Sara Richter
Sara Richter 12 March 2020

Three Real-world Ways AI powers Omnichannel Marketing

Artificial intelligence is a tricky topic for marketers. We all know that it’s important, and revolutionary, and almost certainly “the future”. But it’s also very easy to overhype.

As with any revolutionary new technology, marketers are their own worst enemy. We tend to talk things up to such a point that nobody can tell fact from fiction — and worst of all, we stop caring which is which.

AI is a perfect example.

Promises made by martech vendors range from small improvements to science fiction. The end result? Many marketers end up either being disappointed, or just plain bored, by the promises surrounding AI.

So let’s get this straight. AI isn’t going to ‘replace’ marketers or ‘redefine’ marketing from the ground up. Most important of all, there are no hordes of AI-powered marketers waiting in the wings, or robot CMOs desperate to take my job.

AI is an incredibly powerful tool, but its biggest impact will be in making the day-to-day jobs of marketers much easier and their outputs more effective through AI’s ability to do all the heavy lifting with data. In short, the future of marketing isn’t AI, but it is AI-powered.

Take, as just one example, the push for omnichannel marketing. True omnichannel is still the marketing holy grail. The ability to target customers, accurately, on their own terms, and through multiple channels working in tandem — that’s the gold standard. From a customer-centric marketing perspective, that’s as good as it gets.

For many marketers, building a true omnichannel customer journey from scratch feels almost impossible. To get it right you need a near flawless understanding of your customers’ needs, you need insights into their past behaviors, you need a presence on every channel, and you need those channels to integrate seamlessly together. Pre-AI, that process alone could take years. Now, with an AI-powered platform in place, it’s possible almost in real time.

But how exactly does that work? Where is the time being saved by AI?

To my mind, there are three big areas where AI is enabling better, faster, and more effective omnichannel marketing:

1. Accurate, personalized experiences

Personalisation has always been a key part in building omnichannel experiences. AI applications can personalize a customer’s shopping experience in a variety of ways. Algorithms are able to digest complex customer data and provide relevant content to individuals at the right time.

AI scales the processing of every piece of customer data (location, demographics, device, pages viewed, products browsed, products purchased, items clicked, time spent on page, etc.) to offer content and products that are most likely to interest and entice a particular customer. This goes far beyond simple account personalization or ‘recommended’ product lists, instead customizing an entire site around a customer’s data profile. This personalised experience, driven by AI must align and be consistent across all channels so the customer gets the same messages irrespective of how they interact with the brand.

By combining data in this way, many successful ecommerce brands are already using AI-driven web personalisation to boost their omnichannel marketing campaigns and improve the online experience. In fact, research from Emarsys found that the top four ways that marketing leaders believe AI will impact marketing, all affect the digital experience.

2. Smart content placement

When building an omnichannel campaign, marketers spend a significant chunk of time repurposing content into a variety of different formats, targeted at various audience segments. Performed manually, or even as an automated process, this rarely delivers on the true promise of omnichannel marketing — a legitimate, one-on-one communication with each customer.

This is where AI shines. By instantly reviewing and compiling data points from all customer-facing touchpoints, AI-powered marketing platforms can present the most relevant content for every single customer.

This sort of knowledge does two things. First, it creates a better end experience for customers, and secondly, it frees your team up from manual segmentation work. Long story short: for the first time, marketers can automate the creation and execution of personally-curated content to their entire active database.

3. Customer data analysis

How much time and resources are you currently taking to collect, organize and analyze your customer data? If you’re anything like most marketers, then the answer is almost certainly “too much”.

According to the latest research, the average marketer spends 3.5 hours a week analyzing data, while some will spend upwards of 80% of their time on data-related tasks. For larger retail brands, the marketing department may even have multiple staff members devoted entirely to data management.

Instead of spending all this time analyzing data, what if you could trust artificial intelligence to read and recognise behavioral patterns and draw customer insights in the moment?

With both time and quality data, this kind of automated analysis is possible. You can begin to take a hands-off approach to data analysis, segmentation, and campaign execution, and let the machine devise specific communication suggestions for each customer based on what it learns.

The result is more timely communication, tailored across multiple channels and targeted to specific customer needs. Best of all, AI can help provide marketing that feels less like marketing because it takes into account past behavior — from browsing to purchase — for each individual, across each channel. When it comes to reaching that omnichannel holy grail, this is about as close as you’re ever going to get.

So yes, in summary AI has been overhyped. It’s not going to steal marketers’ jobs or ‘redefine’ the industry. But it is going to revolutionize our approach. Used wisely, AI-enabled marketing has the power to deliver better personalisation, better content and a better omnichannel approach.

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