gears and change how they approach almost every aspect of a business. From changing their distribution models to pivoting into entire other industries, these changes are how companies survived in tough times. While AI has proven to be priceless in developing a personalized customer experience, there is much more it can do. Analytics engines have already seen massive use in several companies developing big data solutions. AI could work on a smaller scale and target businesses that don't have nearly as much data to offer insights into their customers' behavior. They can even deliver these insights in real-time, without a lag between collection and processing. AI tech can help brands meet users' expectations by allowing companies to discover what those expectations are from customer behavior and feedback. The future of AI in marketing is bright, and its implementation might mean that marketers have to reinvent their entire profession.

Mark Pierce is an attorney, accountant and entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience helping companies achieve sustained and consistent growth.

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