Busting AI myths: Why AI will help marketers usher in an era of extreme personalization
In an age when consumers expect deep personalization, AI is here to help. So what's the holdup among marketers? Contributor Brian Solis discusses the top myths slowing its adoption.
Remember when traditional marketing was overwhelmingly successful? Neither do I.
In an era of great innovation, marketing still largely operates with legacy mindsets and technologies. Time, however, isn’t on the side of those who follow convention. Digital Darwinism is only accelerating, and those marketers who defy convention will shape the next generation.
The good news is that natural selection favors anyone willing to learn and experiment. There’s also a shortcut: artificial intelligence (AI).
Technology, and all it disrupts, continues to evolve. Society, markets and customer behaviors — preferences and values, too — are evolving. Now, consumers expect personalization — real, know-who-I-am personalization.
Businesses either understand this and invest in the future of consumer-centered evolution, or they don’t. Continuing with outmoded perspectives of customers and technologies or following a path of business as usual isn’t going to help.
AI represents the ability for marketers to almost instantly make up for lost time, leapfrog competition and more effectively engage customers in ways that they prefer, value and reward.
AI, though, faces its own set of challenges. In everything from stealing jobs to taking over defense systems, AI could benefit from greater understanding and adoption.
So, why isn’t everyone jumping on AI? Turns out there are several myths impeding marketing’s ability to hasten change.
Myth #1: AI is too complex and expensive to add to the marketing mix
Artificial intelligence is at its very core complex and expensive. The same is true for the technology that’s driving autonomous vehicles. Yet today, everyday consumers are already starting to experience the marvel of self-driving vehicles.
In a 2017 study of marketing and AI, Forrester Consulting found that 48 percent of marketers assume that AI integration would cost too much, and 29 percent and believe it’s too difficult to integrate.
In reality, AI isn’t as complex, scary or confusing as James Cameron and “The Terminator” would have you believe. Many of today’s AI-powered platforms are designed to plug and play into existing martech stacks, eliminating the need to rip and replace incumbent technology systems like ESPs (email service providers).
Myth #2: Marketers believe they are already using AI-powered systems
A whopping 40 percent of marketers think they’re already using AI-powered systems, according to the Forrester study. At the same time, 40 percent also believe that they’ve adopted AI-driven marketing initiatives.
In an article related to this study, Albert.AI CMO Amy Inlow told Information Age:
[blockquote] The common denominators driving these challenges were marketers’ willful lack of knowledge about the tools they’re working with and the tools available to them. [/blockquote]
While this can be blamed partly on marketers, technology vendors are also to blame. During my days studying disruptive technologies, it was always difficult to discern the difference between real capabilities vs. “what was on the road map.”
Myth #3: AI is here to take your job or decimate you
We’ve all seen the science fiction movies and read the books. But the truth is that AI is setting the stage for marketers to get closer to customers. This means that marketers are going to have to steer the AI revolution to better understand customer context and develop extreme personalization and engagement strategies to win. For now, machines will still report to humans.
This is a tremendous opportunity for marketers ready to shed legacy perspectives and challenge convention. From there, AI-powered platforms can only help. In fact, 91 percent of marketers in the study said “a tool that enables their teams to review, analyze, and act upon customer and marketing data in a continuous and real-time fashion” would be valuable to their organization.
Myth #4: Marketers have already figured out personalization and don’t need AI
“Dear [FIRST NAME], we are having a sale… again. Click here to be overwhelmed with offers that are not personalized to you.”
“Dear [FIRST NAME], thank you for your order. From here, you will be endlessly spammed without any attempt to get to know your shopping or engagement preferences.”
Contrary to popular belief, these are not examples of true personalization. Yet personalization is what every consumer expects in modern commerce.
Unfortunately, marketers still confuse campaigns and context. Context is the foundation for personalization. It represents history, device, situation, intention and time and can be used to employ one-to-one personalization at scale.
Customers expect personalization throughout their journey — before, during and after transactions. Yet, according to the Forrester study, most marketers are still only focused on upper-funnel objectives such as customer acquisition (61 percent) or awareness (53 percent).
Furthermore, only 6 percent of participants stated that they believed their current tools and approaches were working well.
Clearly, there’s much for marketers to learn, not only about the technology, but also how it solves existing challenges of customer personalization and engagement. In the meantime, this is precisely where AI can help.
Customers are only becoming more connected, informed and demanding. What passes for personalization today won’t cut it in modern commerce. In fact, AI is already facilitating the next chapter: “extreme personalization.”
AI brings personalization to life
Marketers can no longer afford to ignore AI — or evolving customer expectations, for that matter. Nor can they just follow the playbook of “marketing as usual.” AI is already here. Extreme personalization is the next next big thing.
One-to-one personalization at scale isn’t just possible; it needs marketing architects who understand the capabilities of AI-driven platforms and customer data, context and insights. This opens the door to contextual and personally relevant engagement that enhances the entire customer journey.
Marketers must learn how customers are evolving, and also how AI can help. As part of my work for marketing automation company Kahuna, we developed what we refer to as “The 5 Ws”:
- Who: Target people who express intent, rather than broadcasting to a segment or all subscribers.
- What: Create highly personalized content, not generic messages that could apply to anyone.
- When: Send messages when customers take key actions, and deliver them when they’re most likely to respond.
- Where: Send messages only on the channel and device that each consumer prefers to interact with.
- Way: Learn precisely how your customers prefer to engage with your brand.
The 5 Ws, combined with integrating AI into the marketing stack, drive marketers toward a new modern marketing blueprint.
By humanizing AI and giving it purpose through a lens of customer engagement and extreme personalization, modern brands can thrive in an age of digital Darwinism, while leaving the myths for everyone else to figure out.