Marketing Automation in the age of Artificial Intelligence

Over the last few years, Marketing Automation has evolved from a nice-to-have to an essential component of your martech strategy.

Marketing automation systems are typically made up of an if / then decision tree. The majority of these decisions are triggered by the behaviours and actions taken by the lead or customer. Machine learning customer outcomes and making smarter decisions based on this data is the next wave of marketing. With AI, we remove the guesswork and can make decisions based on even the most insignificant behaviours. Here; the most important aspect of automation becomes the quality of your data. That is after all, what ultimately determines how well the machine learns.

Marketers have traditionally used this data to classify users into groups or “buyer personas” and then used this to create “look-alike profiles” to know who to target next. These personas are created partly out of historic data, and partly by educated guesswork. AI systems don’t need to create personas; they find real customers by determining what actual online behaviours have the highest probability of resulting in conversions, and then finding potential buyers online who exhibit these behaviours. To determine what worked, AI looks only at performance: Did this specific action increase conversions? Did this keyword generate sales? Did this spend increase ROI?

Applying Artificial Intelligence to marketing automation however, is still not an exact science. There are many tools in the market, but each works differently purely because AI is still in its infancy stage. Some tools focus on a single channel or task, other AI tools provide insights, but do not act on them autonomously. Some of the bigger players like IBM Watson offer more general purpose AI tools that can be customized to your use cases.

So while there are more than one way to go about setting up your martech strategy, here are some of the key objectives for what you want your intelligent marketing automation system to do for you –

1. Curate and create content that drives actions
Your marketing outreach campaign starts with Content. You need good quality content and lots of it, which makes content a key candidate that would benefit from automation. Selecting a content curation tool which has inbuilt AI will classify content not only based on category tagging, but also based on perceived interests, geographical location and audience engagement patterns.
Content in email marketing campaigns can be anything from the body copy to the subject lines to the images within the layout.

Traditionally, marketers test combinations of each of these to determine what performs best, but the process is subject to human bias and is time-consuming. With an AI enabled marketing automation system, you can learn faster what combination of content will perform best for each customer segment and automatically serve up the right content right away (and therefore maximize revenue sooner). AI can also be used to serve up customer specific mail content recommendations based on individual customer profiling, engagement history and purchase patterns.

 

2. Deliver the right content to the right people
Success boils down to delivering the right message, at the right time, on the right channel. The three most important channels for digital marketing is social media, email marketing and Ads (read Google Adwords and Facebook Ads).
There are a number of tools which help you schedule your social posting calendar for the foreseeable future. With AI, you can now analyse timings which get you the most engagements or conversions, and allow your automation tool to make these decisions for you for when your content should get posted on social media.
Machine learning can also understand preferences and email engagement patterns of your mail subscriber list, and use these insights to automate the frequency, timing and cadence of your emails to each subscriber. This level of analysis would be impossible for a marketer to do manually, because there simply isn’t enough time.
When it comes to ad spend, AI can determine exactly how much a business should spend, and where the spend should be done, to produce the best results. Rather than base media buying decisions on past performance and gut instincts, AI acts instantly and autonomously, modifying its buying strategy in real-time based the on ever-changing performance parameters of each campaign variable.

 

3. Engage and up-sell conversationally
AI driven chatbots are the very latest in the marketing automation arsenal which seamlessly integrate between your website and your Facebook page. AI driven chatbots can engage with visitors using their names, and serving up specific product pages or posts on your website based on the user’s past browsing history. Automating this process helps to nurture and educate leads to move them into the next level in your sales funnel.
Chatbots are also extensively used to deliver contextual promotions based on a user’s purchase history. AI helps to distinguish between users that might convert at a discount vs users who will convert only if the price is cut by a certain dollar amount.
The right tool can collect and learn from consumer purchase history data over time and determine which types of offers perform best for each subscriber. This might be a combination of a percent off and free shipping, a certain dollar amount off or nothing at all.

 

CONCLUSION
Marketing automation effectively eliminates repetitive manual processes with automated solutions that is proven to increases productivity, brand reach, and results in higher conversions. Eliminating guesswork, gathering and analyzing enormous amounts of data, and optimally leveraging the resulting insights is the AI advantage.
Because AI is new, and because (let’s face it) marketers like to be in control of everything, most organisations are wary of relinquishing control of their campaign decisions to a “black box”. The best way to discover AI’s potential in marketing automation is to run small, quick and reversible experiments, preferably within a single geography, brand or channel. Make sure you have clearly defined your desired performance outcomes.
Be willing to invest into your martech strategy, because although there are 5000 independent marketing tools in the market, each one addresses a different pain point, and getting them to work together efficiently is a new problem in itself to solve. Talk to a consultant about a customized AI based marketing automation plan, which can benefit your business.

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